Monday, 2 March 2015

Are you happy? If not, whatcha gonna do about it?

I'm sure I'm not the only human being in the world who regularly asks themselves the question: am I happy? Asking this question is a way of checking in with ourselves, and is essential in helping us to maintain a positive mind-frame. It's a question we all deserve to answer "yes" to, at least most of the time. So, ask yourself: am I happy?

What even is happiness anyway? According to the Oxford Dictionary to be happy is "feeling or showing pleasure or contentment", "having a sense of trust and confidence", and "being satisfied with the quality and standard". With this in mind, let's deepen our questioning, ask yourself the following three questions:

1. Do I experience and express pleasure regularly in my day-to-day life?
2. Do I have confidence in myself and those I surround myself with?
3. Am I satisfied with my quality of life?

Once you've asked yourself these three questions, I am almost certain that you'll have a better gauge on your current state of happiness. In all honesty you probably don't need these extra questions to know whether you're truly happy or not; if you're candid with yourself you'll already know in your gut, but these questions can be useful in understanding either why we are happy or unhappy and which area of our happiness may be lacking.

In my experience, if just one of these three areas is off balance then your overall happiness will suffer. And trust me, I've learnt this lesson the hard way. I spent years of my teenage life and early-twenties stuck somewhere between mildly unhappy and deeply sad. Some of the responsibility for this can most definitely be placed on hormones and my susceptibility to depression and anxiety, however I believe that it was also because I wasn't questioning my state of happiness; I was simply accepting it as something that I couldn't change. Or perhaps I didn't want to change it, after all maintaining happiness is hard work and many of us are scared to allow ourselves to actually be happy.

But I reached breaking point. I was coming up to twenty-four and I decided that I didn't want to spend another moment being unhappy. For me the realisation of arriving at this moment was a long journey; on reflection I think it's a journey that began because of yoga practice. Yoga allowed me to have the head space to look inwardly at my true self for just a few hours a week, and over a period of about two-and-a-half years I realised that a) I was not happy b) I deserved to be happy c) I could be happy and d) I was in charge of my own happiness. As a result of this over the last year I have made my happiness my mission, and boy does it feel amazing!

I started by asking myself the three questions.

1. Did I experience and express pleasure regularly in my day-to-day life? No. I did not. I was scraping through life, accepting circumstances that were not bringing me pleasure, and not appreciating things that could.

2. Did I have confidence in myself and those I surrounded myself with? No. Self-confidence is something I've always struggled with and due to various reasons I found it hard to have confidence in those I had made closest to me.

3. Was I satisfied with my quality of life? No. I wasn't being true to myself, I wasn't doing what I should have been doing with my life, and I wasn't living where I should have been.

I then had to do something about it. It has not been easy. I've had to make some serious and tough decisions, I've had to make big lifestyle changes, and I've had to take a long hard look into the mirror to give myself a bloody good talking to! But it is possible. You are not stuck. You are not your state of mind. You have the power to be happy.

I imagine that for many people the answers to at least one of these three questions will be similar to my answers from this time last year, and that is perfectly normal, but the actions you need to take will not necessarily be the same.

But what did I do?

1. I gave myself a massive virtual shake and made myself acknowledge everything in my life that I could get pleasure from. I've always exercised regularly, but I made myself exercise with awareness and with gratitude as to what my body was allowing me to do. I took more notice of what I was eating and began to have fun with trying and making new healthy recipes. I spent as much time as I could in the outdoors, taking simple pleasures from the natural world and exploring London city by foot.

2. I then gave myself a stern talking to. I tried to focus on my positive attributes, and would tell myself that any negative thoughts were not permanent, not true, and I could acknowledge them but I did not have to accept them. I made big decisions as to who I surrounded myself with and focused on my amazing family and friends, and began to really appreciate the pleasure and support they gave me.

3. I moved back home to live with my family. I made a big decision to give up a "proper job" to train to be a yoga teacher and to follow my heart. And ultimately, although it may seem like I've moved back a few steps, this has been the best thing for me and I can now see a clearer happier path ahead.

As I've mentioned, the actions you'll need to take will not be the same as mine. You are unique, and your journey is your own. But I hope that by sharing my experience you will be reassured that you deserve happiness and that you are in control of your own happiness. You and no one else. Yes, that can be a little terrifying, but it's also amazingly encouraging and inspiring.

There will be external factors in life that will dictate your happiness to a certain degree, but it is your responsibility to find your inner happiness, and once you've mastered that I can almost guarantee that you will find the uncertainties in life will test you but they will not break you.

So I encourage you: look at your state of happiness, if you're happy that's great - well done you, keep it up! - but if you're not, then choose to do something about it. What is blocking your happiness? What can you do about it? What are you going to do about it? And then do it! It won't happen over night, and it's more than likely that you'll have to take baby steps to get there, but work at it and it will happen. And if you're already happy, or when you arrive at your happiness, do everything you can to maintain it. Happiness is something that you really have to work at, so once you've got it pour your heart into it. Spend your time doing things that contribute towards your happiness, be with people who make you happy and who in turn you make happy, and keep working on your true self and your purpose in life.

For me the most amazing lesson I've learnt from all this is that if you are happy and if you uninhibitedly express that happiness then the people around you will respond with even more happiness and your whole bubble will become a generally happier place! Don't believe me? I dare you to give it a go!

If you have any questions about happiness, life, yoga, anything (!) please leave me a comment below or send an email to and I'll be more than happy to have a chat.

So go, find your happiness! Time is precious. What are you waiting?

Love Lucy x

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