“Happiness is like those palaces in fairy tales whose gates are guarded by dragons: we must fight in order to conquer it.”
– Alexandre Dumas
Let me tell you the one thing that I am certain about when it comes to happiness, or feeling happy, or “being” happy.
It’s not instant.
As much as popular culture likes to tell us that happiness is something that can easily attained with the right products, activities, and/or mindset (aka “Happy Meals”, “Happy Days”, “C’Mon Get Happy”), it’s simply not true.
Happiness is a process. It’s something that requires some thought, some dedication, and a fair amount of time and energy. It requires constant decision making- choosing towards the things that bring us well-being. It’s a commitment to yourself in a big way.
In fact, a commitment to becoming happy is exactly like the commitment to become physically healthy.
When you decide you want to be healthier, it’s the first step of many. It requires quite a bit of work and mindfulness and careful decision making and lifestyle changes. It happens over time. Getting healthy is definitely not an overnight process. Your physical body doesn’t instantly change simply because you set the intention to be healthy.
It’s the same with our brains- happiness is a set of ongoing chemical reactions in our brains. When someone commands you to “cheer up!”, your brain can’t really *do* that. Just as our physical bodies can’t become magically healthy if someone sort of *commanded* it.
Like physical health, happiness (our emotional and mental health) is something that needs to be worked on. There’s no magic happiness formula- in fact, just as with physical health, it greatly differs from person to person. I mean, if you took two stellar athletes and compared their training, their food choices, their schedules, chances are they would differ greatly. There’s a different combination of success for each person.
But it seems like there’s this weird misconception that there’s a basic set of “building blocks” that will bring instant happiness to anyone and everyone. It’s just not true.
Instead, happiness is a process of discovery. It takes time to discover what brings joy and bliss, and then a commitment to regularly practicing those things.
Building happiness is basically building a set of rituals and practices – or habits – that you commit yourself to. And just like getting healthy, one some days it’s much easier than others. Some days won’t be a success. Just like there are some days when you are in no mood to lace up your running shoes and hit the road, there will be some days when you don’t feel like lacing up your “happiness” shoes and going for it, either.
But just like physical health, it’s *worth* it. Happiness is worth the time, the commitment, the energy that is required. The problem is, we’ve all been taught that happiness shouldn’t be that complicated. Or that happiness is too frivolous to spend so much time on.
But I’m here to tell you that’s not the case. Your happiness and your emotional and mental well-being matter as much as your physical well-being. It matters. I promise to you. How can I promise this? Because I’m learning it myself.
I’m determined to figure this out for my own well-being. I want to be a happy person. I want to have joy in my life. I want to know what brings happiness and do more of it, even if it seems so much more difficult than just choosing the easy and routine path. I want to figure this all out so I can pass it on to my daughter.
But most importantly, I want to embrace this life. I know I’m not alone. Maybe we can do it together.
Chel Micheline is a mixed-media artist, curator, writer, and avid gardener/reader/swimmer who lives in Southwest Florida with her husband and daughter. When Chel’s not making art or pondering the Bliss Habits, she’s blogging at gingerblue.com (come say hi!) or posting new things in the gingerblue etsy shop.