Is Happiness That Easy?

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I like to ask people if they’re happy. And, I don’t mean it as a deep, philosophical question. Are you happy? Are you having a good day? Do you feel connected to yourself right now? We don’t talk about these things enough. Because even if you’re not feeling happy – that’s important to talk about too. Either way, we should be talking about how we feel.

We tend to look at happiness as this big, almost scary, overarching thing. It’s our end pursuit – a life of happiness. But, rather than it being something that we wait our whole lives for, I like to dive into the details of being happy. The small, quiet things that we experience that are “tiny wins” for our soul.

If someone asked me, I would say – yes, I’m incredibly happy. But, as I’ve been traveling, I’ve started to realize the complexity of that. I have days when I’m not feeling great, or social, or like I’m doing a lot for myself. I have days that I feel anxious, and petty, and downright resentful. But, for the vast majority of my days, I feel happy. Why? My happiness is tied to being grateful, which is in turn tied to my faith. I feel so incredibly grateful to be alive and to get to experience the things that I do. I get to go outside and breathe in clean air. I get to pet my dog. I have a family that loves me and friends that care about me. I’m not wealthy by any stretch, and I’ve had to pinch pennies to travel –but I’ve gotten to meet people. I’ve gotten to listen to other languages and see how other cultures interact. I’ve gotten to wander around free gardens in cities I’d only read about. I am eternally blessed and so, so grateful to be here.

When you break down happiness and begin to equate it to gratefulness, I think you’ll be surprised how much easier it is to “be happy.” It’s a lot of pressure to have a “happy day,” but it’s not as much pressure to think of a few things that you’re feeling grateful for. Combat the negativity of what goes wrong by exhaling gratitude for the little things that are going right. Sometimes I’m just grateful that my ankle isn’t broken (knock on wood). It’s a little switch of your mindset that can be healing and impactful.

A friend of mine and her boyfriend have recently started a gratitude journal that requires them to, every night, share three things that they’re grateful for from that day. You’re not supposed to repeat anything, and they can be very specific – but you have to have three things. Although I’ve never been successful in journaling (my thoughts are much to sporadic for daily writing!), I think this is a good strategy for anyone who just doesn’t know where to start. What was the best thing that happened to you today? Maybe it was a really positive interaction with a stranger on the subway. Maybe you just had a great sandwich for lunch. Maybe the sun came out after a couple hours of rain and you didn’t need to lug your umbrella to the store. Being grateful is the connection to being happy that we often overlook.

The Joy of a Life Without Worry

I am a self-proclaimed worry wart. I am always worrying. Whether it’s about school, the future, my friends, my family, or worrying about the fact that I worry so much, my life has been a constant struggle of worrying about the past or worrying about the future – which is an incredibly unhealthy and unfulfilling way of life.

About six months ago, I decided that worrying was probably not the way I wanted to spend the next eighty years of my life. Not only does it take a toll on your emotions and burdens your heart, worrying mentally breaks me down – just think of all the brain power I’ve wasted!

My decision to live without worry came about as a sort of revelation to me that I didn’t actually need to be in control of my life. The age-old adage assumes that now (being your twenties) is the time for you to go and figure everything out and find your perfect job and your perfect match and plan ahead and start a family and live just like an adult should live. However, taking a step back from these worldly pressures, I’ve come to the conclusion that if at any point in my life I’m allowed to not have it all figured out, that time is now.

Living a life of worry stops us from experiencing the current moment, because we’re always hyper-aware of the future. If I’m always thinking about how my life will be five years from now, worrying that it may not be where I want it to be, I’ll be missing out on the present (which, ironically, I would probably end up worrying about how many years I spent worrying that I’ll never get back).

I found this Bible verse that really illuminated this revelation:

Matthew 6:27 NIV

“Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”

Answer: Absolutely not. We dwell in these thoughts and anxieties hoping that they will change the outcome of our situations. In reality, our lives will not get any longer. These are the hours for creating relationships, making memories, living for the beauty of life – not to be wasted in a vicious and self-deprecating cycle of worry.

And the beauty of this story? We have the hope and reassurance that our lives are in the hands of Someone much, much more powerful than we are. Regardless of how much we worry about what’s going to happen, our paths are not our own.

What a relief, right? In making the decision to worry less, I’ve already felt a remarkably lighter load on my heart.

Plus, now I’ve got all this time, brain space and emotional room to devote myself to the things that really matter – like living whole-heartedly in the present.