It’s about that time of the year where some of us lose steam on our New Years goals and become lenient. As is the case, Trevor and I decided to make February’s theme “for the love of you” here on Edit the Now, which means all our posts this month will be inspiring enough to get you back on track. This week’s theme is y-o-u and owing your happiness in 2019.
Happiness Can’t Come From Someone Else
Recently I had a catch-up with a friend I hadn’t spoken to in over a decade. The two of us have been through plenty of ups and downs during that time, so rather than covering the nitty gritty of the past, we focused on now. Specifically, her romantic interest. She told me all about how this guy “makes” her happy and it instinctively rubbed me the wrong way.
The notion of a partner that “makes” us happy is a concept that’s practically forced down our throats. Find someone that makes you happy, keep them around forever, live happily ever after, the end. Except life doesn’t work that way, it doesn’t wrap up that neatly with a great big bow on top.
Teenage Allyson held on to that very hope she’d been subconsciously subscribed to since childhood: that she’d find someone she would want to marry, someone who would make her happy and keep her happy for the rest of her life. After a few relationships that weren’t healthy for anyone involved I found Trevor, who seemed like a lighthouse in the fog of fudged up that was my life. Smart, funny, witty, intelligent; he was and is everything I’d wanted in a partner. The short story is: we fell in love, got married and… happily ever after never came.
While I was happy in my relationship and happy in my marriage, the happiness and bliss I’d felt while dating Trevor slowly vanished over time. What I was left with was my love for him and my dislike for myself, my un-love. Left unchecked, I’m sure it would have ruined our relationship.
For a while I was disappointed. What had changed that Trevor no longer felt he had to make me smile? What changed that he didn’t make me happy anymore? I thought about it a lot, years to be specific, and the conclusion I came to was in a whole another dimension from the questions I’d been asking myself in the beginning: placing happiness on the shoulders of someone else, regardless of how close of a relationship is in place, only breeds disappointment. Though Trevor brings me some happiness, some of the tools I need to build my happiness up, but he’s not responsible for it.
Slowly, I came to understand my own happiness is my own responsibility, my own journey. Happiness something I have to choose and do for myself.
So, two years ago, (five years into our marriage) I decided to be happy after a ridiculously stupid blow up on Trevor. Tired of feeling down, tired of being disappointed, tired of feeling like I was useless to my husband, tired of causing arguments, I made the decision to help myself. Since then our relationship grew deeper, broader, more meaningful, and we found a place of peace and happiness to exist in together. Things aren’t always rosy, but they certainly are for the majority of the time.
Take Time to Make Yourself Smile
Taking the time to do things for myself wasn’t something that came easily to me in the past, but I’ve gotten fairly good at it since college. I’m pretty sure I learned the skill there due to wanting to survive. Wether it’s taking a bubble bath, painting, or playing video games for a bit, I’ve got a handful of things in my back pocket I can pull out as quick pick-me-ups when I’m feeling down, worn, or stressed to the moon.
One of my friends has been through some overwhelmingly large life changes over the past few months. Naturally, she’s been stressed and emotional. But recently she’s started doing simple things for herself, for no reason other than to bring herself some joy and show herself some love. Wether it’s buying herself a bouquet of flowers at the grocery store, or rearranging her living room, the end result is the same: she lights up for days on end.
Simple and small things that you enjoy, or always bring a smile to your face, can turn a day around. Sometimes it’s hard to remember to take time for yourself, my friends with young children are the worst offenders, but it truly can turn a day around and ease the stress we carry. I can’t think of a night I’ve gotten out of the tub and thought “Man, that was a waste of time, I feel terrible!”
Get Yourself Moving
I can make myself smile and I’ve chosen to be responsible for my own happiness, but I have such a hard time moving my body regularly. It’s a struggle because I’ve never equated exercise to happiness. The two ideas to me are not only separate paragraphs, but separate essays. That is, until a few mornings ago.
My doctor suggested I see a behavioral therapist for weight-loss in October. I’d been trying/not trying to get healthier and stronger for several years now, but hadn’t made any progress on my own. I agreed right away and have been seeing her for a few months now. Turns out I had literally no idea where to start. “What is exercise to you,” she asked at my second appointment. There I sat, with two college degrees, but I couldn’t answer her question other than to say: “Going to the gym? Walking? Running?”
“Anything that moves you,” was her response, and I remember feeling so small. At the same time, I felt a world had opened up to me. Even though it’s been one of the coldest winters in a lifetime, I’ve started taking the stairs to and from my appointments with her, started going on a small walk at home (which quickly became several small walks a day). I started using the neglected Total Gym my husband bought years ago and stretching. This past week I got back into some HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workouts I’d found on YouTube two years ago.
Doing these things, moving my body and stretching it, makes me feel good. It’s something I’ve only noticed this week, so perhaps this is the beginning of a metamorphosis, but I feel great happiness once I’ve concluded a workout session. I’m energized and have a pep in my step. For a short while I’ve more focused and can think clearer. These are things I’d not noticed before, but I’m so happy I noticed them now.
There’s plenty of research to back this up. People who work out even just once a week for as little as 10 minutes are more cheerful than those who don’t exercise. In fact, it can boost mood for 12 hours! Exercise also protects us from depression and anxiety; it can actually make us happier.
Learn Something New
Maybe I’m speaking from my own experience, but learning new things always seems to put me in a better mood. Now, I’m not necessarily talking about attending classes (though, if you love school, have at it), but more so the kind of organic learning that happens from living life.
If solitude is more your thing, looking up the answers to your questions instead of wondering about them for ages expands your mind in a matter of minutes. Reading a book on a subject you’re interested in, like organic gardening, or weather systems, is another great idea. Though these things seem easy to execute, most of the people I know don’t regularly do them and I think they’re a great place to start.
My favorite way to learn new things is through conversation with an expert. Now, the people I’m classifying as experts haven’t gotten a degree in the topic at hand, or written any books, or monetize their knowledge on the subject. They’re just average people, working day jobs, that have hobby knowledge in something I’m curious about. I’ve learned all about vehicle tires, canning, container gardening, cleaning, frugality, and countless other things this way. Though I’d dabbled in the subjects myself a little before the conversation, which helps the discussion go better, I find my experts all to eager to share their knowledge with someone that’s genuinely interested and listens well.
Happiness Comes From Within
Trevor: Most the happiness tactics listed above are, although external forces, capable of sometimes leading us toward being happy on their own. But it’s a decision we make internally to make happiness happen.
Doing these things on their own can bring fleeting moments of happiness; if I’m honest, that’s what I’d believed happiness to be for the longest time. I didn’t realize that happiness is a sate of mind. Though external tricks continue to bring us little moments of happiness, true happiness is a mindset we all have to choose for ourselves.