Wouldn’t it be nice if there was an equation for happiness? A simple X + Y = Bliss? I know I’d sign up for that. In fact I may have actually tried to create one when I sat down to write this. It wasn’t until I had a long chat about the topic that I realized the more I tried to fit happiness into a box, the more I learned that in the search for happiness each of us has our own unique journey to take.
So how does one find happiness, especially for those of us who may be healing from significant challenges life has thrown at us? I would like to suggest it's both a process and a practice.
This leads to the second step in the process acceptance and forgiveness. This is the step in the process that is probably as far away from happiness as you'll get. It is the step where you look in the mirror and realize you are the only one responsible for your happiness and while that comes with a lot of freedom it also comes with a lot of responsibility. It is tough to accept all the things about yourself that have led you to be in the place you are in now, especially if that place isn't full of rainbows and unicorns. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying if someone has treated you wrong it is your fault - at all. What I’m saying is that, sometimes people do horrible things to you that you absolutely have no responsibility for but it is your complete responsibility for how you choose to respond. Will you be a victim? A survivor? A champion? Will you be defeated? Will you learn from the lesson? Do you want revenge? Can you find peace?
Once you can find acceptance for all that your life has brought you and the role you have played in it, you can begin to move into forgiveness. Forgiveness towards others, yes, but more importantly forgiveness towards yourself, and this often is the hardest step to take. As Don Miguel Ruiz author of The Four Agreements, says we are the only species that continues to judge and punish ourselves over and over again for the same crime. We cannot find happiness until we can put this guilt and shame down. We need to learn the lesson and decide how we will respond differently the next time life brings a similar challenge.
This leads us to the letting go step. In this step you can find the joy of re-creation. Once you let go of carrying all that no longer serves you, you create space to fill it with new beliefs about yourself and new people, activities and things that align with the person you are transforming into. This is where you consciously decide to stop carrying the old image of yourself around where you say “I'm not living in fear anymore” or “I'm not feeling guilty or shameful for that anymore” and you say “I am worthy, I am enough”. It's about taking the time to transform the negative self talk into its polar opposite. We have accepted the negatives and let them go, now it's time to see the positives inside us.
The last step isn't really a last step as ideally it would permeate our lives every day of the process and that is gratitude. Every day find the people, activities and things that you are grateful for, see how they bring you happiness. Trust me there are times where your list may seem short. I believe one day my list was;
- the couch
- ice cream
- tears, for the healing they bring
- that text that made me laugh
The other major lesson I've learned in my search for happiness is that it is a daily practice. It's about finding the things I need to do daily that allow me to stay focused on all of the joy in my life. For me that practice includes; meditation, journaling, exploring my passions, finding ways to help other people and discovering a way to let go of anything negative trying to creep back in. I know when I get off this practice I can lose my focus and old ways of looking at the world resurface. I sometimes think I'm ‘too busy’ to take the time to focus on gratitude or meditation daily but what I'm quickly learning is that I need to take the time.
After focusing for too long on why I’m not happy in a life that on the surface appeared to “have it all”, I’ve spent the past few years completely re-examining my life, what do I believe about myself, what do I love about my life and, most importantly, what do I need to take responsibility for. While doing this work I’ve discovered that connection is my passion. By training I am a nutritionist and love the science and art of nutrition - but more importantly what I love is the power food has to connect us, to ourselves, to each other and to the divine. I am currently re-creating evolve Nutrition to help people reconnect with food so that they can do more of what brings them joy! Recently while on a hike with my 9 year old he said to me “Mum, I’m so glad you became a hippie…I’ve never seen you happier!” And this made me feel like all the struggles of the last few years have been worth it.
Check me out at evolvenutrition.ca or email me; I’d love to connect with you.