Okay, so the title may contravene the Trade Descriptions Act in every respect possible, but it is staying. Reading this post may not in fact lead you to rainbow-backdropped, bird-tweeting, firework-exploding, springy-stepped joy, but, well, you never know, it might….? (It won’t). Anyway, since my last waffle (well, second-last) was about death, I thought I’d cheer things up a bit and talk about how to be happy. Hurrah!! Or at least happy in Pea world, which, lets face it, is possibly something not to try to emulate, but here it goes. Btw this is akin to War & Peace in length (but a lot less accomplished) so grab a brew or save yourself now and go and watch some paint dry.
I remember years ago when I was in a job I wasn’t that happy with, and just generally feeling stuck in the world’s greatest rut (think Grand Canyon but bigger), I was aimlessly googling things like ‘How do I make myself happy?’. I even clicked the daring ‘I’m feeling lucky!’ button, but lo-and-behold, happiness did not come pouring out the monitor at me, no matter how hard I tried. Finally, however, I stumbled upon an internet quiz, and as we all know, they are VERY accurate (accurate enough to be deserving of CAPS LOCK in fact!). So this quiz, this answer to my prayers, this portal to a life of unbridled joy and excitement, took a fecking AGE to complete. It went into every aspect of life you could imagine – work, home, social life, relationships, future expectations, etc. etc. etc. It took about 3 days to complete (i.e. about 30 mins, which, for an internet quiz may as well be 3 days. That is looooooong). It promised a lot. As I nervously pressed the SUBMIT button, I couldn’t help but wonder what life-changing advice was awaiting me in the results. Would it suggest a new career path? Would it give me the phone number, address and inside leg measurement of some lovely man, to resolve my relationship issues? Would it? NO, it bloody would not, as it turns out. Having spent what felt like an ETERNITY (shift key is getting a beasting tonight) filling out the bloody questionnaire, THIS is what the results told me (I’ll paraphrase):
If you think you need something tangible to be happy – job, house, partner – you’re wrong. You cannot attain happiness by seeking to fill your world with tangible items that you could lose at any time.
What the ACTUAL F*$! is this I screamed???? I shit you not. The whole point of the quiz was to make it (brutally) clear that the old pre-conceived assumption that happiness will be yours the minute you stumble upon the ideal job/house/ boyfriend/holiday etc. is in actual fact total and utter bollocks. DAMN YOU INTERNET QUIZ!!!! *shakes fist wildly at the monitor*.
Funnily enough though, as frustrating as it was, I knew it was telling me what I needed to hear. Maybe it’s just me, but I always found it easy to assume that when something wasn’t right in my life, well I could fix it by getting that guy, or getting a job I enjoyed, or a nice place to live etc. That’s all well and good, but if you base your happiness on things that can be taken away at the drop of a hat – a failed relationship, sudden job cuts, feck I’ve burned the house down!!! – then you’ll never be happy. What if it gets snatched away? So as much as I would have happily put my fist through the screen at the end of that quiz, I was actually quite grateful. I was secretly impressed by the audacity of the quiz writers to reel me in then basically give me a slap and tell me to stop trying to sort my life out using an internet quiz.
So, I hear you cry, have I since been miserable and bereft of any shred of happiness since then? No, not at all. It did actually get me thinking about what happiness means for me, so in a sec I’ll tell you what I’ve discovered I need to be happy. They are all concepts I think are important, and I’ve learned to put into practice over the last couple of years. Of course sometimes happiness eludes me too and I get just as pissed off and upset about stuff as the next person, but overall, in the main, I know I’m happy, and I’m very grateful to be so. So, here are the 3* easy steps to happiness, in no particular order.
* there are more than 3, but much like the peddler of some miracle diet cure, I’ve lied about how easy it is to be truly happy. Suck it up.
Stop to smell the roses
I do this a lot, and I mean it in a literal sense. I love roses, and can often be found sniffing them at any opportunity. Trying to casually stick your face in a rose-bush whilst walking along and not getting a thorn in your eye/a bee up your snout is something I’m quite adept at. Of course in the general sense, taking time out of your day to stop and recognise the natural beauty that is all around is can help prod you along the path to happiness. Or even just pausing to think about nothing. How often do we do that? Not enough. ‘Mindfulness’ is something you’ll no doubt have heard about recently, as it is becoming more are more popular. We all need to take time out of our busy lives to relax, reset and chill out without any distractions. Watching clouds is a good one. I love clouds.
This is the easy one on the list. Just be resilient. Done. NEXT! Yeah, okay, this is probably the hardest things to do, but it can be cultivated. You can learn to take some knocks and keep going. The more you work on it, the easier it becomes. That initial soul-crushing blow that takes the feet from under you becomes more of a shove the next time, and so on. I heard someone say once a good way to see how resilient someone is, is to watch what happens when an airline loses their bag after a flight. Of course I read that after it had happened to me, when I had completely lost the plot and was utterly enraged. I got the bag eventually, and it was no big deal in the scheme of things, but I did not deal with it well. Big, fat zero on the resilience front. Of course I know that sounds really trite when you could say ‘well what about being resilient when your heart is broken or someone’s just died?!’. Yeah, bit more of an issue than a lost bag, but at the end of the day, I think you can take all the little knocks in life, learn from them, get through them and use those little bits of strength to get you though the bigger stuff. It won’t happen overnight, and you must keep working at it. Life isn’t fair, and it will suck at times, but having that resilience makes life easier, and ultimately is needed in order to be happier.
Learn to love yourself
I know, it sounds really wanky, but you have to be happy with yourself, or how the hell can you be happy in life in general? It just doesn’t equate. I don’t think being happy with yourself means that there is nothing you would change, and that you think you’re perfect, rather it is about being content despite some of the bits of yourself you wish were different. Again, this can come down to resilience. When I was a teenager I had loads of folk at school tell me I was fat and ugly, and of course it gets to you. However, if someone said that to me now, they’d get two fingers from me (at the very least), but it wouldn’t make me question my self-worth; it says more about them than me anyway. I’m much happier in myself, and it is only because of this that I feel like I’m in the right place to sort my shit out (i.e. get back to the gym, healthier lifestyle etc. etc.). This for me is a big one on the ‘how to be happy’ list.
Let go of the past
You can’t change the past (‘well done Pea, another mind-blowing observation!’ I hear you cry), but it can hang like a weight around your neck and drag you down. Wouldn’t it be nicer to let that weight go and just move on? Of course it would. So review the past, acknowledge it, take what you can, leave what you don’t need and move on down the shiny path to eternal happiness. Easy.
Eat well, move a lot
Stop nose-bagging like a Clydesdale and go out for a walk. Simple 😉
(I know I have a real cheek saying this, but it is my pointless blog so I’ll say what I like! On the plus side I’m not chomping on a Mars Bar as I type. Progress)
Do things for others
Giving your time, experience, ear, a hand, compassion, support etc. to others will give you more than it takes out of you. Pay it forward when you can, because you know at some point you’ll be the one asking for help, guaranteed. Life sucks at times and we can’t get through it on our own all the time. Often we really need to be selfish** and put ourselves first – we need to be mentally strong to get through life at times, and that shouldn’t be at the expense of helping others first – but when you’ve got time to spend on someone/something other than yourself, be it 10 mins or 10 days, do it. It will make you happy.
** I should say that I don’t think taking time out for yourself is selfish, in the strict sense of the word, but you know what I mean…..
Talk to friends, talk to family, talk to anyone who will listen. Talk about the good stuff and laugh until you cry. Whatever you do though, don’t push away the bad stuff, you need to talk about it too. I’m a big believer that you can’t move on from painful experiences or thoughts if you keep them in your head. Some experiences you can never get over, but you can learn to live with them, but even that won’t happen if you bottle everything up. Trying to be falsely positive doesn’t work either, so don’t be deterred by someone trying to cheer you up or say ‘Oh it will all be fine!’. You need to offload.
I love learning. Clearly learning to write a succinct blog post isn’t high on my list of stuff to learn, but hey… Given half a chance (read: lottery win), I would be an eternal student. Our world is so vast and amazing, there is just soooooo much to learn. Finding out new things makes me happy, even if it is some random, pointless bit of information that is fascinating but I’ll never need to use. Learning stuff expands our horizons and opens up a little bit more of the world to us. Learning isn’t all about books (as much as I love them), for me it is also about talking to people about their lives, visiting places, trying new things. How can that not make you happy?
Generally I used to suck at this, but I’m learning to embrace my failures. I used to think of every failure as a complete and utter disaster, and would use this to berate myself at every opportunity. What a big fat waste of my time that was. Screwing something up but learning from it and using it to do better next time is so liberating. It’s like admitting ‘this is who I really am. I make mistakes. Get over it’. Admitting this to yourself is the hardest part; once you can do that you can admit it to others and feel okay about it (see the ‘resilience’ bit, also the ‘letting go’ bit).
Rise to the challenge
By this I mean the really important stuff like:
Getting your ATM card out the machine before it starts to beep. Beating the SatNav. Fast forwarding through the adverts and stopping at the EXACT moment the programme starts again, not 1s late or early. Trying to listen to an entire song you love without singing along – sooo difficult. Eating a Creme Egg in one. Actually, that’s not a challenge (insert giant piggy smiley).
So there you go, do all that and eternal happiness shall be yours. Promise. Failing that, just do a random internet quiz. It is bound to give you much better advice than I ever could.