The 7 things I learnt about happiness in my year of discovery
How to be happy – 7 things I’ve learned about happiness
Happiness is a muscle that needs to be exercised
So today marks the one-year anniversary since I left the UK and moved to Bali. I’ve been quite reflective recently, looking back at the year and have I achieved what I wanted to – what have I learned about how to be happy?
I’ve decided to come back to the UK in a month, so my period of time and journey in Bali is over; I started by reading over a blog that I wrote when I first got here, which was the ‘5 reasons why I decided to quit my job and move to Bali’ and…that blog actually went viral (it got about 20,000 views and I wasn’t really that pleased with it at all!). I think I wrote it for the reason that I wanted to almost justify to myself and to others why I’d done this so I didn’t get given the label of an indulgent millennial or whatever. I think that’s my own issue, but anyway. I was looking back at the blog and I wrote 5 things: To learn skills, for health reasons, for self-development, a break from the West and because I love Bali.
And I think actually, the reason I came here was to find out how to be happy. I wasn’t particularly happy in my current situation, I wasn’t feeling particularly good at my job, I was struggling with PTSD, which I’d been diagnosed with six months after being raped when I was on holiday in Morzine, and I think I was actually also struggling with quite a big problem with alcohol.
And I came out here really on a search for happiness. So, what I’ve learnt is that I think happiness is a muscle which we need to exercise. It needs rest and it needs to be strained.
These are the seven things that I think I’ve learnt about how to be happy
Recorded as a video or written as a blog, whichever you prefer <3
The first one is control
It’s control over your life, it’s control over your decisions, it’s control over your time and it’s feeling like you’re leading your own life – and, it’s not being led by somebody else. I think we have to be really honest with ourselves: Am I feeling in control of this situation? There’s a study that says that 40% of our happiness comes solely from control and I think for me, when I’m feeling unhappy, it’s because I feel like I’ve lost that sense of control.
The second one is acceptance
And that is acceptance of you. I’ve accepted that there are some things I am never going to be! I am never going to be somebody who’s really quiet and I’m never going to be someone that can sit at a desk for 12 hours a day plugging through an analytical task, even though it needs to be done. I’m never going to be somebody who remembers to send people birthday cards! And I think once you’ve accepted who you are – once you’ve accepted what you’re not and what you are – you’re on that path to feeling at peace with yourself. I think that’s a big part of how to be happy.
Number three is I don’t think that happiness is a destination
I think by going through these 7 steps, I’ve accepted that happiness is not a destination. I used to think that happiness was in a “When I…” place: When I have this, when I weigh this, when I am this, when I do this! And actually, when you get to where you want to go to, often there’s even more places that you want to get to.
There’s a really good book (‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck’ – Mark Manson) and he talks about this: Life is just a series of activities and problems that we solve and by accepting there’s no destination and saying that this is the moment that I’m in – by being present in this moment – you stop seeking it and you actually find it!
Number 4 is about being in flow and finding what you love
This sort of ties in again with the acceptance of who you are, but I think that to be truly happy you need to be doing what you love doing. At the end of the day we spend a lot of our time working. I know people say: “Don’t live to work, work to live”
But actually, you are going to have to do work – unless you happen to have been born with a tonne of money (and I bet you’re not that happy if you have, because you need that drive and that purpose). It’s about being in flow and finding what you love!
For me, I didn’t know what it was that I loved, I left a job I did actually really love – I never disliked my job or my company, and I still miss it actually – but there were moments of it when I was in flow and there were moments when I wasn’t. I wanted to go after those moments where I was in flow. Number 4 about finding your flow is really key.
Number 5 is being freed from peoples’ opinions
I talk about this all the time because this has been the thing I struggle with the most. Even doing something like this is so unbelievably terrifying for me; the thought that somebody might read it and criticise or comment or take the mick or say anything that makes me feel horrible about myself…I think if you can love yourself it’s easier to be free from other peoples’ opinions. But you still have to find a way to handle those opinions, because they’re going to come. Even from people you love! They often take the mick and make comments that can actually hurt more than from people you don’t know – so, I think it’s about finding that place where you can be free from what other people think. That’s definitely something I’m very much on the journey of at the moment.
Number 6 is about having faith
In terms of business books and personal development type books, there are so many that I’ve loved. Books like “Think and Grow Rich” (Napoleon Hill) or are more actionable books or more spiritual books, for example Gaby Bernstein’s “The Universe has Your Back” and they all say that the most important thing in life is to have faith: Faith in the outcome, faith that if you focus on the right things you will get there.
For me, if I get panicked or I lose my focus, I remind myself to have faith, particularly to have faith that things are happening the way they’re meant to be happening and that I will get there. I think having faith, for me, at number 6, is really key.
Number 7 is about adversity
I’ve realised that some of the happiest people I know are the people that have been through the most crap – and that some of the most unhappy people I know are the people that have often been through the least crap. I have conversations out here in Bali, I have conversations at home, I watch things on TV, I read things and I think that actually the phrase “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is so true.
When I mentioned that I think happiness is a muscle, I think that adversity is when you’re really ripping the muscle open in the gym and it’s really hurting and it hurts for a few days after, but then you’re stronger after. You rest and you recuperate and you’re one stage further on. I think that adversity is what tests us on that happiness muscle, but it’s one thing that you have a choice in how you deal with it – you can choose to be a victim or a survivor.
When you become somebody who’s been raped (for example), you either become a victim or a survivor. These two words are ones that I really think are relevant to anyone who’s been through adversity. For me, I’ve been fortunate to have been through enough adversity when I was young to actually want to go and find my happiness and actually make these decisions to go to Bali and to do all these things like start my own business. And that is because, I think, I’ve been at that low point to know that there is a way out and that, actually, when you’ve been through something awful, no matter what happens in the future, you can always tell yourself that you’ve been through harder. I think that is an incredible thing to go through!
So, those are my 7.
There’s every chance that I might look back at this in a year and I think “What was I talking about?!” or “Could I have been a little more honest?”, but these are the seven things that I really think are the keys for me on how to be happy. These are the things I’ve learnt over this last year and I really, really hope that this has been interesting and potentially even valuable for you. Maybe it’s even inspired you – I would love it if it has! And I’d love you to get in touch with a comment and to stay in touch; I’d love to know that even if just one person watched it and got something from it, that would be plenty for me. So – thank you so much!
Always celebrating you,