I heard a quote by an anonymous author that said, “Stop looking for happiness where you lost it.” The words really struck me and I have thought about them non-stop for a week. It made me think of a lot of times I had been searching for happiness where none could ever be found. Whether that was in trying to pursue relationships that weren’t working out, or if I was chasing the ideals of what was popular or the most socially acceptable. Like many people, I believe happiness is a choice—but I don’t want to leave it right there and say, “good luck making that choice!” with a cheesy smile and an excited wave. Many times we chose to look for happiness where we lost it. Instead we need to strive to consciously make tiny, small, deliberate choices for our happiness every day of our lives.
The problem with happiness is that when we are happy we don’t take the time to look back and see what decisions led to our current state. And when we are miserable and feel so far from happiness we tend to be so surrounded in our own ego and awareness of our deep needs that we fail to look introspectively and figure out what led us away from happiness. Another issue with happiness (sorry to break this to you) but it usually is the harder choice initially. What do I mean by this?
I love hot fudge sundaes. I would eat them every day if I had my way. And I feel A LOT of happiness when I am eating a hot fudge sundae. However, if I ate a hot fudge sundae every day I would soon lose my happiness to an even greater misery—I would lose my healthy body. Feeling sluggish, over-weight, or unattractive pulls at your soul—more so than a hot fudge sundae buoys it up in the moment. So we have to make the choice that while it’s perfectly okay to eat hot fudge sundaes (or pick your poison) occasionally, we have to make the harder decision to eat healthy for the long lasting joy of having a healthy body.
It’s easy enough to talk about happiness in food terms since living a healthy life is a common goal of humanity. But what about “real life”? What about those times when you feel like your happiness has been stolen from you? That your life is no longer in your control and that happiness is far from where you currently are? That is when it’s more important than ever to make YOUR happiness and loving YOUR life a priority. There are three steps to making the everyday decisions that build happiness:
1. Stopping looking where you lost it
First and foremost, stop looking for happiness where you lost it. There was a time for me in high school when I felt like I had a lot of casual friends, but no one, who knew me, loved me, and wanted to be with me more than someone else. I remember making a plan to find a new best friend. There was one girl, so kind, so popular, and so beautiful and I decided she would be a great best friend. We were casual acquaintances at the time and through my pushing we started hanging out more. But, like a lot of us discover, trying to force a friendship doesn’t really work. When I was successful in increasing our friendship, but didn’t achieve “best friend” status I felt even more miserable. I was looking for happiness where I lost it—in the social game of my peers. Instead I needed to release myself of the social pressures around me and give room to more happiness in my life. I needed to stop worrying what people thought about me (a hard thing to do). I needed to work on the friendships I already treasured, and I needed to be okay with who I was. I needed to stop looking for my happiness where I lost it.
2. Look Inward
Notice that I didn’t say “around” or “outward”. In our modern society, when you look “around” for happiness there is the high probability that you are going to think everyone else’s life is better than your own. I love social media just as much as the next person, but if used wrongly it can be a way to trap yourself into a state of envy that is hard to break. I already know that I will never be as fit, well-traveled, good at makeup, or as wealthy as half of the people that show up on my news feeds. That’s okay. Looking inward is not about being selfish (a sure-fire way to be miserable). It’s about looking inward and saying to yourself, “I will make my life what I want it to be.” We need to always be working towards progression but we also need to realize that happiness is available all the time. When we feel that someone/something/some event has “stolen” our happiness that is when looking inward is most important. You have to make the harder (or even hardest) decision to forgive, forget, move on, push forward, or accept what has happened so that you can make room for happiness in your life.
3. Look Upward
I believe that asking for help is perfectly acceptable. And as weird as it sounds, asking for help being happy isn’t taboo. No one ever said we had to figure out every problem, every dilemma, setback, upset, and challenge by ourselves. My ultimate source of help is from my Heavenly Father and my Savior Jesus Christ. It’s a disservice to anyone to say, “Man up and just be happy.” That’s when I sometimes think that the “chose to be happy” mantra can get become hard to hear. Sometimes the reasons we feel that we lost our happiness is bigger than we are. Sometimes it requires more “lifting” power than we currently have. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
There was a time when I had to pray for help to be happy. I didn’t at the time view it as “I’m asking for help to be happy” but it was. A lot of events had happened in my life that led to some heart wrenching and unfair situations. I felt that my happiness along with a lot of other things had been stolen from me. I was so angry and I thought of the situation so often that I could burst into tears any moment, any day, for any reason. I was miserable, and I had ever right to be so. I had so much anger, hate, and pain in my heart that I knew this was beyond my ability to “push past”. So I did a few things. I stopped rehashing the past (looking for happiness where I lost it). I realized that I had to change (looking inward). And finally, I asked God and my family for help (looking upward).
It wasn’t an overnight change, but I knew I was on the right path. My anger and rage became controllable. I didn’t think about it so much. My family and I decided to not play the blame game and rallied around each other. And finally, not in one big moment, but in a million small ways, I felt my heart start to change—something only God can do. Did the situation change for me? No, it didn’t. But it no longer had to, since I had already taken my happiness back.
And you can too.