Happiness….. What it means to me and how to achieve it.

img_0968Happiness is a subject I have spent a great deal of time thinking about and discussing. I am a Philosophy major and have studied happiness as well. It’s a very interesting topic to me simply because it is far from simple. Everyone’s perspective of happiness is very different. How people go about achieving happiness is fascinating. Since this topic has attained a good bit of my attention I wanted to elaborate on a few things I have learned and how I go about achieving happiness.

Figuring out what is actually important to us and deserves our attention is a good place to start. Trying to surround myself with people that bring positivism to my life rather than drain my energy is a priority. People I admire, respect, learn from, and enjoy are the people I gravitate towards. It’s easy to get caught up in drama but that seems to just waste time and energy which causes me to worry about things that are usually out of my control. I will admit that the number of people I choose to spend time with has become smaller but in doing that I am able to focus on the people I can build more meaningful bonds with….that makes me happy.

In my search for happiness, I have realized that material things are definitely nice but don’t exactly make me feel happy, at least not for long. They seem to be a temporary excitement for the moment but then quickly dissipate. I had to learn the hard way that the same thing goes for some of the goals I have set out to accomplish. I use to think that once I complete an ultra I will then be happy. That lead to…as soon as I do an ultra-race well, I’ll then be happy.  This is not exactly how it works how happiness works I have come to understand. Of course, the thrill of going through a challenge like that is exhilarating and wonderful but again leads to temporary happiness. The day after an ultra I would be on cloud nine and so proud. Then the next day or the day after I would get the post-race blues and no longer be happy. My happiness was short lived and I felt a strong craving to plan the next goal so I could start the process over again.

It was after the races and some further research into what I truly value in life that I began to realize that it’s the journey that makes me happy. Happiness, at least for me, is a process. The process of getting to the goal and building bonds with people is what I value most and makes me a happier person. When I look back on a race I cherish the training I went through, the planning, travel, lessons I learned, people I met, places I saw, the food I ate, and pictures I created. It was the whole experience of the race which started the moment the goal was set and put into action. Happiness is also a feeling for me. The feeling of creating relationships with people I care about. When I put energy and effort into a new friend or loved one and I can cherish that experience that is what makes me happy. Matt, for example, makes me so very happy. Not only is he the most positive person I know but he makes me feel loved and cared about. Mark very much does the same thing in different ways from Matt. The bottom line is that I feel the connection and cherish the bond we have created and that makes me a much happier person in general.

I have learned that it is better to live and work towards things I value rather than to goals. If I set my mind on a race and value the experience of training for it and participating in the race I am much more satisfied and happy about the whole experience than if I just set my goal to get another belt buckle and that’s it. The belt buckle is the end result of the journey of a wonderful experience that makes me happy to live through. It’s the good and bad experiences that I take away from the journey that I cherish so much. Looking back on some of the highs and lows make me appreciate my life so much more. I’m forever grateful for the opportunity to have these experiences and that is what makes me a happier person.

I also think that happiness is a process. A new relationship does not start out perfect or fulfilling but takes time and effort. I enjoy the reward of working towards something I care about, especially with people that are important to me. Mark and I have our challenges for sure but the overall process of being in a relationship and valuing each other makes me feel good as a person. This can also be applied to my profession. I went to school and worked towards becoming a paramedic that can help make a difference in people’s lives. The whole process of learning, practicing and then helping someone who really needs help reflects my happiness level. I think that if you set your mind to a goal, whether it is a physical challenge or strengthening a bond with someone you should embrace the process of it all. There will be days when you argue with people you love or have a bad day at the gym but it’s necessary to work through those challenges for something you value and that makes you happy. If it was easy to go out and run 100 miles then everyone would do it, but the value in pushing through a race when you want to give up and feeling accomplished after each and every achievement throughout the journey is much more valuable.

There seem to be different levels of happiness that are always fluctuating. We all have bad days or moments. Lack of rest, hormones, changes in plans, and unforeseen challenges affect my daily level of happiness but I would still consider myself and life happy. When something is wrong or I feel negative I change it. There is no need to subject ourselves to negativity or bad circumstances when they can be avoided. Miscommunication seems to be the biggest factor in creating situations that are stressful. That is why I stress communication so much throughout this blog. When people do not share their thoughts and points nicely or clearly it leaves a lot of room for miscommunication which can lead to more stress than necessary. This is something I focus on, especially with Mark since we work through challenges related to his Asperger Syndrome. Most of those challenges we face being communication issues. I feel that everyone can benefit from communicating better in one way or another.

This leads me to share something about my life that has been a huge stressor for me and that I have actively chosen not to communicate with or work on. We all have the ability to decide where we want to focus our energy and efforts towards. Sometimes we have to make the difficult decision to not associate with people in our lives that are not healthy for us. After a lot of thought and realization, I have chosen not to continue a relationship with my father. He has caused a huge amount of stress to me and especially my Mom that I feel has reached an unhealthy level. I’m not going to sit here and spend hours bashing him or telling you how or why he is a bad person in my opinion but I do want to make the point that I have come to the conclusion that a destructive person is not someone I want in my life. He has repeatedly proven to me and my Mom that he is far from positive and goes out of his way to be negative and hurtful. I have chosen to no longer involve a person like this in my life and once I have put that into practice my life has significantly been less stressful and much happier. I didn’t realize how much all the worry and sadness he brought to our lives brought me down until I didn’t give him the power to affect me anymore. Please understand that this is a lifetime of destructive behavior with little effort to make things right or grow a healthy relationship. At some point, we have to cut the cords of the people that bring us down on a consistent and unhealthy level. I have chosen to do this with my Dad and since I did it has changed my life for the better significantly.

Values are different for everyone and change during different periods in our lives. I think the process of falling in love and getting married is a great value to enjoy. Then when and if they decide to have children it becomes a new value and source of happiness at a different time in their lives. Happiness is a process that is capable of change and can be different from one person to the next. I choose to let go of negativity and focus on people and experiences that bring me joy. By focusing my efforts on healthier goals and people I have learned to manage time better and build better experiences. I hope this can help others focus on what is important to them and find the process of what makes them happy.



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