How To Be Happy


Lately I have been completely flooded with self-help spam and life-guru book recommendations and the one thing I’m getting from all of this is that I really don’t understand the obsession with ‘Happy’. All of these diagrams and how to guides and lifestyle coaches telling you that if you just follow their simple steps then you too can be ecstatically happy all of them time.

You too can be be happy every moment of every day.

Not only do I think it’s absolute bull that any person can be completely happy all the time, I also can’t understand why anyone would want to. It honestly just sounds exhausting. What is so wrong with just being okay sometimes? What is really so inexcusable about not being okay at all every now and again?

Why is this something we all seem to be chasing with the single minded belief that the right combination of formulas will fix us and, more to the point, when did we start thinking of ourselves as needing to be fixed?

I understand the desire to be happy, I want to be happy, what I don’t understand is the premium we’ve placed on this unrealistic belief that if we live our lives with strict adherence to these overly generalised guidelines then we will have earned our happiness and it will be right there waiting for collection.

And even if, by either some incredible miracle or supremely effective pharmaceuticals, you are happy all the time, it’s still not good enough because you didn’t do it their way. You can’t measure it against their scale or stack up the pre-packaged cliches in neat little rows. When did being happy become about proving you deserve to be, when did it become about justifying how much your happiness is worth?

Who started this insane checklist of expectations and why are we all so obsessed with ticking every box?

It makes me unreasonably angry that we all spend so much time working to be this glamourised, ideal kind of happy that we completely forget to just enjoy the day-to-day moments of the real kind. Worse still we just end up broke and guilty and feeling like there’s something wrong with us because we couldn’t make this foolproof plan work. You know what you could have bought for the $40 you spent on the ‘7 Steps To Happiness’? Something that actually makes you smile.

If you like roses then fill your home with them. If you like fuzzy socks then pull them on and enjoy. Go wiggle your toes in the sand or eat a cupcake or pet something fluffy, what ever it is that brightens your day. You don’t need someone else to tell you how to find your bliss, it’s yours and it’s in all the little things you love. It’s there every day being overlooked in the never ending quest for an all encompassing, big picture kind of happy.

And I think it should be in the little things, those guilty pleasures and moments of indulgence that make you feel warm and wicked. I think it’s okay to find it in a hug or a smile. I think it’s worth so much more when it catches you by surprise, when you look up and you’re just delighted to realise you’ve been laughing for 20mins straight and your face aches and it’s good. When everything about that moment is enough.

I look at a lot of the people in my life and one of the few things they have in common is that they all seem to feel like being anything other than happy is some massive failing. Like they’re somehow deficient for having a bad day.

I have a lot of bad days. I’ve finally come to understand that it isn’t always my fault, it doesn’t mean I’ve failed and it doesn’t make me deficient. It’s just a bad day. It sounds pretty simple and it should be but somehow happiness has become a million dollar industry, another marketable commodity, and we all buy in.

And I hate that there are times when I do too because not only do I not believe in the whole sales pitch but sometimes I don’t even want to be happy. Sometimes I want to rage against that hot rush of anger that makes me want to scream until my voice gives out. I want that beautiful moment of clarity that only comes after I cry until I’m a splotchy mess. I want to tremble with fearful anticipation and I want to be swept up in the high of victory when I overcome.

And when I am truly, genuinely happy I want to luxuriate in the way it feels, wrap myself up in it like a soft mink blanket because I know what it’s like to be devastated and lonely and frustrated and terrified. I want to enjoy it knowing that it may not last but it doesn’t need to either.

I like the balance, I like the rise and fall and I like feeling like I’ve been lit up from the inside after everything’s just felt dark. Most of all though, I like knowing that when everything goes to hell I’ll be fine, I can handle it. I’ve felt worse.

I don’t need to always be happy, I’m complicated and difficult and messy and totally unable to stick to any kind of strict guidelines for anything and that’s okay.

And at the end of the day, when I stop trying to measure my happiness against the commercialised expectation, I’m pretty damn content with how far I’ve come. I’m not always smiling but I don’t have to be, if I don’t today then maybe I will tomorrow and I don’t need someone else to tell me why I should.

Image Credit – Catherine McMahon.
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