My blog is titled “just write what you know.” I know a lot of things about a lot of things. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I am an expert on any subject, but there are areas where I am well-versed. This post isn’t about one of those subjects. This post is on a lesson learned hard, and one I may never master.
Nobody else can make you happy.
The moment you depend on someone else for your happiness, it’s all over. People can certainly say or do things that make you UNhappy. Don’t get me wrong – other people can do things that help you feel good about yourself, and their actions can give you happy moments. However, most of us aren’t content to go through life unhappy with little bursts of happiness that depend solely on someone else’s actions. To me, at least, that would be an unhappy existence.
If what you seek is a life that is full of peace, joy, contentment and satisfaction, you must take responsibility for your own happiness. As a first step, being happy requires that you learn about yourself. Do you consciously seek out experiences that you enjoy, or do you just go along for the ride with your friends or significant other because you don’t want to rock the boat? I like to do things that make other people happy. Doing for others is sometimes easier than doing for myself. Doing things that make others feel happy feels good. Doing something just for me can feel selfish. If you know that feeling, it’s time for you to understand that doing something for yourself or buying something for yourself is not selfish.
What experiences or things do you enjoy just for the sake of pleasure? If you could spend an hour alone, what would make that hour enjoyable? If you had $10 and had to spend it on yourself right now on something completely unnecessary, what would you buy? If you can’t name at last five answers to either question, it’s time to figure it out!
With my hour alone, I would run alone on a trail in the fall woods. I would crochet in my zen den with all of the candles lit and soothing music playing on the stereo. I would brew a pot of tea in a real tea pot and drink it out of a china cup while looking out the window. I would lose myself in a novel wrapped up in front of the fire in the afghan my mom made for me. I would sit in the sun watching waves lap at the sand. Those would be happy hours.
With a ten spot in my pocket, I could buy an abandoned treasure at the thrift shop and imagine a story for it. I could buy a bar (or two) of hand-crafted soap that smells sweet and makes me look forward to a hot shower or a soak in the tub. I could buy a couple of dark chocolate covered sea salt caramels to savor (and have $8) left over. I could buy a book for my kindle that would take me to a far away place I’ll never see and pull me into a story rich with imagination.
The next thing you need to learn is that happiness doesn’t come from things – it comes from a place deep down inside. Happiness is an emotion, and it is subjective. What I label “happy,” you may label “content,” or “peaceful,” or maybe “giddy,” “joyful,” or “downright crazy.” What you call it is unimportant. What matters is that I know what happy feels like to me, and I know when I’m feeling it. I can be happy and feel sadness at the same time. I can be happy for others while I suffer disappointment. I can be happy for myself when seeing others in pain. Happy is a state of being. Having things we love or doing things we enjoy can give us glimpses of happiness. Once we become accustomed to those glimpses of happiness, it becomes easier to remember what happy feels like. When you feel down, you can remember those happy moments and summon up the strength and the emotion to recall what it feels like to be happy.
I remember being in relationship that ended badly and feeling that I would never be happy again. I remember people doing things that hurt me, or things that I didn’t approve of and feeling that they were responsible for my dark emotions. What I had not learned yet was that although those events saddened me, I still retained a choice regarding how I would respond to those events. I could choose to be bitter because my love found someone else. I could choose to be angry because someone else did something negative, OR, I could choose to accept that their decision caused me pain but that I could still choose to be happy.
Once you’ve mastered the art of creating your own happiness, you can experience the pain, anger and sadness without allowing it to overcome you. Taking a moment to reflect on what is good in your life, to enjoy something that soothes you, and to react to the negative experience in a healthy way allows you to move back to your peace, contentment or happiness.
My own quiet life includes prayer. I believe in a higher power. When there are issues that I cannot solve, praying for wisdom brings me peace. Even if you do not have a belief in God, learning that worrying over things you cannot change changes nothing allows you to put the worry aside.
When I began my fitness journey, I discovered Diamond Dallas Page’s DDPYoga program. One of DDP’s pearls of wisdom is that “Life is 10% what happens and 90% how you react to it.” DDP is a smart guy.
I’m in a place in my life where I have a lot of things to be thankful for and a lot of problems to face. The people in my life are mostly adults with free will. Sometimes they make choices that I approve of, and sometimes they don’t. Learning that I can be happy even when things don’t go my way is difficult. I’m not close to mastering that skill. I’ve accepted, though, that my happiness is my own responsibility.
I’ll admit that the journey is much more enjoyable with someone who cares about my happiness. I don’t need someone else to make me happy, though. I have to learn to get there on my own.