“If only we’d stop trying to be happy we could have a pretty good time” – Edith Wharton
Often in life we feel like we’re running a race, trying to reach some goal or cross the finish line. We have a main target we must reach, and the rest of life goes whizzing past as we sprint for the goal. For me that goal has always been happiness.
The constant chase for happiness over my lifetime has led me down a one-way road to anxiety – which has particularly taken hold over the last 3 years. The little voice in my head constantly tries to let me know that I’m not quite good enough and that everyone else is “doing life better than me”. That regular niggle pushes me to believe that I’m always just a single step or act away from mind-blowing, life-changing happiness, if only I’d just do something right.
This anxiety takes complete grip of my brain. All I can focus on is how, why, what, if, when I will take that step forward into blissful endless happiness. It might be about making sure I have fun Saturday night plans every week, or maybe making a brand new best friend who is cool and fun. The problem is nothing ever satisfies. No action leaves me feeling euphoric. The worry and stress poured in to achieving that action – months spent fretting about that new acquaintance I haven’t quite made into a “proper friend” yet -sucks away any joy from the rest of my life. I can’t enjoy a quiet night in with my Husband or have a glass of wine with some friends without the alarm at the back of my head ringing and forcing me to ruminate on that thing that will make me so much happier.
It’s all an illusion. Happiness is an unsustainable emotion supposed to be felt in times of a true and sudden emotional peak in life, a short moment of bliss. Chasing for happiness creates an unnatural focus on the future, ensuring you forget about the small joys of the present. How many times have I ignored the blissful pleasure of cuddling up with my Husband to watch a movie or the beauty of the world around me? Each time I reach a goal the goalposts jump and suddenly happiness is so far away again – causing life to be lived in fast forward, ignoring the tiny moments and never really feeling happy.
So I’ve moved my goal to contentedness; learning to shed the worries and focus on the present. I’ll never be content if all I’m searching for is the key to happiness. Life is already happening here and now, it’s just waiting for me to step into it and appreciate it. It’s not an easy journey but bit by bit I’m learning to live now and worry less – and it feels great.