Happy is the latest "it feeling" these days. It's so important to appear super happy, ALL the time. Share happy news, post happy photos, tweet happy tweets — basically, be hashtag blessed. "A life without travel, love, and smiles, is not a life worth living," reads many inspirational memes floating around the webisphere. It's literally saying that if your life does not include these happy things, your existence is pointless.
There's so much pressure to be happy and successful — with "success" meaning entrepreneurship, traveling the world, and achieving Instagram fame. Due to social media's obsession with joy, it can seem like everyone else (but me) is able to achieve this unattainable nirvana-level of happiness. I've never craved contentment any more than I do now. For me, happiness means freedom. It's being able to do what I want, when I want, however I want. It's never having to worry about failure, money, or anyone I love (because they are perfectly happy too). Shameful as it may sound, I've sought happiness from outside sources. If I only had more money/my own place/a new location/the means to travel/more friends/more recognition for my work/more influence/the perfect boyfriend/the perfect wardrobe, I'd be happy. I've said all of this.
In my defense (and yours, if you've ever said the same), it makes sense why anyone would think money, love, and recognition would bring happiness. Money eliminates debt and grants you access to your needs and desires. I'm not talking about mo' money, mo' problems kind of cash, I'm talking just enough to keep you and your loved ones eternally stable. As for love, it's always nice to have someone to run to no matter what. Even love from strangers can feel nice sometimes. Why do you think we have a "Like" button? Facebook even has a "Love" button now. When others appreciate and acknowledge our work, our ideas, or our projects, it makes the hard work seem a bit more worthwhile — especially during hard times. For me, recognition for my work means more opportunities and, most importantly, more motivation to keep going.
I have an awful case of anxiety; I'm broke, I'm stressed out, and I'm experiencing probably the loneliest/suckiest stage of my twenties. Although these things make me unhappy, they don't have to get in the way of me finding happiness. Pardon this preachy Iyanla vibe, but I recently discovered the answer to true happiness and it has nothing to do with money, sex, or Instagram likes.
On one exceptionally broody Sunday afternoon, I found myself reflecting over all of my flaws, mistakes, and overall hot messiness. Just as I was about to reach peak self-doubt, my sister invited me out to spend a few hours in the park with her and her friend. I was tired of feeling like crud, so I said yes. It was a pretty simple day. We bought bodega sandwiches and ate them by the local waterfront. What was meant to be a short park lunch date turned into an all day walkathon throughout the neighborhood, filled with meaningful conversation and laughter. Everything I was worried about just melted away. I felt this burst of positivity flow through me and, dammit, I was happy for the rest of the week.
This happy kick was a bit weird. Melancholy is my forte. I already told you guys how I like to maintain a glowy resting bitch face. This bitch face was now smiling. The hell? So, this got me thinking about happiness and what it takes to feel this good while still having issues. I mean, it's not like Nelnet called a truce last night, Oprah hasn't acknowledged my existence (yet), bae is still unknown, and there aren't any extra zeros in my bank account (just the one). My problems and worries still existed, but I was smiling. What was it that satisfied my crave for happy? I found out that the answer was: Comfort.
We all want to feel safe, secure, and comforted. Every desire I had, every complaint, and every worry all boiled down to my need to feel secure:
- Money for the things I need = security
- Affirmation of my work = safety
- Love = comfort
I just want to feel certain that everything I am working so hard for is worthwhile and that everyone I love has everything that they need. And, in my loneliest hour, I just want to make sure someone sees me.
I'm all for self-motivation, self-love, and self-affirmation. Believe me, I am a loner to the bone and I've done many things alone, through my own efforts and faith in my abilities. My point isn't coming from low-self esteem, but rather the realization that happiness isn't always about solutions to problems. Happiness is a state of being — not a destination.
I thought of all the times I've actually gotten what I wanted and how it didn't even make me any happier. A few years ago I had a great paying job and I was financially set to live my life the way I always wanted to, but the job made me incredibly miserable and I didn't feel secure in my position. Needless to say, the job didn't last for too long; but I was incredibly happy not to worry about it anymore.
Similarly, I was romantically involved with someone and this person was totally available to me, but there was no strong foundation or trust within our relationship. I had the guy, but I didn't have the security needed to make it last.
It was never just the money, the job, the title, or the relationship, that I was really chasing — I was seeking comfort. That's why despite all the shit I had going on, I found myself feeling happy hanging out with my sister. I felt loved and most importantly, I felt safe. Before that simple day out in the park, I spent months in isolation just working and worrying. I didn't allow myself to be happy.
We're all just trying to make the most out of this lifetime. My suggestion for finding your happy place and getting that comfort you're actually seeking is to shut out the noise and surround yourself with good energy. See my favorite paths to happiness below:
Social media may be the loudest intangible entity ever known. Turn off all of your devices and just be present. Go to sleep, rest your mind, or take an adventure.
Go For a Walk
If you are stressing at the office, at home, or in any other confined space, it's a good idea to get some fresh air to free yourself from the negative vibes. Walking has been my greatest tool in relieving stress — it's great exercise and helps clear your mind.
Surround Yourself With Nature
There's something about planting your bare feet in the grass that just energizes you. There are a bunch of studies out there that prove nature can have a powerful impact on our health. You don't even need to go camping — you can simply soothe your mind, body and soul by sitting in the park.
Talk to a Really Good Friend
Sometimes you just need a good conversation to get the happy juices flowing. Call up a good friend — the non-frenemy, non-shady, super-feel-goody kind of pal.
Comfort can come from sitting with your eyes closed and focusing on gratitude, goals, and pleasant thoughts. If you seek comfort from a higher power, or the universe, or anything of the sort, that helps too.
This new revelation hasn't transformed me completely — I still have my sad days — but I do view happiness differently. Comfort is now a priority in all of my choices, and whether they concern career, love, or otherwise, as long as I am in a place of peace, I am happy.