When did happiness go out of fashion?

Never forget you are amazing

Happiness has been my go-to conversation piece when drunk for about the last month. As soon as I hit that third glass of wine tipping point, whoever I’m out with gets gifted a drunken Runawaykiwi preaching about happiness – apologies to everyone caught up in the ramble. Rather than continue to piss off my friends, I thought I would write something hopefully more coherent on this little old blog of mine.

I’m not quite sure if it is social media, the stage in life I’m in (late 20’s for anyone asking) or the language of modern marketing imprinting itself on my brain; at the moment we only speak in bests and worsts. It’s no longer ok to be just simply happy, now you need to be living in a constant state of ecstasy or alternatively be a tight ball of misery in order to fit in with the crowd.

I am really happy at the moment. God writing that felt like declaring a political statement. It’s not that I am an overnight Zoella, have been promoted to CEO or am suddenly getting married; I’m just getting enough sleep, have been doing some fun London stuff, drinking a lot of coffee and have actually managed to catch up with my friends. Not earth shattering, but I’m smiling and content. And yet this happiness is quite simply not something you hear about very often. It is partially because you are sensitive to others emotions and don’t want to rub happiness in the face of someone who is struggling, but it is mostly because stressed is the new normal.

The biggest issue I have with this best/worst mentality is that it is a self-fulfilling prophesy. Think back to the last time someone asked how you were, I would put money on your reply going something along the lines of “I’m so stressed and/or tired/shattered”…and it might be have been true. The problem is the more you say it, the more you reduce your emotional rainbow down to those two negative emotions, and after a while you don’t even bother to think about how you actually feel, you automatically go straight to stressed. You begin to forget that stressed and tired are just temporary states of being, you forget that they do not identify you.

I listened to this being discussed on the Being Boss podcast and their suggestion was to add a positive twist to the end of your automatic reaction; change “I’m so stressed” to “I’m busy but loving it”. I’m not sure that works for every situation, sometimes you are just stressed to all hell. But identifying the bigger picture really can work. This week in particular it’s too reductionist to say “I’m stressed”, instead it could be “I’m so excited for Christmas and I want to get all this work finished before the break”. It’s not “I’m stressed” its “I’ve got a big project and its taking up a lot of my energy”. Or hell, it’s not “I’m stressed” it could even be “I’m great”. Turns out just like complaining about teachers and homework made you cool in high school, being stressed makes you fit in at work.

Motivational quotes on my wall

The Pinterest impact can’t be overlooked either. Now I love a motivational quote, I pin quotes most days and have them all over the walls in my room. The danger is if they stop being little nuggets of lovely and actually start making you feel bad about your life, as if you are not doing it right unless EVERYTHING IS MAGICAL ALL THE TIME.

The funny thing about happiness is that, just like all emotions, it’s on a spectrum. Happiness runs from the tiny things like that first sip of coffee, through the middle ground of planning world domination with friends over wine, right up to the highs of finally having wanderlust satisfied – or my personal highlight this year of seeing my sister marry the love of her life, a moment so happy that it was in another emotion universe entirely. With all the Pinterest-beautiful quotes floating round, I get the impression that it’s only ‘happiness’ if it falls in the top 10% of the spectrum.

You are selling your happiness so so short if you can’t bask in the tiny happy moments that dot your day. That top 10% of social media approved happiness means that apparently 90% of your life is unhappy. That’s just terrifying.

I’m not sure if this post is any better than the wine ramble, but I think what I am trying to say is that this is your life, every second of it is a moment that you won’t get back. Don’t sell yourself short by falling into stressed/tired automatic-reaction trap, or feeling like your little moments of happiness aren’t big enough to count and enjoy. Wake up and think “I get to do this, I can try again and might even find some happy today”, and if that is too hippy dippy for you just remember that today you can buy a coffee and treasure that first sip. The emotions you are feeling are delightfully temporary, the fact that you are amazing is a constant that you need to keep in your heart every day.

Christmas is going to be a hard time for a lot of you reading this, either because you are an expat away from home or you might be home with your family…but your family is a bit cray. Forget that its not THE BEST CHRISTMAS OF ALL TIME, forget for a moment that being unhappy is cool and just enjoy those little moments. Use the silly jumper, the mulled wine and a surprise ‘Merry Christmas’ from a colleague you didn’t think knew you existed to get you through.

So, after all that I have to ask…what makes you happy?

xx

 

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Happiness

6 Comments

  1. December 18, 2015 / 11:52 am

    Couldn’t agree more! I found that working for myself decreased the “stressed” response when answering people’s questions, because I’m no longer surrounded by a roomful of people trying to out-busy each other all day. When I think of the weirdly competitive conversations we used to have (“It’s 4pm and I haven’t had lunch yet!” “Yeah? Well I’m so busy I haven’t had time to go to the toilet!”), I can’t believe I ever took part. And yet I was one of the worst offenders.

    What makes me happy now?

    Well, I have a cat, she’s lovely. Sometimes when I’m in bed I’ll hear her purring while I fall asleep. That’s nice. I have a job I like, and although some weeks I’m really busy, it’s only because I want to be. In general though, the things that make me happy are little day-to-day things: going outside and realising it’s finally autumn; reading the last line of a really good book and closing the final page; having a nice glass of wine in a bubbly bath.

    Here’s to happiness! 🙂

  2. Charlotte
    December 19, 2015 / 5:29 pm

    What a great post! I agree – it’s so so easy to fall victim to “I’m stressed / sad / tired / depressed” and then start believing it. More often than not in my coming up 8 months in London I’ve been all of the above, sometimes all at the same time! London is hard though, it’s hard being away from home for the first time and doing it all on your own even though I have lots of Kiwi friends here and have and keep making London friends. But I’ve noticed I let myself become defined by the hard times of being here and forget and don’t relish all the good, wonderful times I’ve had here! And I’m still here and wanna stay here for a a while yet so obviously something’s keeping me here. Being “stressed” all the time masks all I’ve achieved in my short time here and makes me focus on my short-comings when I should be damn proud of what I’ve done – I have a good, high-paying job at an amazing company (if not the best), I just moved into a nice flat in Angel, have made friends-for-life types who become like family to me here, have old friends from back home who ARE my family here and make it all better, have travelled and will travel more because London, London itself is amazing and I’m still amazed I live in arguably the best city on the world (albeit not the prettiest – that’s Paris)which makes me be the best version of myself, or attempt to be, and I have all this opportunity that people would kill for and I feel I don’t appreciate it like I should because I let the hard times dominate my feelings too much.

    Next year I’m gonna try work on treating myself better and being kinder to myself. I download Headspace and that’s so good at giving you clarity and calming your mind. Happiness IS cool!

  3. Caitlin Jean
    December 21, 2015 / 7:27 am

    I found that the response to a simple How are you? change from “I’m fine” to “I’m sooo busy” to “I am beyond stressed” and I believe people don’t really give an honest answer.

    What makes me happy? Simply being able to laugh even at myself 🙂

  4. December 22, 2015 / 1:11 am

    Love this: “EVERYTHING IS MAGICAL ALL THE TIME”. I think there is a lot of pressure from seeing other people’s carefully selected photos on social media to have the ‘perfect’ life. But really when it comes down to it, what makes me happy is getting to spend time with my family and friends (whether I put it on FB or not 😉 )

  5. March 20, 2016 / 4:10 pm

    Very wise words. It extends to all sorts of places in social media today. How many times have I seen “must-read” attached to an article, or “must-see” splashed on a tweet about a video. Really? Must, I? No, probably not.

    One of the tricks I’ve learnt fairly late in life (and am still not good at) is taking pleasure in the small things, like glancing out of my window and seeing a beautiful sunset.

    Thanks,
    Brian.