Just this week, I had a guest post published on the wildly popular Crazy Sexy Life blog. It’s an incredibly personal article detailing some of the internal struggles I’ve suffered in coming to terms with myself, my body and my identity. I was actually relieved when the CSL team took months to get back to me after I’d submitted the post because I decided that it was far too personal, raw and revealing and I just wasn’t sure I wanted it up there.
To my surprise, I received a flood of support for sharing my story, along with a flood of emails and questions about happiness and feeling content inside your skin. “How are you so happy and healthy?” one woman wrote. “Please let me know what you did or what ‘clicked.’ I’ve seemingly tried everything.”
The secret truth about happiness is that it’s a fleeting state that never stays for long. We’re conditioned by our media to believe we can and should be happy all of the time, that we should constantly be in a state of delirious ecstasy, never suffering from melancholy or boredom.
This is such a false and unachievable ideal that the very notion is ridiculous. Our world is laced with stimulants that provide us with short term dopamine highs – sugar laced foods, video games, the internet, coffee, cigarettes, flashing lights and screaming sirens – but these chemical boosts are false and short-lived. You can’t be in a constant state of stimulation. For one thing, it would short circuit your adrenal glands and flood your body with stress hormones that cause you to pack on pounds, not to mention shortening your lifespan.
So, the answer to how I’m so happy and healthy is that I’m not, always. I don’t chase happiness, although I used to. Instead, I chase satisfaction and contentment in my life. It’s taken a lot of losing what I’ve got in the pursuit of something different only to realize that what I had was exactly what I wanted in the first place. No new “thing” will give you that happy high forever. We are naturally meant to cycle through life’s ups and downs, to feel the breadth of human emotions.
Money and losing weight, the two things dangled in front of our faces as the proverbial carrot in front of the mule, have not provided me with happiness. Do I feel better when my body is healthy and fit? Absolutely. Do I have less stress when my bank account is flush? Without a doubt. Do these things make me happy in and of themselves? Not a chance.
Joseph Campbell said to “follow your bliss.” It is perhaps one of the most oft-quoted statements in the English language, but I believe it’s grossly misunderstood. He intended for us to move in the direction of what makes you happy. It doesn’t mean you’re going to get what you want. It doesn’t mean the road will not be hard and without its struggles – you can almost guarantee a few trials and tribulations along the way.
The point is not to be deliriously happy in every minute of every day. The point is to look back on your day and ask, “Did I do work that gives me great satisfaction? Did I make a difference in the world today? Did I move myself, even one millimeter, closer to what I want from my life?”
If the answer to those questions is yes, then rest assured, you are on the good red road, as the Native Americans call it. You are on your right path and moving toward bliss.