The word happiness can be used so lightly, but can also carry so much weight. We all strive for it and we all want to achieve it. But maybe that’s the problem – we spend all of our time trying to be happy, focusing all our energy on how to get there, that we are too busy to notice all the positive aspects of our lives that surround us with every passing moment. Our culture has spent so many years encouraging hard work and success, highlighting the importance of having dreams, that somewhere along the way, our ability to live in the moment has been lost. I might not be able to change the way the entire world thinks, but I can take steps to change the way I think in order to break free from my anxiety.
1. Appreciate the Little Things
When I think back on the points in my life when I’ve been the happiest, they are the moments that I am surrounded by friends, laughing over something until it consumes me. They are the moments when I’m being held by someone who I love, feeling safe and like nothing else in the world matters. They are the moments when my whole family is together at a dinner table talking about how our days went… When these moments are happening, they seem so insignificant. But once these moments have passed, I would give anything to have them back. From now on, I’m going to make an effort to appreciate these moments as they happen, instead of just idolizing them once they are gone.
2. Stop Letting the Future Control Me
The saddest part of my constant search for happiness is that each time I reach my next dream or goal, I still find myself wanting more. Every time I tell myself there’s one thing I need to do or accomplish in order to be happy. I spend all my time looking forward, that when I finally get to where I was trying to go, I don’t know what to do with myself. As a result, I have no choice but to start looking forward again, never even giving myself a chance to enjoy my successes. As I did this, I was always anxious. I was worried that nothing would go as planned, worried about how to get to where I thought I wanted to be, upset that I couldn’t make time move faster and overwhelmed with the possibilities and uncertainty.
3. Embrace the Unknown
A direct result of always letting the future control my thoughts and actions is that I’ve always followed a specific plan throughout every step of my life. First, I was working on getting into college. Then, I was working towards a degree in Education. Then, I decided I wanted to move across the country. Finally, I started applying for jobs. Now, here I am, and for the first time in my life I don’t have a plan for what comes next. But for the first time in my life, I am letting the possibilities of what comes next excite me instead of terrify me.
4. Focus on the Positive
With the end of 2015, and the start of 2016, like many of you, I took the time to reflect on what happened in the past year and set goals for what I want to happen in the upcoming one. However, for the first time, I also let myself reflect on all that I am grateful for right now. In doing so, I came to the assessment that I’m truly content with where my life is. Realizing this felt like a sigh of relief and when the thought crossed my mind, I couldn’t help but smile. As this happened, it hit me – this is the feeling I’ve been searching for all along.
These steps might seem ridiculous because of how simple they are, but that’s exactly the point. I have spent so many years making life harder for myself, over complicating everything I do and every emotion I have. I may not be able to change my entire personality and there may be things I always get anxious about, but if I take the time each day to reflect on these steps and readjust my thought process, I can begin to see past all the anxiety in order to accept my life for what it is right now: the good, the bad, and even the unknown.
Featured Image via Bethany Marie.