30 things I learned about being happy after my happiness was taken away

Being happy is an art, says Dan Beeson

I have been on a year-long journey on the road back to happy, a journey that has changed my life in ways I could never imagine.

I’ve just finished six months of cognitive behavioural therapy, to treat my panic disorder. And with my anti-depressant medication kicking in and offering me a foundation to build on, I have been afforded the opportunity, for the first time, to reflect on my journey – how it has reshaped who I am, reframed how I see and given me a new kind of happy.

When I began therapy my end goal was to get back to ‘normal’. As time passed, I began to notice a desire to learn something new, a new way of living.

I realize now that for so long I misunderstood what being happy should mean to me. It wasn’t striving to fit into a mold decided for me by societal stereotypes or being the most popular or attractive: ‘Happiness is letting go of what you think life is supposed to look like and celebrating it for everything that is’, as author Mandy Hale describes.

It’s seeing the beautiful in the mundane, the appreciation of what’s taken for granted and the joy of living in a moment.

These are the things I had forgotten before they were taken. And when they were gone the everyday necessities of life filled me with dread and fear as the happy carpet was pulled from under me, making living in the moment the hardest feat to achieve.

After a lot of hard work, time and faith in my character, I found very gradually a new way of thinking on my road to recovery. Through the practice of mindfulness, acceptance and soul searching, I felt a great sense of renewed presence.

With that in mind, here are just a few snippets of what I’ve started to learn being happy should mean to us all:

  • It’s perfectly fine to want to better the way you look, but make those changes for you not for others or what you want people to think about you. Chances are you will be disappointed if this is the route you choose.
  • Don’t feel guilty for believing that having a ‘better body’ will improve your self worth. Just make sure it will always remain a positive reflection of your character.
  • Remember, the most important people in your life don’t care what you look like, and the rest are just a distraction.
  • The way you look doesn’t determine whether or not you deserve love.
  • Stay true to your beliefs; don’t let the views of others sway you from the path you choose to follow and only change course on your terms. There are no straight roads or shortcuts.
  • Own it; be confident in who you are, you are unique and that is what makes you special. If you love it, do it.
  • You fart. People fart.
  • Speak to people with the confidence you have when speaking with a significant other. Remember they are humans with varying levels of confidence just like you.
  • Be more forgiving and accepting and share the kindness you’d like to receive. Everyone is going through a battle that no one else will ever understand. Kindness is often not afforded to those most in need.
  • Understand without regret that sometimes you need to make changes. If you make mistakes in any capacity, understand that they happen only in a brief moment of time that comes and goes. Life is not defined by one mistake.
  • Sometimes we need to accept we just can’t do something.
  • Don’t beat yourself up over things you can’t change.
  • Seeking validation from or make comparisons with anyone other than yourself, especially those you stalk on social media, will only make you unhappy. There are people looking at you and feeling exactly the same as you do about them.
  • Show your appreciation for those you love around you, not only once, but all the time. It gives us all unrivaled strength to know we are loved.
  • Make your family proud. It is the best gift you can give with the greatest reward.
  • If you feel you need to be brave to tell someone you love them, it just means it’s important you do so.
  • When dating, ask yourself ‘What do I think of you?’ before thinking ‘What do they think of me?’
  • Don’t make compromises or trick yourself into falling for somebody because you’re tired of being alone, it won’t end well and you may still need time to find yourself if you’re considering it as a viable option.
  • There’s no need to go a mile a minute. If it’s love, it will grow.
  • He, she or they will walk into your life in ways you won’t imagine. Don’t hold onto to a fantasy, let your moments be your moments.
  • Putting out doesn’t get you love, neither does it fill a void.
  • Don’t chase divine perfection. Perfection doesn’t exist.
  • Don’t spend time wrapped up in the desires, fears and pains about an undetermined future so much that you forget to appreciate what’s in front of you now.
  • There are carbs in pretty much everything! Deal.
  • Let go of any stereotypes you have. Too many good people, who didn’t gel with the ‘image’ you were trying to transmit, have passed you by while you were trying to prove your worth to people who don’t even know your name.
  • It’s not always going to be great, but it’s not always going to be bad. Be brave.
  • Being an eternal optimist is impossible. Don’t believe you have failed if you find yourself unhappy at times.
  • Give time some time. Be calm in knowing things will come to you eventually, making you happier on their arrival.
  • Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you must, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.
  • It’s OK to fear discomfort, but endure.
  • Trust until proven otherwise.
  • When someone compliments you, believe them with grace and gratitude.

Going back to square one in my effort to learn how to be a happier, more caring, trusting, accepting, genuine person, leaves me wondering, excitedly, about who and what I am now.

I ask myself: ‘What do I do now?’ and the answer is ‘anything I like’.

Monday 20 March 2017 is the International Day of Happiness.

Dan Beeson is nominated for a UK National Diversity Award for his work on mental health stigma. To find out more and vote, click here.

Dan is Head of Engagement at Gay Star News, to read more of his stories click here. 

To follow him on Twitter, click here.