Happiness seems like the most elusive emotion to get a good grasp on. Within a deep depression, it doesn’t even manage a blip on the mood-radar. Yet society, and the media, constantly tell us “happiness” is our ultimate goal. They tell us if we drink sugary sodas and stuff ourselves with caramel-filled chocolate, we’ll be happy. If we lose weight and wear designer jeans and buy over-priced accessories, we’ll be happy. If we spend up big on expensive appliances we’ll be happy. The latest model car, big diamond rings, and extravagent luxuries we can’t afford supposedly contribute to our happiness too.
Today there are more unhappy people on Earth than ever in the history of our planet. Everyone seems to believe you need “stuff” to be happy, or “perfection” to be content. Never has such blatant bullshit been so prolific to the extent where people of all ages in all nations have become brainwashed into believing the ridiculous hype is true. And so many fall victim to the bleakness of depression when they feel they can’t possibly achieve all the materialistic goals set to achieve this mysterious “happiness” everyone keeps talking about. Of course they can’t. No one can. It’s impossible! Happiness is not a material possession.
Gratitude, I found, is the key to my happiness. Gratitude for a day that doesn’t include feeling blue. Gratitude for a friend’s kindness. Gratitude for those small things we too often take for granted: fresh water to drink, healthy food to eat, a warm place to sleep, a nice sunny day. Gratitude to Mother Nature for providing me with a sustainable life. A daily dose of gratitude makes an impressive difference to my mental health.
I learned I could decide to be happy if I wanted to feel happy. I could decide how I wanted to react—or not—to each life situation. And I could decide who to let into my life, into my inner and outer circles, and began to add people in my life who are positive and optimistic, letting go of those who did not enhance the quality of my life or share in my optimism and happiness. As a result, today I am happy. Yes, I have Bipolar Disorder, which is never going away, with a healthy slug of PTSD thrown in for good measure, and an overly-generous helping of OCD just to make life a little more interesting. But, even with all these obstacles in my path just waiting to trip me up, I have consciously chosen to be happy. And so can you.