I had a whole bunch of half written blogs sitting in my drafts and after a particularly difficult few days, I had an idea. They’re all linked together in that they feature heavily in finding happiness, so I’ve gone all Dr Frankstein and stitched them together to creature my very own recipe. Harleigh’s Happiness Monster.
Hopefully this will help a few of you guys too.
Part one: Accepting that it’s okay to be sad
With the perfectly edited, well lit version of ourselves online sometimes it’s hard to remember that sometimes people cry.
When the bad things you see are really, really awful it’s normal to feel quite guilty when you’re sad. What do I have to be sad about? I’m so lucky. I’ve got a beautiful family, a great job, some awesome friends… Only a selfish dick could be sad.
We all have degrees of happiness though. Disappointment or hurt to one person may have a different affect on someone else in the same situation. Some people cope really well with stress. Some crack at the first sign of pressure. Some love compliments and reassurance, some hate that. We all respond to the same scenarios very differently, and that is totally okay.
It disappoints me when I hear people use appreciation as a reasoning to downplay someone else’s unhappiness. ‘Look at how good you have it compared to others!’ I know… That’s why I try not to show negative emotions in the first place, and now it’s all spilling out and I feel like shit for it. Stupid guilt.
You know what though? You’re allowed to cry because your ex has a new girlfriend. You’re allowed to cry because you had a hard day at work. You’re allowed to cry if your friend let you down and don’t you ever feel bad about it.
What kind of world would we be if we never let our emotions show? Bottling things up doesn’t help anyone. If you have feelings you are completely entitled to express them however you want, free of judgement. Some people like alone time to process things while others need to talk it out. I’m a mix of both. I usually find myself retreating when I’m really sad because sometimes I do just need to cry and think and process things without feeling guilty. I need my music. If I feel like someone disapproves of my sadness I can’t handle it, but that’s not right, is it?
We all get overwhelmed and there isn’t always a solution. You just need to let it out.
There’s no shame in a chemical balancing if your brain is just wired a bit differently either. I just wanted to briefly touch on the positive results I’ve seen in some of the people I know when it comes to antidepressants or anti-anxiety tablets. I certainly don’t think they’re a decision to be taken lightly and I would hope people are properly diagnosed, but good on you for making the choice to fix something that’s broken. We all deserve to feel happiness.
Part Two: Self care
Self care comes in different forms to everyone.
The way I define it is with two words I have come to adore: hygge and mindfulness.
I came across the Danish philosophy of hygge when I was doing my usual article research and absolutely fell in love with it.
‘In Danish, hygge (pronounced “HUE-gah”) is one such word. Though there are many ways to describe hygge, we see it simply as the Danish ritual of enjoying life’s simple pleasures. Friends. Family. Graciousness.’
Some examples of it are: reading a book by the fire while enjoying a cup of tea, snuggling under a blanket with your family and watching a movie, it’s being cosy and content. In a place as cold as Denmark it makes sense that they put focus on finding happiness in what could be considered dark times.
I think we can easily have our own version of hygge in a warmer climate too. Here are some of my little life moments:
– digging your toes in the sand at the end of a hot day and watching the sun set over the ocean
– doing yoga with a view, in a park or at the beach
– reading in the sun by a glistening pool
– drinking a glass of sangria and sharing tapas with a friend on a Friday evening
I could go on forever, but I think it’s quite easy to find moments of pure contentment in life. The hardest part of that ties in to my other favourite word; mindfulness.
Being mindful takes a lot of practise. In it’s essence, it’s the art of controlling your focus and living in the moment.
We all live such busy lives that it can be really hard to stop the constant multitasking and just be. Take a breath, look around. Look at your hands. Listen to your breathing. Right now, in this moment, you are alive. How fucking fantastic.
If you practice mindfulness regularly it makes it a lot easier to enjoy the above activities without dealing with the constant anxiety and wandering thoughts to things that are out of your control.
However, if it’s someone else’s sadness that you’re dealing with, it’s a little different.
If you’re an empath like me and feel other people’s vibes really strongly, it’s important to remember that you need to really take care of yourself too. Try a hot bath and a book. Remove yourself from the situation and refresh. Books are excellent for occupying the mind. Try not to worry about people and things that you can’t control. I still get lost in thought when I veg out in front of the TV, so it’s not the best solution. You can’t help fill someone else’s cup of yours is half empty.
Breathe deep, wash your face, go sit somewhere warm in some comfy clothes and just be. We are here, we are alive, and it’s all going to be okay. I promise.
If all else fails, watch Forensic Files.
Part Three: Knowing your own worth
Here’s the big one fellas.
There’s something you cats have probably noticed… My weight fluctuates!
Food and weight are two things I have obsessed over from the age of 15. Like most young girls I suddenly became far too self aware. I looked at my favourite actresses and models airbrushed and angled to perfection in my magazines and wondered why I didn’t look like them. How come I don’t have long skinny legs and narrow hips? How come my boobs aren’t big and perfectly shaped while also having a flat tummy?
It wasn’t until last year that I realised that we are all built completely differently; we each have our ins and outs and arounds. No two people are the same, and we always want what we don’t have. Also, I was with someone who wasn’t very nice and then it was a bit of a downward spiral.
I was anxious and depressed, so I didn’t eat, but I walked a lot because it was keeping my mind occupied. I dropped 10kgs in 3 months. At the time I thought I looked great! My face was slim and angular, I was fit, I looked good in photos… But inside I was dying. I was exhausted all the time. I wasn’t sleeping well, I couldn’t sit still for fear of a breakdown and I couldn’t eat a proper meal without feeling sick. Jess bought me an ice cream cake for my birthday and I ate one bite. Mum and dad made copious mouth watering curries and I’d have a couple of fork fulls and maybe a bite of a tortilla. This went on for months.
Slowly but surely my appetite crept back. I didn’t want to feel zombie-fied anymore. I started training properly again and got myself to peak fitness just in time for my Aussie Topdeck tour. Good job I was because we hiked almost every day!
I was slowly starting to feel better.
Then the scale tipped in the other direction.
I moved to Brisbane and suddenly I was surrounded by convenience food and completely unfamiliar surroundings. I was scared and nervous about 85% of the time. While slowly coming to terms with my first time living out of home, cooking for myself, lots of free time, a new job, new friends, a little bit of fresh heart break and being so far from my family, I turned to food for comfort.
This is something I had never done before. Usually I was the opposite. I would eat when I was sad or happy or bored and it was completely pointless. Despite walking absolutely everywhere I managed to gain 15kg in 4 months. I was wearing my pretty pinup dresses so I suppose I didn’t notice until suddenly I couldn’t get in to my old clothes anymore. Then I started to panic. So what did I do? I turned to alcohol instead.
Ive always been a big drinker but it’s not really the ideal way to fix this sort of problem! Sure we had incredible fun weekends but if anything it just wiped out any self control I had left.
I felt every ounce as vulnerable and lost as I was the year before. Turns out it doesn’t matter what the scale says, you can be broken on the inside no matter how you look.
Then I went home. I saw the love in my friends eyes, I watched them smile and listen to my stories. I spoke to them as I always had. I went to America and met a tonne of new people who showed me that same interest and respect. I looked around and saw the incredible variety of people there. I saw the way the fit Californian girls ran along the beach. I saw beautiful African American girls with butts to die for dancing like they owned the place. I saw so much more than size. I saw so much more than that.
I started looking in to people’s eyes when they spoke to me. I learned to ask more questions instead of feeling embarrassed to command someone’s attention.
Coming to the end of the trip I had now had 9 months off training. I didn’t feel very fit or very well looked after.
I love being fit. I love sports and dancing and going to the gym. I also love food. I love fried chicken and I love salad and veggies. I love curries and I love cheese. I also adore a quality beverage.
Guess what? We only live once. I don’t want to spend my life miserable. I want my body to love me as much as I love it. I want to take care of it and never deprive it of anything; be that a tough workout or some KFC.
Life is about balance. I know I need to take care of myself and I look forward to getting back to a healthier me. I’m doing it because I love myself and I deserve the best. I’m not doing it because of some warped idea that to be loved by others I need to look a certain way. If people don’t love me as I am they can jog right on.
I’ve lost 10kg since getting back from America, mainly through eating as healthily as possible during the week, cutting back on the carbs (my weakness) and only drinking and cheating on the weekends. I’m running and doing yoga, and though I’m not exactly where I want to be, I have no desire to be the tiny girl with no bum, boobs or self worth again.
But, we are so much more than the way we look. The numbers on the scales have fuck all to do with the amazing stories you have to tell or the jokes you make or the time you spend pondering the universe with your friends.
I might have wobbly bits but I’m funny and I’m interesting and I will look however I want to look as long as I take care of myself and I am happy. I’ve never struggled for the affections of the opposite gender and I like to think that’s because of who I am on the inside as well as the out.
I am writing this for myself, but also for all of my incredible, intelligent, interesting, funny, quirky and absolutely breathtaking friends who blow my mind on a daily basis. You will always be the loves of my life no matter how you look. Your insides shine through your smiles and I adore you like I know you adore me and aren’t we so lucky to have each other?
The world is a mad thing, and the day we stop basing our self worth on the number on the scales or the inside of our clothes, the better humans we will be. Fuck the media. You’re all 10/10. That’s why you’re my people. Anyone who doesn’t agree can go gladly back to their shallow existence. I just want us all to live happily.
Part Four: Having someone to listen
This one is simple.
If any of you ever need to talk to someone, I’m here. I promise I won’t open your messages and reply a week later, if at all. I won’t try to fix your problems. Of all the people (queen of mad chat) I know the importance of talking it out.
I think a lot of my friends know this and I love more than anything when I get those long messages from people I haven’t spoken to in a while. Sometimes I’m not the best to call and i’ll admit that. I get a bit tired of it when I’ve been on the phone all day at work, but I’ll be here in whatever form you need, whenever you need me.
Judgement and gossip free.
I love you all very much, and thank you for being there for me too.
I really appreciate it.
Love from your usually happy friend,