Choosing Happiness, Defending Sadness

It’s 8AM and I’m on drugs. It’s 40 degrees outside, but I’ve got a spring in my step. I’m zipping down the street, the euphoric pop beats of Galantis pounding away through my headphones, my entire being electrified in a way I imagine that first night at EDC feels like. Endorphins are so real, and never in fuller effect than when you return to exercise after a month-long hiatus. I’m hyped up on this physiological reaction, a full on Loony Tune, grinning ear to ear. I see a girl sitting on the curb in tears and I think, absurdly, “Well she’s just gotta change her thoughts! Happiness is a choice!” I see people who are possibly homeless with glum expressions on their faces and I want to scream at them, “Let’s turn those frowns upside down, folks! Haven’t you heard–thoughts become things!” Literally my endorphin-soaked mind has turned me into a clueless, aggressively positive monster. But it feels so fucking good!

How could I forget that just yesterday I was on the subway revisiting Lana Del Rey’s underrated Honeymoon album, fully feeling the feels, if you will? I couldn’t help but tweet out the lyrics that were hitting me the most in that moment: “We could slow dance to rock music, kiss while we do it, talk ‘til we both turn blueeeee. Baby if you wanna leave, come to California, be a freak like me too.” I wasn’t sad by any means, but I wasn’t happy, not in the upbeat sense of the word. I felt cozy and nostalgic, with a pinch of wistful yearning. That infinite feeling, like a lush blanket wrapped around my heart. (Possibly the gayest simile ever?) I love it. I had to check my ego as I ran from the gym to my home this morning, pumped up and totes feeling myself, and remember that all  human emotions are valid and valuable.

I’m on day six of a major health kick and, to be honest, I am feeling terrific. My energy is at an all-time high, my mind is my friend, I’m attracting awesome opportunities into my life, and–most importantly–my little abs are starting to become exposed! Intention really is everything; now that I feel settled here in New York, I decided to make health and happiness my priority and BOOM. What surprised me the most about this mini-transformation was how easy it was. Just an adjustment in thought and action. I guess it’s because I had the knowledge and tools from when I became hooked on personal development and self-help books in college, I was able to tap back into that part of me that I’d neglected for a hot minute.

It’s been talked about to death, but happiness is one hundred percent a choice. Once you’re able to quiet your mind, either through meditation or yoga or whatever technique works for you (origami?), you can listen to your thoughts. And by first being aware of your thoughts, you can then choose to have positive ones. When you get really good at paying attention to your thoughts, you can spot a bad one coming a mile away and simply dismiss it. You don’t have to be a victim to your mind, you can be in the driver’s seat.

But happiness isn’t achieved by thinking alone. Like I mentioned when I discussed the key to creating the life you want, it’s a combination of thoughts plus action. There are real, simple steps you can take to be happy today. You can’t just lie in bed and think your way out of a miserable state. You have to physically take action, because your behavior shapes your emotions. Look at this “Emotional Guidance Scale” by the incredible Jerry and Esther Hicks:

Joy / Knowledge / Empowerment / Freedom / Love / Appreciation

Passion

Enthusiasm / Eagerness / Happiness

Positive Expectation / Belief

Optimism

Hopefulness

Contentment

Boredom

Pessimism

Frustration / Irritation / Impatience

“Overwhelment”

Disappointment

Doubt

Worry

Blame

Discouragement

Anger

Revenge

Hatred / Rage

Jealousy

Insecurity / Guilt / Unworthiness

Fear / Grief / Depression / Despair / Powerlessness

All of the emotions we experience range from high energy to low energy. When you’re in love, joyful, or feeling empowered, you are energized. When you are depressed, or feeling dread, you are lethargic. Super low energy. Happiness and energy are undeniably entwined. When we’re depressed we sleep all day because we don’t have the energy to get out of bed (though I think sometimes people indulge in laziness masquerading as depression). There are other times we’re so happy and excited that we can’t fall asleep. It’s a common belief that people have that their mood has to change for them to act; people lie in bed and wait to the feel better to get up. But they’ve got it backwards. You have to get out of bed (and make your bed) and then your mood will naturally alter. Again, your behavior shapes your emotion.

Happiness requires energy, and there are easy things you can do to boost your energy level. They are obvious, yet powerful things, like exercising and adopting a healthier diet with foods that support you rather than drain you. New stimulus gives you a rush of energy, too, like exploring new places, reaching out to old friends, even reading an inspirational blog post like this! Limiting your alcohol intake is another big way. There are so many things you can do to increase your baseline energy level. But inevitably, you will come down from the high. You can’t remain at a 10/10 forever–we aren’t meant to be happy all the time.

If given the choice, happiness is an excellent one to make. But even better–the best decision you can make for yourself today–is to raise your consciousness and truly experience reality without judgement. It is what it is, and you are apart of it all. For me, meditation is the only vehicle toward reaching this awakened state. When you get quiet and still, you can focus on the underlying, unchanging, everlasting peace and presence that is the real you, watching your state of mind ebb and flow. Like your breath, your energy will naturally and involuntarily rise and fall. Enjoy the experience of each stage without judgement. Feeling happy when you’re happy, and feeling sad when you’re sad. This is the way it’s meant to be. 

Life isn’t all positive– you wouldn’t know positive without the negative. It’s yin and yang. You don’t have a prescription to wear rose-colored glasses, because you’re disregarding the fullness and vibrancy of the human experience. You shouldn’t put a filter on reality, you should experience it for what it is, made all the more beautiful and interesting by the diverse range of experiences and sensations we feel. As Amy Poehler wrote in Yes, Please: “Life is crunchy and complicated and all the more delicious.” 

In one of my favorite books The Fault In Our Stars, John Green says that pain demands to be felt. We shouldn’t cut ourselves off from our feelings and deny what is natural. I’m not romanticizing sadness; we shouldn’t wallow or stew in it, or make it part of our identity (see: Lana Del Rey). It’s the thinking about the sadness that really causes you to fall deeper down the dark rabbit hole. All sentient beings experience sadness, but we’re the only ones who think about it, thus compounding our suffering. But sadness is a part of life and we have to feel it, and move with it. Not pity ourselves for feeling down, and, on the other side of the coin, not growing a big head when we’re on our A Game.

We can do things to be happier everyday, but we shouldn’t expect to feel that way all the time. We should’t be attached to any particular feeling. Happiness and sadness and everything within the range are temporal states. When you truly feel the depth of your one-ness with all of life, those fleeting emotions seem so shallow. It is certainly worthwhile to take action to increase our energy and (and therefor our happiness) while at the same time cultivating our presence. Happiness is a great choice, but the best choice we can make in any given moment is to simply let go and fully experience all that the here and now has to offer. Accept the feels we feel. Yes, all of them.

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4 thoughts on “Choosing Happiness, Defending Sadness

  1. So true!! Behavior shapes emotions! I loved reading this. Sometimes I get into a very grumpy mood and all i have to do is go outthere, work out, smile, and just do my thing… Take an action and all of a sudden everything seems to be better. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “Pain demands to be felt”… Ugh, yes, so true! This truly is a beautiful coming-of-age-esque recollection of something so many people are ‘ashamed’ of… emotion! Emotions, as you pointed out, are nothing that we should hide or be embarrassed over. I am guilty of hiding my feelings too much when really, as you said, pain demands to be felt. When something bad happens, you’re sad. When something good happens, you’re happy. That’s how we as beings react and there’s nothing we can do about it… it’s how we choose to be in the in-between of these events that determine how we live our life and I think that’s where you hit the nail on the head. We CAN choose to be happy on days where we are in total-control of our emotions. Again, there are days of course when we cannot help how we; feel, whether it’s heartbreak, remorse, glee, empathy, the list goes on… But those days where nothing necessarily has “happened”, we ARE in control of those days and most importantly, if we choose to be happy, we can change those uneventful days into something worth our while, a day we’ll remember.

    Thank you for yet again writing a beautiful tale that perfectly expresses the thought process of a twenty-something in this crazy world.

    Liked by 1 person

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