The key to happiness – or that even more desired thing, calmness – lies not in always thinking happy thoughts. No. That is impossible. No mind on earth with any kind of intelligence could spend a lifetime enjoying only happy thoughts. They key is in accepting your thoughts, all of them, even the bad ones. Accept thoughts, but don’t become them.
Understand, for instance, that having a sad thought, even having a continual succession of sad thoughts, is not the same as being a sad person.
For the longest I struggled with my self-esteem. I had a hard time accepting my flaws. As a perfectionist I always want to “fix” everything. Why couldn’t I be more positive? Why couldn’t I control my temper? Why was my go to weapon to be condescending at times? Why was I judgemental? Why couldn’t I be one of those happy-go-lucky girls.
Here’s the thing, it’s impossible feel “happy” all the time. It’s impossible to avoid “sad” thoughts. In my case, it’s almost impossible to avoid thoughts of self-doubt. What is possible is to just accept these thoughts and feelings as the temporary motions of life and realize that we are the sum of everything – the good, the bad, and the ugly.
The Sum of it All
I love Microsoft Excel. Random, I know. But, I love the easy functionalities it has. You enter in an easy formula, and boom, results.
If only life was as easy as “=sum(A1:Z1)” (Excel geeks, will get this one). But, seriously. If only we could have a formula that would easily tell us “the sum of your life equals a happy person” or “the sum of your life equals a good person”.
There is no easy formula to generate this for us, but we can always try to balance out our lives. We will have bad days, but we will also have plenty of good days.
Oh, Happy Days!
My goal for this year is to be intentional with my thoughts and feelings. I give myself the space to feel and process negative emotions and thoughts, but I don’t dwell on them for too long.
I log them in a journal and the things that I cannot change I simply leave up to God.
The things that can be changed I work intentionally to improve.
For instance, at the peak of my battle against depression… I used to feel this intense and overwhelming sense of loneliness. That loneliness would leave me bound to my bedroom and endless hours of sleeping so that I could avoid feeling.
Today, when I feel lonely I take myself out on dates. I enjoy nature. I enjoy the beach. I enjoy music and dance around in my underwear. I am grateful for the times that I do have company, but I have also learned to enjoy my own company.
I read books on the seashore, I write in my journal at the park, I go for a run on the boardwalk.
To be honest, antidepressants have helped. Two years after seeking treatment for dysthymia (read this post to learn more about that). I continue to see my therapist for mental health checks. This along with prayer, meditation, exercise, etc. have been the proactive steps to find my own version of happiness.
I don’t think I would have been able to find the clarity to know what makes me happy without the medication. When you struggle with depression, it’s hard to separate the forest from the trees and it’s so easy to loose yourself. For me, faith, antidepressants, therapy, and self-acceptance have been the combination that helped me find my happy days.
Friendly reminders: We are the sum of it all. In my case, depression is only one area of my life, but it does not define me. The word dysthymia does not define me. Medication does not define me. I would not be who I am without my share of trouble, but I would only be in trouble if let it define me.