Unlearning What Happy Should Look Like

Photo Credit: Vinicius Altava

Are you happy? A question I hear more recently.

I had to think hard for an appropriate response. And I thought to myself, why are people asking if I am happy?

I just lost a loved one. I don’t know what to feel.

I am struggling with anxiety. How can I still be happy?

My mom got diagnosed with cancer. How can I be happy? 

I come from a long linage of addiction. How can I still be happy? 

I just got an unplanned pregnancy. How should I be happy? 

I feel stuck. How can I stay happy? 

I do not know what to do with myself. I feel lost. How do I stay happy with myself? 

My relationship just ended after 9 years. How can I be happy? 

Life is, and will always be an opportunity in the midst of chaos. 

Dealing with pain, developing coping mechanisms, and psychology should be taught in schools. Emotional maturity is a lifelong journey.  Healing is a lifelong journey.

Below are a few tips that have helped me deal with hard times.

First of all, accept that in life, there are things that we are not in control of. We can’t control the behaviour of other people, the weather, a global pandemic, a health scare, accidents, and the list goes on. We are only in control of our behaviours. But realize that it is enough. Working on your mindsets, habits, and skills is enough. 

Secondly, accept that bad things happen to everyone. Rain falls on everyone. No, God is not punishing you. And no, it is not because you sinned. And it is not always karma. It is life. 

It is life when you are up all night thinking how to get through another month of rent. 
It is life when you are at the sickbed and not knowing who to call. 
It is life when you are at the point of tears. 

Thirdly, have an understanding of the pain you are feeling. Feel the pain and sit with it. It is so easy to escape. Whether through drugs, sex, entertainment, social media, alcohol, relationships, work, etc. Attach words with the pain. How does it make you feel? Whether you feel angry, sad, shocked, abandoned, anxious, alone, or depressed. Create a non-judgement zone. Your emotions are all valid. 

The fourth tip, have an outlet for expressing your emotions. Whether it is through music, writing, dancing, or speaking. Do not have your emotions bottled up. 

Five. Know that healing is not linear. It has its ups and downs. You will experience setbacks. And when that happens, do not beat yourself up. Instead, refocus and get back on track. 

Six. Time to change your environment to support your healing. You might have to take a break with certain people. Or end relationships altogether. It is ok to grow apart. When you feel depressed, it is usually challenging to set boundaries. And there are certain personalities you do not want to deal with. Also, be intentional and selective with who you surround yourself with. Not everyone has the heart to care. Some people can use your pain for their entertainment, or they might be opportunistic with your current circumstance.

Seven. Practise being compassionate to yourself. If all you can do is cook good food and sleep on time. Start from there and build from there. Start from the lowest hanging fruit. With time, you will build momentum.

Eight. Work on your mindset. Listen to messages of hope and content that promote having a growth mindset. Faith is believing in what you cannot see. And this is when you need it the most. 

Nine. Practice gratitude. 
This is going to be challenging. Start with the small things. Be thankful for being part of the living. Be thankful for food. Be thankful for the car you have. Be thankful for having family and friends. Be thankful for having a support system. Be thankful for every dollar you spend. Be thankful for provision. Be thankful for having a roof over your head. Shift your focus on what you do have instead of lack. 

Ten. Move your body and change what you eat. 
Movement helps with your wellbeing. Whether it be exercise, dancing, or taking a walk outside in nature. Be intentional with eating more nutritious food. And changing your environment helps with your mental health as well. Do not feel like a prisoner in your own home. Some days will be hard. But the change of environment can transform your perspective.

Eleven. Learn how to self regulate and self soothe your emotions. It is so easy to justify hurting others because of the pain we feel. We see it all the time, people are fond of projecting their internal conflict. But hurting others does not take away the pain. 

Twelve. Consider Therapy

Therapy helps in having a better understanding of who you are. We are all products of our childhood trauma and environment. Having someone you can connect with you makes a difference. And sometimes, all people want is to be seen and heard. I do understand that not everyone has access nor can afford it. Perhaps, you can educate yourself in understanding how you feel and behaviours. And focus on what you need to change about your mindsets and habits. 

Twelve. Build Discipline and Follow a schedule or routine. 

Building discipline means you are working towards something. It is better to have a goal that you are working towards than to wake up aimless. Your goals can be working out, applying to jobs, prospecting, reading books, learning a new skill, etc.  Happiness is not from chasing titles, status, or things. Real happiness comes from the doing of life. Engaging in what is fulfilling to you. It comes from experiencing progress, no matter how small it is. The experiences, completions, meaningful relationships, and seeing how you make a difference in the life of others. 

Thirteen. Change your story

Tell yourself a different story. The human brain has the power of neuroplasticity. So we can reprogram it to get the results we want. So instead of saying I am broken. Start saying I am healing. Instead of saying that no one loves me. Say that my Tribe is on the way. Your mindset eavesdrop on your self-talk. So change what you say about yourself. 

I wish you all healing and growth. 

Do not allow your temporary confusion to become your permanent conclusion.

We are going to get through this. 

So when people ask me if I am happy. I reply I am grateful. And that is how I show up. Life is not perfect. But gratitude has been my bedrock. Faith that things can get better and I can influence my future. Taking it one step at a time.


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Hi, I’m Kimberly Ihekwoaba and I am a multimedia storyteller. I entertain, educate, and empower people around the world through the power of storytelling. Check out my blog for my latest posts.

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