How You Can Be Happier and Live Better This Year
Reasons and Ways to Commit Yourself to Happiness, Acceptance, and A New Beginning.
It seems so simple, so cliché. ‘Be yourself, live your life to the fullest, dont care what anyone else thinks!’ everyone preaches; it seems that’s the go-to advice for anyone who doesn’t know what to say, let alone how to help you.
Not only has this past year been a swirling ocean of everlasting turmoil, fish hitting you in the face in the form of money problems, isolation, anxiety, the news, loneliness and job-loss, it has been ever harder to ‘live freely’ and ‘to the fullest.’ For me, it has also been a breakthrough like no other; for this year I came out of a time of fear, sadness and anxiety, and was able to finally break free, start to heal, open my eyes, and resolve to live a little more.
Life, and its answers.
Life is unexpected, up-and-down, and messy. You dont need me to tell you that. A lot of people have spent a bit, a lot, or all of their life, especially this year, just being swished around from one event to the next, just trying to hold on to anything they can to gain some stable footing. I would like to share with you some ideas and conclusions I have made as a result of my experiences, both this year and all of my other years, that have made me feel like I am able to finally grab on to something stable and get a little footing and make my way slowly but steadily out of the swirling mess that seems to be the general mood of society right now. I’d like to use that footing to grab your hands and hopefully pull you slowly onto a little piece of solid ground like mine.
Life is not easy. There are endless corners of the never-ending web luring you in with a ‘how to make your life better in 3 simple steps. You click on it, just to see what they have to say, but it is usually a mix of ‘meditate’, ‘compliment people’ and ‘dont take things too seriously.’ This is all well and good, but it contains no steps on how to gain those abilities. It would be lovely to just switch on an ‘indifferent’ switch and not care when someone is rude or there is a worldwide pandemic ravaging the globe, but unfortunately, we haven’t had that installation yet.
I honestly believe that the answers to your life’s troubles are within yourself. I know what you’re saying, ‘righttt, sure it is. Here we go,’ but give me the benefit of the doubt and see this article out, then make your decision.
Just because the answers are within yourself, does not mean they are easy to find. It actually means they are harder to find, because although you think you know what you want and need, you may actually need something completely different. That’s why people dont just find the answers to life’s questions and then live happily ever after. Honestly, life doesn’t have answers. You have the answers that you need to help you through your life, inside you somewhere, but there aren’t ultimate answers to all life. One person cannot answer everyone’s questions. Although they might be similar, ‘how do I be happy?’ for instance, the answer differs for different people. Life’s version of the theory of relativity.
Everything is relative.
Because of the relativity and subjectivity of everyone’s differing lives, the answers must be within oneself. Because only you know exactly how you think and feel about things, so how on Earth could anyone else know? The only way others can really help you, is by suggesting methods and ideals that have worked for them and seeing if they work for you. The application of these to one’s own life will always be unique, how you interpret and include that into your day. That’s what I’m doing here, sharing what I have found out, which may also aid you through.
Although seemingly annoying, the complete individuality of people’s experiences is fascinating don’t you think?
Have you ever had that feeling when standing on the street, or sitting on a bus, and thinking; everyone here has their own elaborate, complicate lives like I do, but I am just another face on the bus in theirs’?
Accepting this individuality is a great step towards contentedness. With this you are able to understand the way people are, because of their experiences and choices, and yourself. Also, understanding that you make the answers to your own life, is a little frustrating, but also kind of freeing. It means that you dont have to incessantly search and feel completely lost when you can’t find the answers to your questions, you know they are there, you just need to do something within yourself first; like have a new experience where it comes to light, spend some time alone, even meditate! But you know that the answer is there, somewhere, so dont rush around searching for it, relax and realise in your own time.
This individuality also means we have a choice, on how we act, how we perceive, how we think. We have a choice to put the year behind us and start fresh.
I think the fact that you have the choice to heal, to begin again, to try, is so liberating. It won’t be easy, change is never easy, and I don’t think anything really worth doing is easy. But the fact that our past doesn’t determine our future, and today, right now, we can choose to begin to heal and work on ourselves is so liberating. It’s so easy to think things are so out of our control that we should just give up, see where it takes us; but if we choose to take some small, teeny action, like today I am going to get up and try something new, like knitting (or not?), we could change our lives.
I’m not suggesting you spend all day writing lists about all the good deeds you’re going to do. I’m also not saying that one day you’re just going to wake up like Scrooge on Christmas day and be all happy and carefree. What I am saying is, a small step really does count. I promise.
Your locus of control.
Julian B. Rotter, a personality psychologist, stated that everyone has a locus of control; an internal or external one. A person with an internal locus of control believes that they are in control of their own life, their decisions and choices affect them and those around them with consequences. A person with an external locus of control, however, believes that, ultimately, their life is not up to them, things happen to them, and they dont have much control over their own life and decisions and consequences are unrelated. It’s all up to fate.
Which one are you? You may not realise it, but actually have an external locus of control.
Do you feel stuck right now? As if you’re just standing still whilst things are moving around you, seeming so purposeful and meaningful, while you feel a bit lost? Tired of everyone else looking like theyre doing so well, or just a bit fed up? I completely understand, I’ve felt those things, and its easy to accept fate and what will be will be. This year, dont do that. How about we try to take a bit of control. You cant control the worldwide pandemic, or the effects it has on you, or the world. What you can do though, is allow yourself to work on yourself, your life, your relationships, how you feel towards someone, something, do anything teeny tiny to make living just that little bit easier.
What I propose, is that you have the ability, you are strong enough, to get un-stuck. I believe that whole heartedly.
The next proposal is the idea that everything is subjective.
People go through horrific things on a daily basis. Things that we, ourselves, couldn’t even dream of. And this is extremely awful and shouldn’t be this way, but this doesn’t mean that your struggles are not as bad.
Everyone’s life is different. We have established this fact, so: if you losing your cat is the absolute worst thing that has happened in your life, then you have the right to be as sad about it as someone who has it much ‘worse’ off. You should not be comparing yourself to others, trying to quantify the acceptable level of sadness. Sadness, and other emotions at that, are not quantifiable, they are subjective; meaning only you feel that certain way, no one else can, due to your uniqueness. Your scale of 1 to 10 of sadness, consists of you losing your cat as number absolute 10, devastating. That is okay. Someone else’s number 10 maybe ‘worse’ than yours, but that does not make your scale and your sadness any less worthy. It is still number 10, it’s your number 10.
What I am getting at is: if you constantly compare your experiences to others’ you can never find acceptance, you will always be questioning yourself on how sad you ‘should’ be feeling, how happy you ‘should’ be feeling. See how silly that sounds?
Realising that everything is relative, to each and every person, and that your issues are not ‘unworthy’ because someone else has got it worse, is going to help you so much, believe me. It will help you accept your own issues, problems, turmoil, and in turn help you understand others’ issues too, and help you be more empathetic. If someone is crying hysterically about, I dont know, accidentally killing their favourite plant, and you’re thinking to yourself ‘jees man you need to chill, its just a plant’ (we’ve all had experiences like these, right?) you’ll begin to stop yourself and be like, okay well to me it is just a plant, but to this person it is their number 10, if they have never been through anything worse, why shouldn’t they cry hysterically, and you will be able to comfort them without making them feel like their sadness is stupid/ uncalled for.
I know when I get anxiety wobbles, the worst part of them is feeling guilty/embarrassed that its silly to be anxious. But for me, what I’m currently anxious about is a 7 or an 8 on my scale, compared to someone who doesn’t suffer with anxiety where its a 2 at max.
This can be applied to nearly everything concerning others, it will help you to understand the strange concept that everyone’s mind is different and has different thoughts about the same thing, and help you support both them and yourself, stopping yourself from getting in a mess. It also helps you retain objectivity about your life and emotions. Understanding your emotions is the first step to accepting them and making friends with them.
Lastly, I come to the grand finale of our exploration into philosophical ideas about life. My final point:
Life is not a journey.
I came across this in a TedEd video one night, watching them while I was bored. (I know, really?? A TedEd movie marathon Ellie, are you serious? Well, yeah, it was surprisingly fun) and ask you to consider this too. Alan Watts states this: I’m paraphrasing:
All journeys have an end. That’s the point of journeys, to get somewhere. Although it could be argued that the middle of the journey is what counts, the point of a journey is to get to the destination, while it may be fun playing I-Spy in the car on the way, the purpose is always the end of the journey. Other activities like music, well, music is played. Music isn’t a journey, because otherwise the main event, the point, would be the end of the musical piece. Whereas, although the music does have an end, that isn’t the purpose of it, the purpose of music is just…the music! To enjoy and dance to the music while the music is playing.
What Alan Watts is trying to say, that really struck a chord with me (see what I did there? ;)), is that you should treat life like a piece of music.
Since I was little, it has always seemed to me as though everyone is rushing around looking for something, I feel I have always been rushing, like I have been running out of time. I’m sure this is a relatable feeling, and those of you who have felt it know that it’s exhausting; you feel like you can never relax. Watts says that when you are young there is always milestones to get to, learn to walk, learn to speak, go to infant school, then primary school, dont worry you’ll be in secondary school soon, and then university, or a full time job. And by the time you’re 40, you’re supposed to have ‘made it’…to…something? But a lot of people still feel restless then, everyone searching for a purpose.
Instead of constantly waiting until the next thing, next day, next weekend, next day off, next holiday. Dance now. Live now. The music is on now, and if you dont dance now, youre going to miss this bit, this time to dance. The best part of a song is not the end, neither is it the most important part, it is the whole way through. You should not be waiting until the 3rd chorus to dance, because it will be ‘better’ then. Dance as much as you can right now. This year, make a fresh start, find your meaning, hear the music, make up your own dance, and dance the night away.
I’ve just learned this, and I honestly think it will help me relax, not take things so seriously, and love my days as they go by, without feeling like I’m constantly running out of time. I watched the video about 4 days ago, and I haven’t felt it since.
Some people believe that life has a purpose given by a higher power, some people believe that life has no purpose. In philosophy, existentialistic ideas suggest that life has no ultimate meaning, but you give it your own meaning.
And I think that is so beautiful.