On a warm summer day last year, my mother and I were sitting on our balcony enjoying the cool breeze while sipping on coffee and catching up. I told her I was the happiest I have been in a long time and that I could not remember the last time I was as happy as I was then. Mom looked at me quizzically and asked how it was possible that I, a person who had just resigned from my job with no back up plan, no savings, and single at the age of 32, be happier than I ever was. That pretty much was the same reaction I got from everyone else.
Some people wondered if I was in love. I did feel like I was in love but not with someone; I was in love with life and all that it holds. I was falling in love with life again. That’s when my friends nodded and smiled but looked like they were worried for me.
I started thinking if I was being delusional. Was I truly happy or was it a crazy phase I was going through? Was it some sort of masked depression? Would this feeling of being high in life sustain?
A year has passed and I can now confirm that I truly did find happiness. It was real. I’m not just talking about the haha short term kind of happiness, but true happiness. The feeling where you feel like nothing may affect you. Now don’t get me wrong, there were days when I felt down but that’s only natural as long as you are happy the majority of the time, and I am capable of counting the number of times I felt down this past year on one hand.
What happened that made me happy? It was quite simple really. Read on to find out my 12 steps!
1. I Decided to be happy – You have to decide to be happy rather than wait to feel happy. It’s your decision to make and all of the below is meaningless unless you decide it’s time to change.
2. Off with the negative – I cut off any relationships I had with people who were negative or who brought negativity into my life. Being surrounded by people who constantly nag and whine was draining. If you have judgmental people in your life, I suggest cutting those off as well. Surround yourself with positive people, people who truly love you, and people who you enjoy spending time with.
2. Let bygones be bygones – Don’t hold grudges. I keep saying this to the people I care about. When you hold a grudge it’s like keeping a disease within your system. Let go of any negative feelings you have and move on. Learn to ignore things that aggravate you by not giving them any attention.
3. Don’t be dependent – Don’t expect someone else to make you happy. Happiness is an emotion that you feel and if you keep waiting for someone to make you happy, you will wait forever. Someone may add joy and happiness to your life but they are not the root of your happiness.
4. Do what you love – What are your hobbies? Did you ever enjoy something but stopped because you were always too busy? Make some time for it (now that you’ve rid your life from negative people you may have some extra time on your hands).
Personally, I rediscovered painting. I had stopped painting for 10 years and when I got back to it, I would find myself getting lost into it for hours and feeling very peaceful. I also got back to some hard core reading. I wanted to finish a good book in a week or two instead of a month or two. Gardening was another hobby I found myself immersed in and loving it.
I also enjoy outdoor activities but in the GCC it is rare to find things to do and people to go with you but I take advantage of any opportunity when it presents itself.
Learn new things, find new ways to develop yourself.
5. Your job is not your life – Blessed is the person whose job is his hobby. You are lucky if you are passionate about your career but that does not always mean you will be happy. If you are disappointed at work, it’s ok, that happens. They are several levels of unhappiness. Sometimes we stick through it until we find another job that would bring us more satisfaction. Personally, I was miserable at my last job and I had the luxury to quit without a back up plan. I am aware that not everyone is able of doing that but I took advantage of the fact that I am a single person with no responsibilities or financial obligations.
6. Be grateful – Be grateful for the life you have had. Stop, reminisce, and think of the good in your life. Don’t dwell on mistakes since you have learned from them and don’t dwell on pain. Look at what is positive in your life and appreciate that.
7. Don’t stress – In other words chill. If there’s something that bothers you think of how you can change it, but if it is something that you cannot change, don’t stress about it and just let it go.
8. Don’t compare & compete – What makes someone else happy will not necessarily make you happy.
9. Be Resilient – We all go through times of stress, loss, failure or trauma in our lives. It is our attitude to how we respond to these that has a big impact on our well-being. We often cannot choose what happens to us, but we can choose our own attitude to what happens.
10. Appreciate the little things – As cliche and as cheesy as this may sound, stop and smell the roses. When was the last time you watched the sunrise? My friends and I did so recently and as tired and exhausted as we were while waiting for the sun to come up, we all ended up leaving with a smile on our face and a feeling of inner peace. The number of times I have caught myself chasing a beautiful sunset during the past year is countless. I race to a spot where I can sit down by myself and just take in the breathtaking view. I always have flowers and plants around at home and at the office since they bring me joy. These little things matter. They really do.
11. Your body – Yup, another cliche one: Your body is your temple. Being active makes you happier and is beneficial for your health. I’m not saying I run marathons because I don’t and it’s not part of who I am. Just being a bit active would drag you out of depression and improve your mood. Take a walk when the weather is nice, join a dance class, find what suits you and do it. This will make a world of a difference and shedding off those extra pounds is also pleasing! I have managed to lose almost 10kg which I had gained during the time I was not happy. I lost them at a very slow pace but do I feel better about myself? Hell yeah!
12. Accept yourself – Learn to appreciate who you are and accept it. No one is perfect so work on becoming a better version of yourself and accept who you are with all your flaws. Stop being so hard on yourself and stop dwelling on your flaws. There is a lot of greatness in you, focus on those traits and let them shine through your flaws.