The Search for Happiness

About a year ago I started researching how to be happy. The search has become more intense over the past three months. I have read stacks of books, scoured Pinterest, reached out to people who seem genuinely happy and devoured countless articles–including all twenty articles detailing the things that happy/successful/c-level/productive people do each morning. Much to my dismay, these people don’t wake up abruptly to the cries of a toddler, throw some frozen waffles in front of their children and find themselves watching Wild Kratts until they have finished two cups of coffee.

There is an overwhelming amount of information out there about finding happiness and it takes a while to sort through and determine what makes the most sense for you. I was surprised and glad to see that I was already doing some of it naturally. I was organizing my house so that one part of my life was in order. I was reconnecting with those who I had lost touch with in order to create happy moments and build a support system. And I was trying to regulate my sleeping and eating patterns—these seem like givens, but when stress takes over even the basics are lost along the way.

Once I felt like I had weeded through enough information, I made a list–which happens to be one of my areas of expertise as a former perfectionist. This list was of daily reminders. Things that I should try to do or be mindful of each day in order to be closer to happiness or joyfulness–which (from everything I read) seems to be the longer lasting version of happiness. I used my daughter’s markers to write it down and scotch tape it to the back of my bedroom door because that’s how we handle important documents around here. It is as follows:

  • Be Grateful
    • This was a common theme among everything that I read. Gratefulness=Happiness. I am blessed and I know that, but it is easy to lose sight of this. I want to go to bed every night thinking about what happened that day that made me smile.
  • Reject Negativity
    • I’ve found that rejecting external negativity is easier than rejecting internal negativity. I can cut the source(s) of external negativity out of my life, but pushing the negative thoughts out of my head is trickier and is yet to be conquered.
  • Practice Faith
    • I’m not a very religious person, but I do believe that having faith is important. Having faith that there is a Higher Power. Having faith that everything happens for a reason. And having faith that things will get better.
  • Learn to Trust
    • Again, I have to deal with both internal and external factors here. I need to be able to trust others and let myself be vulnerable, but I also need to learn how to trust myself and have confidence in myself. I need to know and understand my instincts.
  • Move
    • This involves an exercise routine that hasn’t been established yet which I KNOW will do wonders for my mental and physical health. But this also includes moving every day, getting outside, playing on the floor with the kids, staying in motion, and that I can proudly say I have started implementing.
  • Find Stillness
    • This is the hardest for me. I want to find fifteen minutes each day to just be still, alone and in silence, to pause and reflect. Being alone isn’t what is hard for me. I am an introvert. I love being alone, but I love being alone with my laptop or a book or music or my phone. I don’t love being alone with my thoughts. Being alone with my thoughts magnifies everything. It makes me think about every word that I said to every person that day, every piece of food that I ate and every mistake that I made as a parent. And then it evolves. All of the sudden I am consumed with the overwhelming thought of being a parent… Holy shit, I am raising a human being. I grew a human being inside of my body and now it is out and I am responsible for this person every single day. And she is going to grow up to either blame me or thank me…So, yeah, stillness is my biggest challenge. But finding stillness does seem to generate blog posts, so there’s that.

I know that there are several more items I could add to this list like: Don’t Personalize, Minimize Expectations, Volunteer, Stop Scripting, but this starter list seems appropriate for a person who can barely be left alone with her thoughts for fifteen minutes.

And then there are other times when I think the list should be shorter, much shorter, just: Be Happy. Could it be that simple?

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6 thoughts on “The Search for Happiness

    1. I love it! Thanks for sharing. I had read about that study, but she does a great job of articulating how to apply that information. I have had a couple people ask me if I think my struggles are more prevalent in the ad industry. What do you think?

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  1. Seems a bit more common in the agency world given the unique personalities all driven to deliver the magic of the trade – which is hard! That said, I view the struggles as a big sign of both intelligence and curiosity combined.

    I’m very into thinking about the (my) keys to happiness – which I feel are quite unique to each of us, and yet full of commonalities at the same time. And that’s a big part of what I love about life and getting to know others.

    Curious feeling, happiness. So simple, rich and unpredictable! And multi-dimensional!

    Best,
    Chris

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  2. Hey Emilie! Long time no see! So glad I found your blog and your little corner of the ever-expanding Internet. Reading this post made me think of a book I read a couple years ago, also by Brene Brown, called “Daring Greatly” — have you read it? It’s an expanded take on her phenomenal TedTalk on the importance of vulnerability in an authentic life. With that said, I just wanted to say how impressed I am by your vulnerability, courage and candor. These are not light topics that you are treading in, but I’m looking forward to reading about your journey. 🙂

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    1. Hi Mai! I actually just ordered it yesterday. I’ve read Gifts of Imperfection and loved it, so I’m sure I will love Daring Greatly as well. And thank you, I’ve found it really therapeutic and I’ve been overwhelmed by the positive response. These are things that are fairly common, but unfortunately no one wants to talk about them–trying to do my part to change that. 🙂

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      1. I’m glad the response has been so positive! I’ve always found the practice of showing people my writing to be incredibly nerve-wracking, never mind writing that is so intensely personal. Kudos to you. I also wanted to note that I liked your section about practicing faith. Religious or not, I find the possession of faith allows for more moments of hope, grace, and joy. I’m always wary to say “happiness,” as it is such a fleeting feeling, and find myself opting for the word “joy,” which is resistant to the change and fluidity of life. Then again, we might be debating semantics.

        And not to add to your reading list, but I feel like I have to recommend Joan Didion’s essay “On Self Respect” to you. I read it once a year, and it always helps me re-center myself. I think you would enjoy it immensely.

        http://www.vogue.com/3241115/joan-didion-self-respect-essay-1961/

        -Mai

        Liked by 1 person

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