2017 was a major year for me. It was the year when I took a hard look at my life and asked the question: Am I happy? Or am I just complacent?
I started taking a Mindfulness-based Stress Relief course in late January of 2017 and that began the introspection into what happiness means to me. As I started thinking about things more I more time to think as I traveled. I started reading the book “There’s No App for Happiness“.
I still haven’t finished that book, but I think for now it’s served its purpose because it asked some big questions, some questions I really took the time to sit down and not just think about, but actually write out my answers.
As I sat in an airport lobby writing my answers, I found myself in tears at the realizations that came to me. Things had to change if I wanted happiness… and those things wouldn’t change unless I did. I wasn’t happy, I was just complacent.
The funny thing is that until I really started thinking about it I didn’t realize how unhappy I was. I had grown complacent over time. Things were better than they’d been when they’d been really bad… so I accepted that they were good. They weren’t.
It was time to stop being complacent, and for that to happen I had to make a few changes.
1. I had to admit that I wasn’t happy. I remember often asking my ex if he was happy. He never really seemed happy. Occasionally, he’d seem joyful, but overall he didn’t seem happy. His usual answer (at best) was “I’m content”.
Is content a good thing? I couldn’t see it as being. I wanted happiness and content just felt like complacency, it felt like acceptance of less than ideal. That thought hurt, it made me sad. I wanted happiness, not just for me, but for him as well… for all those that I care about.
2. I had to admit that I didn’t really respect myself. If I really respected myself complacency wouldn’t be acceptable. I wouldn’t accept a life for myself that is not as good as the life I wish for for others that I care about. Also, I realized that I was waiting around for him to give me the love and attention that I really craved.
I’d given up asking for what I wanted in our relationship because too often when I received it came with a price. I wasn’t going to beg for it as that wasn’t respecting myself, but I didn’t realize just how much I was disrespecting myself by accepting less than what I would hope for for others. The first step in respecting myself was to make the steps to have the life that I want, the life I could be happy in.
3. I have to stop holding onto resentment. This is one I’m still working on. It’s easy to let go of resentment when that thing you resent isn’t staring you in the face. It’s when that thing pops up again that you are reminded that those grudges are still there.
Letting go of resentment is a minute-by-minute, day-by-day kind of process for me. It’s a matter of me reminding myself every time something pops up that I have to let it go, that I can’t let that thing (or that person) bother me anymore. That I have to forgive and move on.
4. I had to let go of old routines and habits. It’s funny how when life changes in big ways, many of our old routines fall by the wayside…and yet some seem stuck forever.
Following my divorce last summer (and even before it actually happened) many of my old routines started changing. Small things, at first, like taking a bath every night suddenly stopped being so important.
As those things changed I realized just how unimportant they were to me, when just a few months prior they seemed like such big parts of my life. It was through seeing them fall away that I realized why they were there in the first place.
Often we hold onto routines because they make us feel safe. Watching TV at night was an easy thing to do, an escape in many ways, a way to say we were spending time together when we were really in our own little worlds. It was comfortable, but it wasn’t happy.
When I realized that I wasn’t really happy with my life, watching TV became anxiety inducing instead of comfortable; now it’s something I rarely do, instead choosing to focus on activities that do bring me joy.
5. I had to stop avoiding myself. I would so often lay in bed at night unable to fall asleep without my mind racing.
I really couldn’t sit still without getting stuck in my head and overthinking. It was so much easier to turn on the TV, play an online game, or read a book, all to distract my mind. Unfortunately, none of that was getting me anywhere.
What I should have been doing (as I learned in Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction and therapy that followed) is asking myself some bigger questions about how I felt. I can loop through thoughts incessantly in my mind, but it does me no good in understanding how I actually feel. I didn’t want to feel I wanted to act, and when I couldn’t act I chose to avoid, to distract.
These days I spend a lot less time avoiding and distracting myself and not surprisingly I sleep much better at night. I can actually turn the lights off, lay down, focus on deep breathing, and fall asleep.
Are there times when something is bothering me and keeps me awake? Yes. But, now instead of letting it loop, or avoiding the thoughts, I get up and do something about it. If I know what I need I take action. If I’m not sure why I’m feeling the way I’m feeling, I meditate on it until I feel calm.
Complacency is the enemy of happiness. Are you ready to make some changes to be happy? Click To Tweet
My life is calmer now and I’m much happier. I’m no longer complacent to just accept life as-is, if I’m not happy with it.
There is much I am happy with now, and yet many improvements still to be made. Instead of feeling stuck in a rut I can’t move from, I now feel that life has possibilities, endless possibilities. I have no idea what is to come.
Will I sell my house? Will I stay in this town? Will I move across the country? I don’t know (and I’m trying really hard to be OK with that – but that’s a whole different issue). What I do know is that life has endless opportunities for me and I can do anything, and I’m HAPPY with that thought.
- Chronic illness does not mean you are a failure; You are a success story
- There’s no app for happiness
- My past will not change, but I control my future
- You are possible despite chronic illness