8 in 10 people would describe me as “happy”. That’s what I learnt when I was 14.
During a Personal Development day at school, we split into groups of 10 and were asked to write down one nice thing about everyone else in the group. At the end of the day, we each received an envelope of compliments, and 80% of mine read some variation of the statement “You’re always so happy! xoxox”
I went home that day awfully flattered, (I guess that was the point of the exercise), and never really thought much about it. That is until yesterday, when I found this envelope tucked away in one of my old diaries. I re-read all these compliments, and found myself sitting on the floor of my bedroom thoroughly analysing what exactly it was about me that made my peers believe I was perpetually happy. Was it just an easy way of saying “I don’t really know you”? Was it because I was a giant dork who just really loved school? Or was it because I have one of those annoying faces that falls naturally into a resting smile even when I’m doing nothing? Either way, my whole life I’ve been called “happy”, and while I certainly don’t resent that, I’ve been forced to question what it is that makes me seem agreeably happier than normal.
I’ve always been really interested in the concept of “happiness” and how to achieve it, mostly because I think the only reason anyone does anything is in pursuit of this happiness. What’s interesting to me is that, people always like to think of happiness as an emotion: “I feel happy”. The way I see it, happiness is a state of mind; it’s what you are, not how you feel. Nervous, stimulated, restless, frustrated, elated — these are emotions. And you can be all of these things, and be happy at the same time: “I feel challenged, I feel confused, I feel curious; but I am happy.”
So I tried to narrow the root of my happiness down to three…what would you call them? — tips? Happiness Tips, I guess, a self-diagnosed list of three things that I tend to do, and have done from a young age, that I think has instinctively made happiness my default.
1. Find Everything Cool
I know that the cardinal rules of youth-hood is to find everything lame, but believe me when I say this: having a boogie to ABBA at your Grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary is a hell of a lot more fun than sitting by the side rolling your eyes. So is joining in on an impromptu three-legged race, or learning about the Humpback whale, or cooking with your mother. I’m telling you now, finding interest in anything life shows you is hands-down the easiest, greatest, most stimulating way to always remain in the state of happiness. Why are you hating on boybands and vegans and Doctor Who? So you’re not a big fan of chess or basketball or whatever it is that doesn’t get your heart racing, that doesn’t mean it’s lame. Looking down on things and the people who support them will only make you and everyone around you feel sad. So, next time someone asks you to go kite-flying with them, say yes. For gods sake, kites are freaking cool!
2. Forget To Be Sad
This one might take some practice for those kids who are just really talented at holding grudges, but take my word for it: wallowing in sadness or anger or any other emotions pertaining to unhappiness is HARD WORK. It’s literally really exhausting. The saddest people in this world are the ones who spend hours reliving all the injustice cast upon them, all the mean things people have said, all the bad luck thrust upon them. Please, for the love of god, allow yourself to forget it. Just let it go. As a kid, whenever I fought with my sister, it was over the next day because we always forgot we were mad at each other. I’d say “Want to go shopping with me today?” and then a few minutes later think “Damn it, I was supposed to be angry at her. Oh well, too late now.” It’s now my philosophy. So you didn’t get invited to a sleepover, or you left your sunglasses on the train. Ah well, ce’est la vie. There are so many forces in the world conspiring against your happiness, how dare you let them win! Refuse to be sad, just outright refuse.
3. Be Selfish Without Being Self-Centered
This one is by far the trickiest tip, mainly because this is something I am still significantly struggling with every day. I’m a strong believer in being selfish, which may sound a bit odd to you, but hear me out. Being selfish is about thinking about yourself, for yourself. It’s about identifying the things that will bring you happiness, and then actively pursuing them. Being self-centered, however, is about identifying and actively pursuing these things without thinking about other people. Happiness isn’t achieved in isolation, but it can also be significantly hindered when you don’t do things for yourself either. See that balance? Yeah, I think it’s pretty much the most difficult thing to balance in the world, and like I said, I’m still working on it.
Naturally, these are just the things that I strive to do in my life, and I believe they play a significant role in making me a happier person. Of course, everyday I am working on them. I’m still trying to find everything interesting, (like, have you ever studied linguistics, seriously?). There are still many things I try not to be sad about. And I definitely have days where I think being a push-over would make my life easier. At the end of the day, it’s not about denying yourself of the bad emotions, because I don’t think happiness is the absence of sadness. I think happiness is the conquering of sadness, again and again and again.
If you have any other tips on happiness, please let me know, because despite what my Year 8 peers would have you believe, there are days when I struggle with being happy too.