I believe being happy is a choice, but I didn’t always feel this way. Throughout childhood and my early 20s, I was very dependent on others to make me happy.
When a relationship didn’t work out, a friendship was strained, or I was in a miserable funk, it was because of everyone else in my life. They did this to me. I felt this way because of their actions. This way of thinking led me down some dark paths and I carried around a lot of unnecessary pain for years. It wasn’t until my early 30s when I finally realized that the only person I can control is myself. If I wanted to be happy, well, the choice was mine to make. Once I learned to take responsibility for my own happiness, I adopted a whole new outlook on life, and it’s served me well.
Over the years, these are the thought-pivots I’ve made. They weren’t always easy, but I felt they were important:
1. I lowered my expectations.
Yes, you read that correctly. The expectations I cast on others, and on life in general, were always way too high. Because of that, anytime something didn’t work out according to my grand master plans, I was left with endless disappointment. I was continuously setting myself and my relationships up for failure. It’s good to have goals and some expectations, yes, but they need to be realistic. Life is unpredictable and that can be a good thing.
2. I learned to accept others for who they are.
I have a not-so-secret secret: No one is perfect — including me. When I stopped trying to make people be who I wanted them to be, it opened up the opportunity for me to love them for all their good qualities. We all have vices, so cut people some slack. Now that I don’t waste all my time trying to change everyone, I can focus more on developing myself into the person I want to be.
3. I learned to say “no.”
This one was difficult for me because I’m a people pleaser. I don’t care for unnecessary drama or confrontation, so I’d willingly go against my own wishes to satisfy others. But after years of being a “yes” person, I became resentful, anxiety-ridden and overwhelmed. Once I grew tired of being taken advantage of I removed myself from those toxic situations, unapologetically.
4. I learned to live in the now.
They say When you live in the past, you’ll always be depressed and if you live in the future, you’ll always be anxious. I prefer to not experience either of those, so I focus on what I can do today to enrich my life. I can’t predict the future, nor can I go back in time to change the past — and neither can you. The “now” is what is most important in finding happiness.
5. I realized my health needed to be a priority.
When I wasn’t making the time to eat healthy, exercise, take mental breaks, or get proper sleep, my happiness suffered. Taking care of yourself and feeling your best only amplifies your happiness.
6. I finally parted with the past.
We’ve all experienced tragedy, have regrets, and have made mistakes. This is all part of life. But the beauty of living through these hardships is finding the strength to move on. You will make it out to the other side and each day we get a clean slate to start anew. Once you let the past go, you’ll be free to live for today.
7. I learned how to be grateful for the little things.
Each night my family shares three things we are grateful for that happened that day. Even if I’ve had a trying day, when I share my three things, I realize my day wasn’t too difficult after all. My situation could always be much worse, so it’s important to cherish all of the many things I am fortunate enough to have in my life now.
As I close out my 30s and what I like to call “my decade of discovery,” I make it a point to choose happiness each day. Did my life change overnight? No. Was it difficult to train my mind to choose happiness in a world that perpetuates negativity? Absolutely. But focusing on all the negatives robbed me from living the life I deserved. So, I choose happiness because I deserve it.