Many famous thinkers and philosophers have pondered the concept of happiness and how to pursue it. Some people even believe that the whole purpose of life is to find the secret to eternal joy.
When it comes to happiness, I believe that people with Depression are at a great advantage; because we’ve been lucky enough to experience real darkness. And all of us are pretty determined to never hear another Elliott Smith song again.
I’ve recently come out of a depressive episode and I am more eager than ever to put it behind me and finally be HAPPY. But I’m not that good at taking care of myself. I’m much better at counseling others, giving advice and being a good listener. Helping others on their journey of happiness feels easier than tackling my own trek.
To help me conquer my own happiness, I’ve started thinking of happiness not as an emotion but as a real, living, breathing thing that needed cherishing and protecting.
So without further ado: Meet “Happiness”
“Happiness” is a precious little pug puppy AKA puggy. This darling little cherub has now been placed into your care. Look at it’s little face!! How lucky are you that you get to hang out with this little face?
Now, looking after our little Happiness puppy takes serious work. It requires a commitment on your part to treat it with love and respect so that it may lead a long and healthy life.
To help you on your journey I’ve drawn up a list of requirements that Happiness needs in order to flourish.
Like all living beings, Happiness requires natural and healthy sleep. So often we neglect this fundamental necessity. When you have Depression your whole sleeping pattern goes out the window. You’re struggling to fall asleep during the night and fighting to keep your eyes open during the day. Happiness needs a minimum of 8 hours uninterrupted sleep in a bed that is purely used for the three “S” (sleep, sex, sick) Other activities like eating or watching movies should not be done in bed. The reason is that your brain needs to learn to associate your bed with sleep only.
Another basic need. Happiness requires healthy nourishment in order to survive. When I go through a depressive episode I don’t eat. I don’t really know why. At most I’ll have a cracker or an apple. When I was in the psychiatric clinic I would often skip meals. At lunch time I would hide on the hospital grounds in case the counselors came looking for me. Needless to say I lost a lot of weight. But food is vital to our well being and therefore to our Happiness. Happiness only eats healthy, nutritional food that has been prepared with love. It doesn’t like fast food.
There will be people who will try and hurt your Happiness. Don’t let them. Protect your Happiness to the death. Buy yourself an AK47 and build a steel fortress around it. Guard it with your life. Anyone who messes with your Happiness is gonna get it. By this I mean you have to put up strong boundaries and learn to maintain them. Initially people will test your boundaries. Push those people back politely. Remember if you feel like your Happiness is being compromised or is under attack, you have the right to protect it. No justification necessary.
The more often you defend your boundaries the stronger they will become. Think about what boundaries you want to put in place to protect your Happiness. Maybe you struggle to say no to people or stand up for yourself when people are mean to you? Whatever it is. Make a conscious effort to lay down the law. It will be challenging at first but your Happiness deserves the best protection there is.
Help replenish your dwindling serotonin levels by taking your Happiness pet on regular outings. Whether it’s going for walks in the park, riding your bike or just taking the stairs instead of the lift. Happiness requires at least 3 hours of exercise a week.
As children we spend our days playing and having fun. Then when we grow up our focus shifts to getting a job and being responsible. We’re told to grow up, walk on the pavement, get a job and stop playing. Why? Ask yourself, what activities you enjoyed as a child and no doubt you will still enjoy them today. Whether it’s playing dress up or climbing trees, your Happiness needs to play.
We are social beings. Even us introverts require a decent amount of socialising. Being social strengthens the notion that we’re not alone. There are others just like us. Happiness enjoys spending time with people. When you’re having a depressive episode all you want is to withdraw and be alone. Having time to yourself is important but seeing friends and talking to people who genuinely care will make you feel less alone. Depression is a terribly lonely illness. Don’t let it be. Happiness enjoys seeing friends whether it’s to share a joke or to cry.
A wise man was once asked “what should I do if I’m having a mental breakdown?” The man replied: “walk across the railway tracks and offer your help” There is truth in this. Helping people in need can give you such an awesome sense of accomplishment. It feels like everything is gonna be ok in the world. Depression can often diminish your sense of identity. Helping others is a great way to find your purpose again. Happiness enjoys helping people in need. It likes making other people happy.
Lastly, be patient with your Happiness. Now that we’ve established that Happiness is a real living thing we need to understand that it’s not always going to be perfect. Sometimes no matter how well you treat your Happiness the sadness still creeps in. That’s ok. Just don’t give up. Happiness is not a constant state of being. It fluctuates. Be patient. Don’t be too hard on yourself. If you treat it well, your Happiness will flourish.