"You're always so happy". That's what my husband said to me last night. And instead of brushing it off, it stuck with me and I'm still thinking about it this morning. The truth of the matter is I really do feel happy the majority of the time...like genuinely, truly happy. But this isn't some stroke of luck on my part, I have actively been pursuing and studying happiness for about 7 years now. Well, more specifically, I've been in search of my purpose and while doing that have come across some pretty profound truths that have made me a much happier person.
Around 7 years ago, I remembering telling my therapist at the time, "I wake up every morning and feel like I have a ton of bricks on my chest and my job in the morning is to slowly remove those bricks one by one". I was 27 and depressed. I had everything I was supposed to have: a successful career, a brand new condo, a nice car, but I was not happy.
I thought, "what a fraud!". I did all the things I was "supposed to do" like do good in school, get a good job, go on vacations, so why wasn't I happy? And even more worrisome, if I have all this and am still not happy, how will I ever be?
And this is where my journey began. I became a ferocious reader and student of Deepak Chopra, Eckart Tolle, Kabbalah, and the list goes on. I was obsessed with figuring out the purpose of life and how to be happy. I started looking at my life as a way to experiment with these new ways of thinking. Hey, what I was doing wasn't working for me, so why not try something else?
From the countless books I've read and lectures I've listened to, here are the few nuggets, I've picked up along the way that I always use as reminders:
I am not a victim, I am a creator. For me an important first step was realizing that I wasn't a "victim" of the universe. I was actually the creator of my universe. In other words things weren't happening to me, I was creating the things around me. I had actually been quite successful at creating the things I was supposed to have (career, house, etc). Ok great, I'm a creator, but what am I supposed to create that will bring me happiness?!?!
Realize your unique light and let it shine! If, like me, you are wondering what to create for yourself to make you happy, look no further than the things that make you unique. Maybe you love nothing more than baking cookies, maybe you love painting your nails, maybe you're obsessed with reading, maybe you love nothing more than making people laugh, or maybe you love working out. Instead of diminishing the things you love as hobbies or not important, realize you love those things for a reason. And this will be your first indication on your path to purpose and happiness.
Don't be jealous of someone else's light. It's so easy to look at what someone else has and to want it. Girls with straight hair curl it every day and women with curly hair pay to have it straightened. Jealousy is a very dangerous emotion, it harms both people involved...the person having the negative thoughts and the person whom it's directed towards. So instead of focusing what other people have, start a daily practice of counting the blessings in your life and saying thank you as often as possible.
See obstacles as opportunities. Ok, so this one may hand's down be the hardest. When you're in the shit and life is super hard and your perky friend comes up and says, "hey, it's going to be OK, just look on the bright side". We all know we want to hit her. But, here's the thing, look back on the obstacles in your life and see if you really see them that way now. I now see that the chronic migraine problem I had in my 20s lead me to quitting my job, finding a career that I love and choosing a much healthier way of eating. So was it something "bad" happening to me or a not so subtle reminder to change my life?
Pray. It took me a while to realize this, but I now see that the best selling book "The Secret" was just a new way of saying "pray". And I think it was pretty genius. Because for many people like me, prayer had gotten a bad rap. Too many "Hail Mary's" and "Our Fathers" growing up had desensitized me to the power of prayer. Prayer is focused attention also known as the law of attraction. What you think about, you create. So I started praying again and it is amazing how quickly I started seeing things change in my life: being at the right place at the right time, running into someone who would inevitably help me along my way, getting money right when I needed it, etc.
Listen. Listening is the second part of praying, also known as meditation. If you're so busy running around chasing your to-do list and checking off the boxes, how will you hear or see the messages and signs that are all around you? I personally think we all need to add more stillness into our life. When you're still, your mind clears and solutions and answers come to you much more quickly.
Believe in divine, spontaneous inspiration. Do you ever get a really great idea? And you see the whole thing from start to finish? Normally it's a new idea, something you had never thought of before. But then, out of nowhere it just comes to you and you see it so clearly. Well, these are gifts. And it normally requires you to take a leap of faith or to get out of your comfort zone to move forward with the idea. What we normally do with these gifts is to get excited at first, but then find all the reasons why we shouldn't move forward with it. When I move forward with these ideas is when I find big miracles starting to take place in my life.
Take your happiness seriously. No really...make it the most important thing you do every day. Surround yourself with things and people that make you happy. Lose the friends or people that suck energy from you. Paint your room a bright color, wear brightly-colored clothes, get a dog, go for jog, soak in the sunshine, go to a comedy show...all of these things are SCIENTIFICALLY proven to improve your mood. Most of us spend more time each day thinking about what to eat than we do what will make us happy.
Seek out people that inspire you. Maybe this is your preacher, maybe it's a therapist, maybe it's a blogger, maybe it's your next door neighbor or maybe it's all of the above. I try to surround myself with people that inspire me or at least make me happy. Just like I go to the gym to keep my body in shape, I need these 'personal trainers' to keep my soul in check.
Help others. Your purpose involves helping others or bringing them happiness. How do I know this? Because it's everyone's purpose. No exceptions. Just look at the happiest people you know and most likely you'll find a very giving person who is always thinking of others. This doesn't mean you need to join the Peace Corps, it can be done in small ways every day. I had the MOST amazing manicure and pedicure the other day. Not only did the woman do an impeccable job, she was so nice and full of joy that a month later I'm writing about her because she left that big of an impression on me. She helped me.
I would love to hear any thoughts you might have or any words of wisdom or nuggets of truth you've picked up along the way.