I am a fortunate person. But while I do sometimes get very lucky – the recent episode with my iPad a clear example of this – I don’t think that I’m necessarily luckier than anyone else. I don’t think the universe smiles on some people and frowns on others. It’s all a question of outlook.
People often say that the company you keep reflects on your life. If you spend your time with negative people for whom the world is a series of unfortunate events, then your world will likely appear dark and dreary. If you spend your waking hours with people who are thankful for what they have, and happy to be alive, chances are you’ll be grateful and content.
I wasn’t always a happy person. As a child I often felt that other people had it better than me. Life was unfair, and one day, I would show everyone. I would be recognized for how special and wonderful I am. The problem was, I was so busy living in my own created universe, that others never really got to see how awesome I could be. I was too shy to put myself out there: fearful of rejection and hurt, and therefore often alone in my own little world.
I see this tendency in April. The whole world is unfair and at moments seems to be allied against her. She is never satisfied with what she is given. If I offer her a bowl of grapes, she wants peaches. If I offer her a peach, she wants a bowl of cherries. When she is sad, she is miserable. When she is frustrated, she is absolutely exasperated. To tell her that she is the source of her own misery is fruitless: it simply escalates her emotional state and a puff of wind turns into a tempest.
While as an adult I’ve learned to witness my emotions and let them pass, I can remember the extreme upheavals of my childhood. A hysterical fit when my mom picked me up late from a school play, absolute mortification when my supposed best friend chose to play with someone else. Being a kid is not easy.
The thing is, there are lots of adults who never really grow up.
Learning the Secret to Happiness
That’s not to say that I’m so mature. I’ve just learned to accept that there are things that I can’t control.
I can’t pinpoint exactly when it was that I got over myself and learned to create my own happiness. I do know that it was around my 25th birthday. I had ended a long-term relationship about six months earlier and spent months in a seriously self-destructive mode: hanging out with reckless people, abusing substances and having the type of fun that is more damaging than helpful. I started seeing a counsellor who told me she thought I might be bipolar. I remember thinking, “I’m not bipolar; I’m drinking too much and doing too many drugs.”
The only thing that was keeping me from complete collapse was yoga. I had decided to do a yearlong Ashtanga yoga teacher training, and as a result I was heading to the yoga studio daily – sometimes a little bit intoxicated.
It was during one of the weekend workshops that I got into a discussion about the 10-day Vipassana Meditation Course. It was free, and by all accounts a life changing experience. I had heard about it a few times before, and thought it was crazy. The idea of spending ten days in silence, alone in my head, was not remotely appealing. But something made me sign up.
Those ten days were both painful and elating. They were the hardest and most rewarding days of my life. And it was during the course, that I learned the one thing that has stuck with me every day since.
You are responsible for your own happiness.
Nobody else can make you happy or sad. Your reactions to situations are what set you apart from others. The happiest people in the world aren’t those who’ve had the easiest lives. They are the people who can confront adversity and see that it too will pass.
If I now seem to be a joyful, confident person, if my life seems like a dream, know that it’s attainable to anyone. Choosing happiness is as simple as recognizing the things that you can change, and those over which over which you have no control.
I still have my dark days. Being a mom can be impossibly overwhelming at times, and when you’re sleep deprived and drowning in laundry, it’s easy to lose sight of horizon and forget that nothing lasts forever.
But when I do struggle, I know that there’s a solution. I go for walk, or I close my eyes and meditate. I grab my yoga mat or I go for a jog. I do something that brings me into the present and helps me to remember that there are things I can do right now to make positive change in my life. Worrying about the future? What it did it ever do for anyone?
Five Tips for Maintaining Happiness
- Take a deep breath. Meditate. Sit quietly and still your mind.
- Feel thankful. Think about all of the things in your life that you are grateful for. It’ll make you smile and make your troubles seem less daunting.
- Keep a journal. People who write daily affirmations of the good things in life have been proven to be happier.
- Stop Worrying! If you think of the bad things, they will crash down over you like a tsunami. Think happy thoughts and the world will be a sunnier place.
- Be open to change. If you don’t like your life as it is, then change it. You are not a tree. You do not have roots planting you in a terrible situation. Start with the small things and the bigger ones will come.
Some things I’m thankful for today: