A few years ago I had a terrible family tragedy. I got the unwanted honor of knowing the true meaning of sadness and despair. My experience with sadness caused me to have a more proper understanding of happiness and a deeper appreciation for it. I learned that life is as beautiful as it is grim. I learned that happiness can be elusive. I learned that even when happiness doesn’t choose you, you can choose it.
I spent more than five years in the depths of sadness. Day in and day out. I rarely felt happy and whenever I did, I felt guilty to be happy. Call it survivors remorse. Sometimes I still do. Upon moving to New York I knew that I needed to do something about my depression and anxiety if I wanted any chance at surviving in this magnificent but crazy city.
So for me, happiness was a choice. I knew that adopting a proactive approach towards being happy was necessary if I was going to be in charge of my life and create the life that I wanted. In doing so, I picked up a few insights along the way.
You Have to Manage your happiness
“I’ll sleep when I’m dead” used to be my mantra until I got sick and almost died (not really, but being my dramatic self I honestly thought I was at the precipice of heaven’s gate – or hell’s gate).
After one too many unpleasant life occurrences, I changed my mantra to “I deserve life enjoyment”. I learned through torturous experience and pain-triggered epiphanies that as humans, we must make space to do the things that are meaningful to us. We should choose things that make us happy and create moments worth relishing. Don’t put off enjoying the fruits of your labor and the spoils of your hard work because you are so anxious that you’ll lose it all. The world today is inundated with the concept of productivity. We feel like we must spend all our waking hours being productive. We don’t know when or how to stop till we burnout. I acknowledge that the structure of the economy and society has played a huge role in the dwindling work-life balance and has necessitated a hustle culture. Hence, why I am writing to you; to remind you that with a little effort, you can design a life that is more meaningful and that feeds your soul as well as your bank account.
My schedule can be overwhelming, so I learned to deliberately make time for fun instead of only relying on it to happen by chance. I add leisure activities to my calendar and fulfill them. I make time to watch movies and Modern Family reruns. And when I do take time off, I try not to feel guilty about it. When you make a deliberate effort to do meaningful things that make you happy, you control not only how you spend your time off but also how you feel on your time off. Do you constantly think about work when you are not at work? Do you feel guilty when you take a break? Are you doing things not because they make you happy but because you think that’s what you’re supposed to be doing to look (not BE) happy?
The hustle will always be on but, life can sucker punch you when you least expect it. Do not put off on doing the things that add value to your life. I encourage you to take a reflective look at your life today and note some changes you can make to construct a life that is full of meaning, balanced, aligns your values, and that you are proud of.
I read Man Search For Meaning by Victor Frankl and it gave me a deepened perspective of what it is to find meaning in life. That book helped me in so many ways and I hold it in such high regard as a religious text. And while I’m still on a journey to understanding the meaning of happiness it helped me understand the need to seek a meaningful life.
Happiness is not…
The Hedonic Treadmill
The hedonic treadmill is the concept of humans pursuing one pleasure after another. After a boost of happiness, there is the tendency or certainty to return to a steady baseline and equilibrium level of happiness. The pursuit of happiness and life enjoyment is different from the hedonic treadmill. It’s the realignment of your life to give you more meaning at your base level of equilibrium. It’s learning to be happy with what you have (even if you want more). It’s not the neverending chase of an elusive state of happiness. Rather it is being able to find balance and happiness in your life. Find your chill and your zen where you are and with what you have.
The Happiness Equation
Happiness can both be quantified and qualified. You cannot be happy about everything all the time. However, where you stand with these variables can be a measure of your happiness
HAPPINESS = Loving Relationships + Health+ Meaningful Work + Self-Respect + Peace of Mind + Healthy Balance of Have vs Want + Helpful Habits + Money!
If You or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (Lifeline) at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or text the Crisis Text Line (text HELLO to 741741). Both services are free and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. All calls are confidential.
This article was first published in an issue of The QLC Newsletter.
The QLC Newsletter covers issues like finding your purpose, self-actualization, job dissatisfaction, mental health, relationship issues, money anxieties, and more. These topics are typical stressors for an adult’s quarter-life crisis and every week our founder shares advice, insight, and unique perspectives on them.