By Brianna Wiest
I used to think that happiness was like a grid that you kept coloring in. That becoming who I was meant to be was a process of improving each part of myself; that I would be as content as my life was “good.”
This mindset is common, but of course, false.
What we usually think of as a “good” life matters little in terms of happiness. Some of the poorest people in the world are also the most content and loving, some of the most inspirational have created their masterpieces in the midst of dire suffering. There is no evidence that there is a correlation between worldly success and happiness – just pick up a tabloid at the grocery store.
Eric Greitens says that human beings require three forms of happiness to thrive: pleasure, grace and excellence. Warmth and food; gratitude and awe; working toward something greater than themselves. He compares them to the primary colors — you need all three to have a full spectrum of experience. More and more red will never make blue. More and more pleasure will never make excellence.
Adding to your list of reasons you should be happy will not make you happy. Your external circumstances make up precisely as much of your happiness as you want them to. That is the easy part. Your contentment is your own choice. But just choosing to be happy seems impossible for a lot of people. That is the hard part.
I still struggle in some of the ways that I always have. The difference between now and five years ago is that even when I don’t feel well, I force myself to do the things that will ensure that I am well. Some days I reduce myself to doing only what I must: showering, my daily writing assignments, at least one healthy meal, going to the gym, even if all I can do is walk.
I did not know that healing was just taking better care of myself. I thought it was being more impressive, or beautiful, or secure. It was none of those things. This is important to know because those things come and go. Your wellbeing doesn’t have to.
I didn’t know that to heal, I would have to keep healing every single day. That healing was not really a process of fixing, but realigning with being whole. And how do you do that? By doing it. How do you do it effectively? By doing it every day.
Instead of worrying I am being tricked by a medicine you take once and then are magically healed by, I can consider that gardens require maintenance. Fallible human beings require maintenance. There is weeding and watering to be done every day and there’s never a point where you are done working and your garden suddenly takes care of itself. – Chrissy Stockton
To say that healing is a lifelong thing is to imply that we are always broken. But that’s not true. It is the way that people have constructed the world and how we must behave in it to survive that is broken. That is what is taxing. That is what requires daily reprieve.
Healing is a slow reconstruction in the direction of what makes you feel whole. It is also identifying the fears and dis-eases that have lead you to feel as though behaving in ways that make you less whole are preferable.
You do not wake up one day and become a magically better person. Over time, and with repetitive action, your most immediate impulses can shift toward things that are better for you. You outline your comfort zone by your daily actions. What you always do becomes the most comfortable.
When you train yourself to repeatedly do what is in your genuine best interest — not in your ego’s best interest, not in other people’s best interest — that is when you heal. You become different because in a thousand ways, over a thousand minutes, days and hours, you choose differently.
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