Happiness in 5 1/2 steps

How to be happier in 5 1/2 steps

Lately I have been on a quest to become happier and I have gathered some insight that I think can help others out of a slump too. Crochet is and was a major contributor and really helped me turn my life around!

Down the rabbit hole, or a ride on the downward spiral

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I have spent a long time, the better part of two decades to be exact, wandering around in a fog. I can pinpoint the hour this started and know exactly when it got reemphasized, made worse even, but I did not know it at the time. I saw other people navigating their life with such lightness and confidence it made me feel unique and alone in my dampened state. There was something I was missing but it was unrelatable, so I did not want it. I am, by nature, a very optimistic and joyful person but a steady stream of internalized negativity will change you. It is actually a very simple neurological process in which you shape the wiring of your brain by going down one road or another enough times. Like mental muscle memory. I failed probably everything I set my mind to and was the master self saboteur. Looking at self help books, especially the American ones (sorry!) made me cynically snicker. Life and my psyche would never fit into this superficial  little box of instructions and simple slogans.

Shiny, happy people

Then I moved to Florida. It does not get more opposite from Vienna than the South! I had culture shock. Major culture shock and these people fit even less into my dark little corner since they all seemed happy, or at least really tried to be. It sounds crazy, but this concept of trying every day to be happy and to smile was completely foreign to me. There was a tiny part of me, deep inside, underneath a thick coating of protective cynicism and self pity, that this pursuit resonated with. This brings me to one realization about the simplicity of becoming happier. Ready?

Sunlight helps, warmth does too

I never claimed this was going to be very original but it is simply true. Many depressions start out as simple winter blues before they snowball and take their owner down. Again, muscle memory. When you get used to feeling down because of a lack of Vitamin D or maybe because you just went through horrific hormone changes, it is very easy to correlate your constant sadness with a life event or a personal deficiency and let depression move in more and more.

Not to say that sunlight helped me too much as the circumstances of my life made it very easy for me to keep standing in my own way, feeling sorry for myself. After four years we moved to New England where everything was a little more like home, except one major difference. People in New England do not whine, ever. These are some of the toughest people I have ever seen. ‘No Complaints’ or ‘work through it’ should be on their license plates. Another concept that was completely foreign to me since we Austrians are, as a people, very whiny. This brings me to another point.

Stop complaining

You have to recognize your feelings and accept that something bad has happened, but the more you focus on complaining about it, the more you feel justified in feeling unhappy. Remember that not only other people can hear you. You are also listening to yourself, constantly forming a mental image of yourself, so reiterate the good! Make yourself look good in front of yourself.

A year into living in New England I hit a sort of bottom. Right before the spring, actually. I sat and realized one day that I was just really sick of myself. I was sick of moping around, not getting anything accomplished, giving up before I even started and being deathly afraid of everything. I had this beautiful family, a decent place to live, enough food, was not disfigured and in perfect health, but in my mind I was the poorest sap there was, full of self loathing and burdened with a kiloton of problems. I sat there and made a sort of wish. I really wanted to be done with all that. I wanted to be happy. Not ecstatic or blissfully overjoyed, but more like content with a happy overtone. Since I made this wish with a lot of passionate anger, I think it stuck.heart1

Here is another point.

Make a wish, wholeheartedly

This is absolutely not going into a new-agey or (god forbid ;)) spiritual direction, so don’t worry! There is a fairly simple explanation of why it works when you really wish for something. You are certain, beyond any doubt. You have made up your mind and are giving yourself a very clear message about what you are expecting from yourself. Wishes will usually only work like this when it is about something that falls within your control. It also helps if you are very passionate about your wish since strong emotions signal our brain that something is important.

Here, at long last, will be my reference/tie in to crochet. A series of events happened and instead of my usual reaction of pushing all emotions down and falling into an even bigger hole, something cracked open and made me go a little crazy for a while. Crazy as in not being able to control my emotions at all, not even around other people. The only thing that calmed me down was crochet. It is also the major force that has turned my life around. So here is more advice.

Get a hobby, preferably one where you make something

Planning, starting and finishing something, anything, is extremely satisfying. Eventually you will crave this feeling in other parts of your life. You will get to know yourself as a person who finishes things. This will, in turn, make it easier and easier to achieve goals and achieving goals on a regular basis makes for a happy person. So the simplest one liners turned out to be all too true in my life Busy hands are happy hands…

Oh, one more thing:

Clean your house

This is actually the last one I found out about. Even my dog is happier in a clean house.

I hope you can find some inspiration and keep crocheting!

Can you relate, or add on to anything on the list?

 

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Andrea

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