Thursday, February 5, 2015

Happiness on Purpose

When's the last time you did something just to make yourself happy? 

And I don't mean comfortable, or relaxed, as how we would often describe habits we have just become accustomed to. They don't really make us happy so much as they just are the easiest thing to do.

When was the last time you went out of your way to make yourself happy?

Seems counter-intuitive, right? Why would I have to "get out of my way" to be happy? Doesn't getting out of my way mean doing something I don't really want to do?

I've eventually found the answer to this to be: "Not really silly billy."

Most people settle into habits as they grow older - not necessarily a working routine, especially if they are more on the lazy side of the spectrum, like me. More like autopilot behaviours that you sort of just find yourself falling into as a usual response to a type of daily trigger. Lately, I've been trying to take in charge more of my time. I'm trying to go out of my way to do things I know will make me happier for longer than things that feel like just scratching a random itch on my butt. Sudden relief, but does not add much to life.

For example, I have a collection of games on my laptop that I find myself mindlessly clicking on whenever I feel uneasy or stressed by a wave of thoughtsicles. Like right now, while I'm writing this, whenever I hit a mental block or find a phrase that needs a bit of thinking for me to word it in a way that isn't awkward, I keep running to my games for comfort or stress-relief. And even though that calms me, it keeps me from finishing what I'm writing, which is ultimately what would make me happier in the long run.

scene of the crime. i loik borgors.

Writing is something I do completely out of love. It doesn't give me anything that would provide me a sense of urgency should I be behind with work. And I'm not sure if it's because of that or in spite of that, that it gives me more long-term happiness than instantly gratifying things like entertainment or food. If I get to bring myself to do it, that is. So I've been trying to take it more seriously now.

But it's not just productive things like writing that I've been trying; even pointless things that can seem like they would bring about a happiness that resembles the urge-relief type of gratification, but are actually better for the mind and soul because of them being a new experience, or because they awaken and engage the senses instead of dulling them (like computer games can), or because they can be meditative and conducive to productive thought. My own examples are trying to progress on the really hard third level of my puzzle (still unfinished hoho), pushing myself to draw or paint when even the tiniest urge flutters and lands on my shoulder, and things like that.

Still not finished after employing the help of Emmy and Anne who are veterans haha jk. kinda

I guess that's what following your heart really means. I somehow subconsciously held the idea that following your heart applies strictly to scenarios that happen within something like a dance movie setting - "My parents want me to be a doctor.. But all I wanna do is DANCE!"- a particular individual feeling intensely passionate about one thing and the outside world trying to pull them towards the opposite direction of that thing, but them sprinting towards the thing they love anyway. I've always been a bit scattered about what I really want in the first place, so I never really felt that "follow your heart" resonates with me. It just sounded like a cliché that never applied to me personally, even though I'm a creative type. I'm slowly finding out that it can apply to me, but instead of it being about a huge lifelong dream or occupation, it's about the little things I do everyday that might, all together, lead me closer and closer to feeling like I'm living the life I want to live.

It's saving up for a Lush sale, obsessing about the bath bombs all December but waiting 'till the January sales to buy anything so they can be half-off:

...which makes me feel like it's something I waited patiently for and finally have (for half the price!). Even though they're just something I bought out of the shop, it's a delayed type of gratification, which ended up being a really fulfilling type of gratification because I took time to know and really let myself desire them, to know what's good about them,  to know what to expect, and to know what to pay attention to in particular when I do use them. To be fully engaged in something as simple as a bath, having my senses soak in and be fully engaged in experiencing the delicious smell and the matching music I played (Sigur Rós, duh).

Yes I did break up the bath bomb. Don't judge! I just want the magic to last ~

Or receiving a Christmas card from a dear friend (Hello Abby my liddol cherub) through snail mail (and boy does it live up to its post-internet name: took two months to arrive!), finding pretty golden stars and glitter inside and having an impromptu photo shoot with them starring my other hand, because apart from potentially putting glitter in my camera, why not?

Leo constellation :D I'll show you the rest of these soon :)
These things, due to years of hardwiring automatic procrastination into my system, didn't exactly feel super easy for me to do. At times, especially while writing, I actually experience moments of eustress or micro panic episodes that come with the experience of preparing, starting, creating,  or finishing anything. But they give me happiness - the kind that makes me hate myself less when I'm down, and lets me be excited again about life.

What I'd like for anyone to take from my experiences (should they want to) is simple: Try to get out of your way to be happy. Or better yet, get out of your own way. As in, stop deterring yourself. You might find it easier to do than I am, because I'm no expert, but here are things that can make it easier:

1) Don't try to do so much at a time. We can only realistically make a limited number of decisions per day without losing our willpower. You may feel like overhauling your whole life from this point and that's alright, but try not to micro-manage every single detail and daily task or you'll lose track. Make enough effort to make it mean something, but not too much effort that it ends up overwhelming you.

2) Keep it simple. Don't overthink it. If no idea for a happiness-causing activity comes to you, don't force it. Maybe wander around a bit, let it come to you. Don't let a lack of intensity of an idea keep you from pursuing things, either. Try to go with an impulse, even if it seems like a small thing. Find something pretty to look at? Grab your camera and document it. Find a nice recipe for a sure-hit dessert? Maybe buy the ingredients and make it on the weekend. Little things done with joy make a happy life.

3) Respect your individuality. Try to get to know yourself well and sincerely think of what kind of things will make you happy. You may look for inspiration from others, but there's a line between being encouraged by others to do something you really enjoy and being a plain old copycat. But don't stop doing something you're interested in just because it's difficult at the start. Just because it has stressful parts doesn't necessarily mean it's not for you. Just because it doesn't feel natural right now, it doesn't mean it can't be your thing. All that matters is you're going after what you want to be doing.

My hope is that I find the grace and willpower in me enough to keep on pursuing the things I love. It seems like it should be so simple, but sometimes life just happens and teaches you things you find you need to unlearn. I'm trying that thing where I'd rather make mistakes than not try at all. I'm glad to report that for the first time in my life, I can imagine myself being happy with just trying my hand at fully embracing my creative interests, even if I don't succeed at them in the typical sense. They make me happy, and if I'm not happy, did I really succeed?

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