I don’t think I’m alone in saying that I’ve spent my entire life looking for happiness. Whether it be in a book, an experience, another person, I’ve craved this feeling since I was a child and became aware that actually it’s possible to feel something other than happy and content all the time.
When I was a teenager, I sunk into a very deep depression and it was only after several years of anti-depressants and counselling that I emerged on the other side of it – not quite my old self but definitely not far off. Then anxiety struck and well, that’s a battle that is still ongoing.
Last year, on New Year’s Eve, I vowed to make 2016 my year no matter what. I know it isn’t over yet but it’s looking pretty promising. It’s been a year filled with change and a lot of ups and downs but ultimately it’s the year I think I have finally discovered what it means to be truly happy. So that’s what I’m going to talk about today – happiness and my perception of what it actually is.
When I was younger, and especially when I was depressed, I imagined happiness as an emotion. A quantifiable feeling, and I was wholeheartedly jealous of anyone who said they were happy because I’d forgotten what it felt like to live every day without this dark cloud hanging over me. I remember when I started taking my anti-depressants that I had a period of maybe two or three weeks when I felt completely elated and weightless and I imagined that this was what happiness felt like, but then it went again and I realised that I was wrong.
Since then I have looked for happiness so often that I’d started to think it didn’t exist. I’d work jobs and wonder why I couldn’t feel happy with my career like everyone else. I’d come home from work to my family home and wonder why, despite the fact that I have incredible parents, amazing friends and absolutely brilliant pets, I wasn’t happy and felt permanently discontent. Even when I moved out and got my own place this constant craving for more seemed to follow me everywhere.
When I moved to London at the start of the year, I panicked because I was scared that London would be the same for me as Manchester – essentially a huge disappointment and one of the most unhappy times of my life. Instead, despite emotional upheavals, being perpetually broke, and a new found addiction to crisps, chocolate and cigarettes, I am actually the happiest I have ever been in my life. But this in itself has changed my perception of what happiness actually is.
Let me rewind a minute to a few paragraphs ago – “I imagined happiness as an emotion”. I think this is the crucial thing here – I was looking for a physical feeling. Something that I could measure. I imagined happiness as a sensation of elatedness following me everywhere I went, a permanent smile plastered to my face and an infectious giggle.
A few weeks ago I read something (please don’t ask me what, I know that’s really unhelpful, but I can’t remember if it was a book, a blog post or a quote) that essentially summed up happiness as less a physical emotion or feeling and more a cumulation of a series of different events or feelings that lead to contentment. And I couldn’t agree more. I have been trying over the last week or so to think more positively as I know I have a penchant to see the negative in everything, and I think it’s finally shown me what I’ve been looking for all along.
I have a great relationship with a man who loves me as much as I love him (he’d say more, but I disagree). I’m living in a city I’ve dreamed of for years. I have a great job. Blogging is finally looking up. I’m broke but I can see the end in sight of my financial worries. I’m physically fairly healthy (apart from aforementioned addiction to all things carb) and I’ve started dancing again. I’m experiencing things I never in a million years dreamed that I would. I have a great relationship with my friends and family and I’m making a conscious effort to keep in touch with them rather than distancing myself like I’ve done in the past. I’m making sure I have time to myself, setting myself time aside to do the things I really want to do, and I’m giving myself a chance to create stuff.
And all of the above has lead to the feeling of utmost contentment. Which in turn has led me to the realisation that I’m happy – sure there’s things I’d change and improve upon, but overall I’m happy. I’m lucky. I’m blessed and I’m very grateful.
Do you agree that happiness is more circumstantial, or do you feel it’s an emotion? Let me know in the comments below, I’m curious to hear everyone’s thoughts!