5 Ways I Find Happiness
Whilst living with a mental health disorder.
In psychology, it’s understood that happiness is a fleeting emotion. It’s extremely difficult to be happy every minute of every day because life just doesn’t work like that. Our brains are strange tools and we can experience sadness, anger, or frustration at the drop of a hat.
Learning to regulate my own emotions has been a long and arduous journey. It has taken me the last four or so years to gain some ability to control my emotional responses and to understand my triggers. However, in these last four years, I have also learned that you can induce and cultivate moments of happiness yourself.
Here are some examples.
One activity that often brings me happiness is volunteering. It has been well established that activities such as volunteering can bring purpose into our lives, and having purpose contributes to our well-being and the feeling of control over what happens to us. It can make us feel important and remind us that we, as individuals, matter.
It’s easy to get caught up in the monotony of everyday living but finding an activity that feeds purpose will ultimately feed joy into your life, too.
At the risk of sounding like a cliché, being outdoors can boost my mood in an instant. Sometimes it’s weather or temperature-dependent, but, generally, existing in the outside world is a good way to find joy.
In this past year, I took up gardening as a hobby and it changed my life. I don’t have access to a garden so I bought myself a small shelving unit from Ikea, borrowed a table from my mum, and utilised my window spaces as make-shift greenhouses.
Being able to watch things grow and being responsible for the natural world brings me so much joy. Gardening, I have realised, doesn’t necessarily mean you have to have a garden to enjoy the benefits of having a green thumb, and it’s an extremely accessible activity. Sometimes a windowsill is all you need.
Cups of Tea
It’s also important to recognise the small things. Often, when I feel low, it’s the simple pleasures that lift my mood. When I am too exhausted, too overwhelmed, or too depressed to do either of the above activities, I find that a cup of tea can help me to feel more relaxed or comfortable.
But sometimes, just wrapping myself up in my weighted blanket is enough to spark a tiny flame of joy.
I recommend writing yourself a list of things that are easy and accessible for you to do when life gets difficult.
Speaking of lists, writing a gratitude list daily can help serve as a reminder of things that bring you some happiness.
Every day, I try to write a list of three items that I am grateful for on that day. It was difficult to start with. I felt like I was unable to think of things that I felt grateful for. But gradually, the more I practised gratitude, the easier it became.
I find that the same things come up quite a lot, and if you looked at my lists you would notice that I am often grateful for green tea and the bees. You don’t have to think of a new thing every day. There is no right or wrong way to feel or practice gratitude.
Gratitude lists can also serve as a reference for things that would bring you some happiness when you’re feeling low. Give it a read-through when you feel rubbish, and you might find something that could help you at that moment.
I am a big advocate for therapy. Without therapy, it’s quite possible I would not be writing this article.
While I don’t necessarily mean that each individual therapy session will bring you happiness (because honestly, a lot of mine involve tears), therapy is an amazing tool for helping you to find happiness in the future.
My mental health difficulties have significantly reduced with therapy which allows me the space to source and experience happiness. Five years ago, I was overtaken by emotional dysregulation, anxiety, depression, perfectionism, and overwhelm. Today, my mind and body have room to feel joy, and I almost completely put that down to therapy.
I would recommend therapy to anyone and everyone, regardless of whether you feel you need it or not.
Unfortunately, happiness is not an emotion that we can grasp forever. It slips through our fingers with ease and can be difficult to find when you don’t have the right tools to help you.
Happiness hasn’t been an easy emotion to cultivate throughout my life. However, I have found that volunteering, gardening, and therapy are all very effective ways of improving my mental health, even just momentarily. And don’t forget the small things, since those are just as important.
What brings you happiness?