Happy to be Happy!
Are you happy today? When was the last time you really felt happy? How long did it last? Can you recollect? Can you define yourself as a happy person?
I had an epiphany a few months back while we were in the middle of lockdown. I went through a stressful situation that lasted for a few gruesome weeks and at the end of it, things settled down and I got to be at a better place. I was finally happy! Just two days after this happy moment, I was scanning myself and checking my emotions. Obviously, I was expecting myself to be happy as that particular event had happened just 2 days earlier and nothing changed since then. But to my greatest surprise, I realized that I was not happy. After wallowing in sorrow and stress for weeks and then finally getting a solution to my problem, wasn’t I supposed to be happy, at least for the same amount of time I was under stress for the same issue? My happiness just lasted a few single digit hours and things went back to being normal after that.
At first, it did not bother me much as probably that’s how I was wired. Have you also heard this, ”Don’t be so happy, you may end up crying soon”, “Don’t laugh so much, you may have to shed a lot of tears pretty soon”. Most of us who have grown up in an average middle class household in India would have heard of this in one form or the other. My case is no different and I used to be so conscious about being happy or showing off my happiness, even to myself. So I was not much concerned when the above realization happened. But then all of a sudden another question came to my mind. I asked myself if I can remember all the times in my life when I had truly been happy. As you read along, can you take a moment and answer that question for yourself?
Woaaah!! For me, that was a startler. How about you? When I looked back at my life, I could count only a few instances that I could remember when I was happy. Less than a handful! (If you are someone in the same boat, let’s continue. If not, please let me know your details. I would like to talk to you on this.)
All such instances have been short-lived and attached to the happening of certain events. I dug deeper and analyzed why I could remember only very few such events and if life had really been bad to me. I came up with excuses for all situations that during that time, this was happening and then that happened and that’s why I couldn’t be happy. Now you can tell me that in the hind sight we all are intelligent and we could have done things differently. But I realized that although situations had been very tough at times, unexpected things had happened and I had enough and more lemons to start a lemonade stall, I had put a high bar as a threshold for me to be happy. And as years passed by, the bar was getting higher and higher.
I did not want me to spend another 3 decades of my life to look back and see only a handful of happy moments. But how to do it differently was the question. One thing that I realized that I had to unlearn and relearn how to be happy. I had no clue when I started off and this is still a work in progress. But sharing a few things here that has worked for me so far.
- Smash the bar: I realized that the high bar attached to events was the problem. So I just decided to smash it.
- Define the new normal: Once the bar was smashed, it was a clean slate and I could define what happiness meant to me. Now this varies from person to person. I created a very minimalistic definition of happiness for myself and this was not attached to events or goals and more of it was attached to a continuum that is close to my “normal” day to day life. Events and goals are very much required to motivate us and to keep us focused. But they are not to take us away from our happiness.
- The Happiness Habit: Now that I had redefined my state of happiness, the biggest challenge was to entwine that with my everyday life, making it a habit. At the end of a normal day, how many of us ask us if we were happy that day or at that moment. I never did. I never bothered to check if I was happy. I definitely noticed when I was sad or worried or in fact I noticed all the other emotions. But the states where I did not have any of these emotions were defined as normal. Now I define such normal states as my happy states. One of the key things that I am working on currently is to remind myself constantly to be happy. I do that in the morning when I get up and then I do this multiple times a day. I have given myself the freedom to actually feel happy without having the fear that I am going to shed tears if I get happy. In short, I am trying to create this as a habit. A habit of being happy. There are many brilliant books and resources that talk about creating habits. We can choose the practices that work for us. Some can do constant reminders like I do. You can start writing down on journals to condition yourselves. You can create anchors that can help you change states. There are many ways, we just need to prioritize this and find what works for us.
The point of saying all these is not to undermine our struggles, our sorrows, our frustrations and the everyday grind of life. We all have those and life is all that. Some have more and some have less. All of us have periods when this is more and then periods when we have a bit less of this. You will and need to feel all these. But in between remind and allow yourself to be happy in your states of normalcies. Stop waiting for things to happen to be happy, rather create your base state as one that of happiness.
I know this is not the first time someone has spoken about choosing happiness. There are many famous books on Happiness and even creating happiness as a habit. So this may be nothing new that I have written about. It’s just my 2 cents about how I am trying to change the definition of happiness for me and how can probably you do too in your quest to be a happy person.