Changing The Way You Define Happiness

What does it mean for you to be happy?

For many of us, happiness is something we chase every day of our lives. Our own definitions of happiness are described by a list of achievements and assets we desire to call our own, and even after we reach these goals, the list seems to reach beyond infinity.

It means having the ideal body, obtained by endless hours of pushing ourselves to the limit in the gym, followed by scrutinizing our bodies in the mirror until we find something new to ‘fix’.

It means creating the perfect facade in our online profiles to convince our family and friends that we are living our absolute best lives. Sometimes we do this by posting pictures from last years spring break with the biggest smiles on our faces, or by flaunting how insanely in love we are with our significant other.

It means landing our dream jobs, often because they have higher salaries, and the feeling we get when we can finally say “Look, I made it!”.

We tell ourselves that it will not hurt to chase these goals and successes, certain that once we reach the next step we will finally be happy and content with ourselves. Just one more pound, just one more time, just one more day spent doing something we don’t want to do in hopes of creating a better future. Certainly there’s nothing wrong with pursuing any of these goals- in fact, a great sense of pride can be accomplished in working towards a better version of ourselves. This drive to better ourselves is what we need to keep ourselves moving.

The problem is that in constantly finding things to change about ourselves, our definition of happiness becomes perfection. By thinking that what we have in the moment is never enough, we are condition ourselves to think that we can never be happy in the present moment.

This is when it becomes necessary to draw the line between maintaining a healthy amount of motivation and chasing an unrealistic state of perfection. Because obsession with the distant future plants a seed in our mind that is difficult to uproot. It leaves us in a constant state of unease, trapped by the belief that we can never be happy by simply loving ourselves and our lives for the way we are now.

Sometimes it takes stepping back and assessing our current situation to realize what is worth pursuing, and why exactly we want to pursue these goals. Are we seeking change because of an intrinsic motives, or extrinsic motives? In other words, is it because it will bring us joy- or because we are seeking validation from others? Once we identify the true reasons we want to change, we can determine whether or not it will provide us with long lasting happiness.

The best way to find happiness is to stop associating it with perfection, and start associating it with peace of mind. The peace of mind that comes from knowing that it is okay for each of us to move at our own pace and choose the paths in life that we wish to take. Is is not until we learn to accept ourselves and our current condition, flaws and all, that we can finally be happy.

Good Things Takes Time

A reminder for anyone going through the process of recovery.

“People are always telling me that things will get better soon,” He said. “But I’m tired of waiting for change.”

That day, my friend confided in me that he had not been happy for a long time. He was growing impatient in watching others living their lives and making progress while he remained stuck in the same, endless cycle of self-doubt. Because no matter how hard he tried, he said, things just weren’t getting better. He thought that after he finally got past the hardship he had faced that it would be over. Yet the process of recovering itself proved to be much more difficult.

I know that feeling. Finally reaching a finish line, making it to the top of the mountain, only to find that there is still another mile left in the race. While I wish I had a simple answer for my friend that day, there is no simple solution. The advice I wish I could have given that day is something that you must take with a grain of salt. But the truth is, for anyone on the journey to recovery, it that you aren’t going to heal in a day.

Because healing isn’t always waking up and feeling the sun on your skin. It isn’t always a quick or simple process like we want it to be.

Sometimes healing is putting down the phone for the last time and accepting that you shouldn’t let that person back in, no matter how much the memories are pulling you back. Sometimes healing is pushing yourself to open the curtains and face the world despite the people who tell you that you aren’t good enough. Sometimes it is that aching feeling in our chest, the waves of uncertainty when we take a leap of faith.

Rather than feeling intimidated by this, you need to think of healing as growing pains. To truly adapt and learn from your past, you will need to make changes and learn. We must to let ourselves grow out of the pain from the past and close old wounds if we ever want to move on. Healing, similar to fighting, takes strength. It means having to push through that last mile no matter how much you want to turn back. As soon as you finally cross that line and reach the top, you will realize that it was worth it all along.

It might not happen in a week, or even a few months, and maybe you won’t be able to see how much you have truly grown because you are too busy working on yourself. Just don’t discredit yourself for not being able to see this in the mirror right away. Because good things take time, and can show up where we least expect it to.

If I could go back to that conversation I had that day, there is one last piece of advice I would give. Because of of all of the things I am uncertain of, there is one thing that always holds true when it comes to healing.

I can promise you that one day, you will find yourself smiling once again because you’re finally living without the weight of the past holding you down. Because all of those promises you made to yourself will become a garden, a symbol of the growth you have made during the process of moving on. You will no longer feel the need to bury the past away, because it is there in that garden, a reflection of the strength you had in you all along.

And although it takes work, there is no better feeling than taking the challenges life as handed you and turning it into something beautiful.

xx