Have you ever thought - If I could just get this new job, I’d be happy? Or if I had more money – maybe then? Or maybe, like me, you thought a big fancy house would bring you the joy you’ve been chasing after?
Here’s the thing: I got all of those things. And I still wasn’t happy.
Everyone – and I mean everyone – on some level believes that if they could just attain that goal that they’ve been striving towards that it will make them perfectly happy and they will never have to worry or feel stressed out or feel like they are not enough ever again.
I believed this story. My entire life I had worked toward the things that I thought would bring me happiness. Get a good education? Check. A good job? Check. Big fancy house and lots of nice things? Check check check. But I still wasn’t happy. Why?
I spent about a year wondering what was wrong with me. Am I just one of those people who are never satisfied? Can never be happy? Seriously though – what is wrong with me?
I decided the best solution was a drastic change. Maybe it’s not me. Maybe it’s just that I don’t love this corporate / suburban lifestyle that I’ve built for myself.
Chasing the Dream
I quit my job and started my dream business: Making healthy food that actually tastes good and sharing it with other people. Surely this would be the thing that would finally bring me the incredible happiness I had been craving in my life.
And it did! Being your own boss is pretty amazing. I would still get up and go to work at the same time as always but NOW I could do so in the comfort of my own home. If I wanted to go workout at 10am instead of 5pm? Yup, I could do that too by switching around my schedule. I could make my own decisions, have my own ideas and act on them without anyone leaning over my shoulder kyboshing them. I had the freedom and space to be creative and intellectually stimulated and then see the fruits of my own labour. It was absolutely incredible. I felt like this is what I was missing all along.
But then came the hard part. As I started to grow my business, I started dealing with big problems. Real, solid, serious issues. Problems that scared the heck out of me and made me think: Can I do this? Am I going to fail? How am I going to make payroll this month? What do I do about this negative person attacking me online? How do I move my business forward when I have literally just the money in my bank account and everything costs in the tens-of-thousands range?
I spiraled. I woke up every single day to enormous amounts of anxiety. I cried – a lot. I talked and talked and talked through everything trying to find solutions but really just making myself feel even worse. It was a very difficult time and I had to do it all while trying to run my business and be positive for the people around me and figure out how I could solve these problems. I longed for my days of being bored at an office collecting a regular paycheque. It all seemed not so bad anymore.
I got through that time. I eventually came out the other side of it with a new realization: external things will not make you happy. A new job, more money, heck even my dream of buying a house in Hawaii – they won’t make you happy. Sure, these things may bring more joy into your life, but they won’t make you truly happy. Not the way we all want and are searching for.
The only thing that will bring you the happiness you are looking for? You. It’s your mindset that needs to change, not your surroundings.
You can find gratitude in almost any situation and any day. I could see my weekend as exhausting or busy and end up feeling tired and grumpy on Monday because I worked all weekend. Or I could choose to be happy about how productive I was and how I got to spend a much needed few hours resting with my husband and dogs.
We’ve been programmed to be unhappy and complain and see the world in a negative light. But what if we chose to see it in a positive one?
This isn’t easy. In fact, it’s really hard to live with enormous amounts of stress and still find happiness. It’s something that I’m still working on every single day. Here’s the five things that have helped me the most:
1. Actively choose happiness every day
You guys, I love sleeping. I do not bound out of bed in the morning with loads of energy and a smile. The morning is the hardest part of the day for me. I struggle to brush off the grogginess of sleep (especially in the winter) and start my day with thoughts about how I shouldn’t have to wake up before it’s light out and that I need a few more hours of sleep and that I should have gone to bed earlier last night. Sometimes I even daydream about sleeping again that night. I’m not even kidding.
It is an effort, but once I am out of bed I force myself to choose happiness. I stop complaining about it being morning – even in my own head – and start to focus on feeling good. Enjoying my hot shower. Enjoying my coffee. Choosing to be happy.
2. Throw on some upbeat tunes
Another thing that helps first thing in the morning is turning on some upbeat music. I made a playlist of all my favourite pump-me-up types of songs and I throw it on every morning while I get ready for work. Sometimes I dance (ok, always I dance). There is literally no way to continue to mope about in the morning when you have 90s hip hop beats backing up your fav dance moves. Get at it.
3. Move your body
You’ve likely heard this one, but honestly it works so well. I work out twice a day. Now, before you roll your eyes and call me a gym rat or a health nut or just plain extreme, you should know that I’m not talking about hours long sweat sessions. I go to the gym first thing in the morning and do literally a 5 minute run. I’m not kidding. It may sound like a waste of time – driving to and from the gym – all for a 5 minute run? Yup. But it’s not a waste of time. Those 5 minutes change my entire day. Getting your heart pumping first thing in the morning helps clear out the cobwebs and gets me energized and ready to tackle the day. And the workout at the end of the day? It helps me shed the workday stress and relax a bit before my evening. While you might not have time for my routine, I would highly encourage you to get your body moving at least once a day. Walk, run, play with your kids – whatever it is, make sure you move.
4. Learn from others
I didn’t figure this stuff out on my own. I learned it from others who have been through it before me. There are so many awesome people out there who have great tips and help on how to get that elusive happiness. Here are some of my favs:
Rachel Hollis: https://thehollisco.com/
Mel Robbins: https://melrobbins.com/
Brene Brown: https://brenebrown.com/
5. Practice Gratitude
There are things to be grateful for all around you. And not just the big things like a roof over your head. I mean the little things. That incredible cup of coffee. The way it feels when your head hits the pillow at night. The smell of a wood burning fireplace. If you start to focus on the good things around you, you will naturally start to notice them more. And when you notice the good things more often, the bad things don’t seem nearly as bad. Sure, you maybe had a bad day. But coming home to a warm house and curling up in your favourite blanket? You can still choose to be grateful for those things in spite your bad day. If you want to take it a step further, start writing things down in a gratitude journal to remind yourself of all the incredible things life has to offer.
The reality is that life is going to be hard sometimes. Stress isn’t going to magically disappear. Life will continue to involve hardships and problems and we can’t stop that from happening. Instead, we can accept that sometimes life is hard and choose to focus our attention on the positive things instead. This, more than any external factor or physical object, is the key to obtaining happiness.