That sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? It’s not.
Life has a cruel way of putting roadblocks along your path to happiness, and it doesn’t have to be a major life event, either. You plan a day at the pool with your kids, it rains. You buy ingredients for a delicious dinner with friends, everyone cancels. You get excited for an out of town trip and your car breaks down.
For the first part of my divorce journey I had to force myself to find happiness. As a matter of fact, there really wasn’t any. There were other periods of time like this in my life, too. When my son was a baby and constantly in and out of the hospital or when I’ve lost people dear to me.
The point is, those were awful times when it felt like nothing would make me happy again. I spent MONTHS of last year wailing in the shower in such pain I never thought it would end, but through a series of stages I have found myself smiling again. A lot. This is not to say life is perfect, because it isn’t. I still suffer heartbreak. I still ache sometimes. Daily, even.
I have learned, however, how to climb over the roadblocks instead of being stopped by them. Here’s how:
1. Hang out with happy people.
When you are searching for happiness, you don’t have to do it alone. Reach out to friends and family. Let them make you laugh. I have close friends who have a running joke about me sitting at their kitchen table for days on end. They would come home from work and I’d be waiting for them. That table, that family, the conversations we had; they saved me and made me happy again – even if was just for a couple of hours.
Read humorous books or blogs that friends recommend as laugh-out-loud funny. Join Goodreads and find the reviews that speak to you and your funny bone. This is not to say I haven’t thrown in a book or two on anxiety and co-dependency, but for the most part, I have stuck to hilarious reading material.
Hike, run, do squats in your living room. The best thing I’ve ever done for my happiness and mental health is to physically exhaust myself. Trust me. It works.
4. Take care of the little things.
Do you have a hangnail? A splinter? A nagging plantar fasciitis injury that feels like your heel is pounding itself into a rock with every step you take? Hypothetically. Get it fixed. There is nothing like a toothache or mosquito bite, or some tiny, grating, physical ailment to make you be on edge and grumpy
5. Do fun things.
This summer, I have been to concerts, amusement parks, Cirque de Soleil, and more cities than I can count. You don’t have to spend a fortune to do fun things, either. Some of the happiest times I’ve had were playing in the pool with my kids or a card game with friends. Nighttime Tackle Beach Frisbee, anyone?
6. Stop feeling guilty about your happiness.
Finding happiness can be scary. We have friends battling cancer or parents with health issues, so we feel guilty being happy. We don’t want to allow it because life isn’t fair. But, guess what? Your friends and family WANT you to smile. That will make THEM happy. Full circle bonus!
7. Allow yourself to be vulnerable.
A friend told me that her divorce has made her learn how to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. I couldn’t have said it better. There is an aching emptiness that came with the loss of my marriage and it’s still there every day. I had an entire family and life that was ripped out from under me. What I lost is never far from my mind and that’s okay because it helps me put my new life in perspective and reminds me that I deserve to be happy. You don’t have to pretend the pain isn’t there.
8. But, don’t let the pain own you.
Your feelings do not define you, your actions do. If you hurt, that’s normal. If the hurt keeps you in bed all day, it’s not.
9. Find a support group.
Whether it’s in person or online, there are support groups for everyone. And I mean everyone. Are you a cheese-eating golfer who only plays on Wednesdays when the temperature is 72 degrees? There’s probably a Facebook group for you. Find a safe place to vent, even if you have to do it anonymously.
The act of smiling can actually make you happier. It’s science.
Happiness doesn’t have to be something that only happens to other people. Jump over the roadblocks and YOU can find it, too.