Somewhere between the dream and the morning alarm, just as the reality begins to sink in and our mind starts galloping at 100 miles per hour, we are made believe that happiness requires hard work. That you can’t simply wake up and be happy with what you have, because whatever obstacles you’re dealing with overshadow your chances at happiness.
We consciously choose to postpone our happiness until we have X,Y and Z, allowing ourselves to be miserable in the process.
Similarly, when going through a heartbreak – or any kind of emotional pain or difficulty really – we get caught up in the idea that we will be happy (or rather, allow ourselves to be happy) only once the pain ceases and we manage to move on. As a result, we end up withholding our happiness for months, sometimes years.
The reality is, you can be happy regardless of your circumstances.
You can be insanely, deeply happy, as you’re working towards the things you want, instead of waiting for that very thing – or emotion – to magically appear.
You can be happy when you’re feeling a bit lost, just like you can be happy while you’re hurting.
Even on the darkest, most depressing day there will be that one moment, that tiny little glimpse of sunshine, that will remind you that you are far too complex, too loving, too MAGNIFICENT of a human being to be defined by a single emotion.
Sadness and pain don’t define you.
YOU DEFINE YOU.
Excuse the cheesy quote, but happiness truly is a way of travelling – not a destination.
While it would be wonderful if at some point, somewhere on the horizon appeared a big fat sign proclaiming that you’ve arrived at destination ‘happiness’, it’s simply not going to happen.
And guess what – that’s a good thing!
It means that you have the opportunity to experience happiness every step of the way, even on days when you’re running out of gas or when you’re at crossroads (see what I did there?!).
Happiness is a sum total of small, everyday moments. This means that as much as it’s important to acknowledge and process feelings of sadness and pain, we have to find a way of creating – and indulging in – the moments of happiness.
To all those of you feeling broken-hearted, upset and just a little bit lost – here are five wonderful things you can do to invite happiness into your life, even – or especially – on days when you’re hurting. Think of them as a little hug for your beautiful, gentle soul. Let’s jump in!
1. Prepare your lifeboat
Wouldn’t you agree that feeling sad, confused or heartbroken is a little bit like being stuck on the open sea in the middle of a storm? The winds are blowing, your little boat is rocking and you’re panicking, not sure what to do and how to keep it afloat. And what do you need to do when your boat starts sinking, aka when the emotional overwhelm gets too much?
You need to get your lifeboat ready and sail away someplace safe!
The storm symbolises moments of emotional despair – just like a hurricane on an open sea, the feelings of sadness and overwhelm have a way of arriving like waves, one at a time, until they come crashing down with full force. You can always sense them coming so it’s important to be prepared for when they arrive – this way you won’t sink into despair!
Your lifeboat is the very thing that, no matter how sad or desperate you feel, has a way of making you feel better and cheering you up. Your lifeboat are essentially the things you can do that will immediately make you feel better and cushion the emotional impact. Write down a list of those things, making sure you always have them at hand when going gets tough, so you can quickly get yourself out of the storm and back on dry land.
For me, my lifeboat is going out for a walk and listening to my favourite, uplifting songs. When I’m sad or distressed I get restless. Going out, with the fresh air hitting my face and music in my ears, helps me calm down and collect my thoughts. Going on a walk also releases endorphins which helps you get your happiness levels back up.
Your life boat could be a favourite song, journaling, making your favourite meal or simply snuggling up in bed with a book… Whatever has a way of making you feel better. The key is that is has be completely self-reliant. Avoid things like “calling a friend” , simply because your friend may not be able to pick up the phone before the boat sinks! Think of things you can do on your own that will immediately make you feel better,
I wish I came up with the lifeboat metaphor myself but the credit goes to Beata Pawlikowska – my favourite Polish writer and explorer. In her book, A Happiness Course – which sadly, was never translated to English – she writes about the importance of thinking ahead of the storm, and having your lifeboat at the ready for when it arrives.
Key takeaway: Grab a pen and paper and write down your lifeboat list so you’re prepared to face the storm.
2. Self care, self care and more self care
There are a lot of ways to define happiness. One of my favourites is that happiness is the triumph of love over fear. Giving yourself the time to indulge in self love is a wonderful way of inviting more happiness into your life, day by day.
Self-love doesn’t always mean bubble baths and champagne, sometimes it means heartbreak and pain and going through it all knowing it’s serving a purpose, that it’s there to teach us something, to avoid us feeling a similar way in the future.
When going through something difficult, your self-love routine could go a little something like this:
- Allow yourself to feel however you’re feeling.
Blocking your feelings out is not only unhealthy, it staggers your opportunity to grow and learn through the painful experience. Embrace however you’re feeling and acknowledge that you’re having a bad day. Remember: there is no such thing as BAD emotions. Sadness, pain, fear, disappointment or heartbreak aren’t inherently ‘bad’ – they are just an emotion like any other, and a sign that you’re working through something that, once dealt with, will bring you happiness. It’s never about the emotion itself but about the work you’re willing to do around it, so embrace your pain and feel it out… Cry if you have to, speak to your friends, or write your thoughts in a journal. Understanding your feelings will help you deal with them in a healthy way. When upset, honour how you’re feeling but always choose a higher thought. This brings me to the next point:
- Be kind to yourself.
This starts with the things you’re telling yourself. Your mind is an incredibly powerful tool; it quite literally has the power to make or break you. If, in moments of sadness or anger, you turn to negative self-talk, you’ll end up sabotaging your chances at feeling better and continue down the negativity spiral.
Here’s what to do instead. Whenever you catch yourself thinking things like: “I’m a failure”, “I’m unlovable”, “I’ll never amount to anything” – flip the script and play the ‘what if’ game! Ask yourself…What if the very thing that’s bringing me pain is the thing that will help me grow? What if the reason I lost my job is so that I can focus on doing something I truly love? What if my relationship ended to save me from the pain and toxicity, and to open me to something greater? What is the sadness I’m feeling means choosing long-term happiness over short-term pleasure? Focus on what the situation you’re in is trying to teach you – there is ALWAYS a greater reason behind everything that happens, you just have to look.
Of course, being kind to yourself isn’t just about the positive self-talk, but the way you choose to treat yourself day to day. It’s the food you eat, the people you surround yourself with, even the films you watch. Surround yourself with people and things that sparkle joy, and don’t be afraid to treat yourself once in a while – something as small as a cup of your favourite coffee in the sunshine can work wonders for your soul.
Key takeaway: Learn to treat yourself the way you would treat your best friend. When upset, always try to choose a higher thought to uplift yourself. Likewise, just as you’re taking care of your mind, be mindful of how you treat your body – be kind to yourself, always – especially on days when you’re most vulnerable.
3. Always have something to look forward to
As it’s been famously said: “the key to happiness is something to love, something to do, and something to look forward to”. This can be anything from booking a flight to your favourite destination to reading a book, watching your favourite show, exercising or having a bath at the end of a long day. Indulge in those precious little moments, they are like a balm for your soul.
Key takeaway: Always have something to look forward to, especially at the end of a busy day. Write a list of things that bring you joy and make time for them during the day. Spending as little as a couple of minutes each day doing something you enjoy will have a positive impact on your overall well-being!
4. Appreciate the small things
If u don’t get excited about the small things, how will you appreciate the truly important moments? The sound of the rain that invites cosy evenings by the candlelight, cherry blossoms blooming in the spring, the first snow, a text from a friend you haven’t heard from in a while, a small gesture of kindness shown by a random stranger… Learn to notice and appreciate those moments and you’ll soon become an expert at finding things to smile about. No matter how dreary you may be feeling, those little moments of joy will remind you that there are millions of reasons to smile, regardless of your circumstances. Enjoy them as you go through your day and remember that no matter how bad or heartbroken you may be feeling, there is always something to smile and be happy about.
I’ve written a post going more into detail on how to indulge in those small moments – be sure to have a read!
Key takeaway: The key to happiness lies in appreciating the small things. They are a great reminder that there is so much to be happy and grateful for, regardless of how you’re feeling. Make a point of noticing at least three small things every day that bring a smile on your face, as see how the world becomes a little less gloomy.
5. Surround yourself with people that feel like sunshine
Have you heard the phrase, you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with? The people you let into your life – especially people close to you – have the power to affect your mood, emotional well-being and even your sense of self-worth. It’s quite simple really – surround yourself with kind, warm-hearted people that make it their job to bring positivity to your life, and not chip away from it. Avoid those that bring in drama, gossip or simply bring you down. Spend time with friends that focus on solutions and actively look for ways of moving forward in life, not those that choose stagnation over growth. This may be a good opportunity to look at your close circle and think of the ways each person makes you f e e l. Do they bring out the best in you? Do they motivate you to be and do better? As painful as it may be, some friendships are meant to be outgrown – how can you fly, when those close to you keep dragging you down?
Key takeaway: Be conscious about the people you surround yourself with and give your energy to. Choose to spend time with those who radiate warmth and positivity, as they will naturally bring more of it into your life.
And there it is, five heart-warming, soul-nourishing ways to allow yourself to be happy when you’re hurting. These are all very simply strategies that I use day to day when faced with difficulty, heartbreak or pain. It’s so incredibly important to learn to look past our own circumstances. We are all a part of something far bigger and greater than whatever it is that we’re going through, and giving ourselves that sense of perspective, focusing on the good things in life and the things that are yet to come, will help you realise that what you’re going through is temporary and leads to something bigger and greater.
In the meantime, turn your head towards the sunshine and allow yourself to smile, always – even if it sometimes means smiling through the pain x