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I Choose To Be Happy

drawing on the ground of a smiley face

As Rhianna once sang in her hit song ‘Diamonds’ - ‘Find light in the beautiful sea, I choose to be happy, you and I, you and I, we’re like diamonds in the sky’.

Happiness is merely a state of mind and you can choose to be happy. And to me, this is kind of a revelation because I suppose I didn’t quite realise that you could.

For a long time I was living in what felt like a dark room without light – it might’ve appeared on the outside that I was OK, but it’s all too easy to put on a mask to present to the outside world, without letting anyone see what’s really happening on the inside.

I Choose to Be Happy: Finding Happiness

It’s only recently that I’ve actually realised that I’m actually happy. It kind of snuck up on me and I was surprised by its appearance! I was thinking about my life and all the good things I have going on at the moment and how a past version of me would be so happy with the present me.

To be honest, I’m not quite sure if it was one particular thing that made me happy or a collection of things, I only know that I’ve finally come to a place where I’d like to stay as it’s a pretty good place to be!

If you’ve read any of the posts I’ve written previously then you’ll know the battles I’ve had with my own mind over the last few years, especially since moving to a new town to start a whole new life seven years ago. As much as this was one of the best things I’ve ever done, in terms of changing my life for the better, it also came along with some challenges for my mental and social health which I’m only now realising the importance of.

Sarah at an outdoor photoshoot

It’s all too easy to put on a smile and act like everything is fine, when in reality that couldn’t be further from the truth. You may even be able to fool yourself for a while and think that the life you’re living and the lies you’re telling yourself on a daily basis are a true representation of how you’re feeling.

It takes guts to admit how you’re really feeling, most importantly to yourself. I’m not saying I’ve done lots of inner work to come to these conclusions, but now being on the other side of it, it’s easy for me to see the difference in how I’m feeling now compared to before.

Making Past Me Happy

There’s a quote around that says something along the lines of ‘you’re currently living the life past you dreamed of, so don’t look back’ which basically means that the stage of life you’re in now is something past you could only dream about.

For me, it means that all my past struggles have led me where I am now – a place where I’m finally happy and can look back on my past with a smile because all the roads I’ve been down have led me to exactly where I’m supposed to be.

man at a tranquil location with outstretched arms

Now I’m saying that past me had a bad life, not at all. I guess I just have a different perspective on it all now. I finally feel like I’m able to ‘allow’ myself to feel happiness for the life I’m living and where I’m at, like I may not have reached particular markers set by society’s expectations of women – I don’t have children, I’m not married, I don’t have a ‘proper’ career path etc. – but to that, I say, I’m living the life that past me would be extremely pleased with.

There’s so much pressure on women to settle down and have children that it can feel like how can you be happy if you don’t have that quote on quote ‘perfect life’? As if all we’re designed for is to be a servant to a husband and mother to a houseful of children! That we can’t possibly garner happiness from elsewhere if we haven’t hit these particular standards.

So you may ask yourself, how can I have found happiness? Well, that’s easy! From my life, the friends I’ve made through run club, at work, the hobbies I enjoy and how I look after myself when I find myself feeling like I might be hitting a bad patch.

It’s about filling your life with as many activities you enjoy with the people you enjoy doing them with – and of course the odd midday brunch or quiet cinema trip.

a collection of images of Sarah at a pancake house

When I first moved to Harrogate seven years ago, I couldn’t even go out for coffee alone as I felt so incredibly socially anxious in my new town. I just didn’t feel like I could, I just felt like everybody would be looking at me wondering why this woman was sitting alone!

It took a while to get over this, but thankfully now I do this all the time and have discovered some great local cafes and restaurants which I wouldn’t have done otherwise.

When I was working, I would see groups of women out together for dinner, laughing and joking over pizza and prosecco and I would feel this pang of envy because I’d moved away from my friends and it wouldn’t be as easy for us all to meet up, with work commitments, family ties and trying to co-ordinate 3 separate schedules!

For a while, I would feel quite sad about this, like I was missing out on something as I was too far away from my friends to see them, yet too socially anxious to go out and find any new friends.

Sarah and running friends smiling for the camera in a park

Thankfully over these last few months especially, I’ve since found a great group of people who I now call my friends through the various running groups I’m a part of. I was so nervous when I went the first time but I’m pleased I pushed through because it was all worth it.

How I Keep Myself Happy

Just like I look after my mental and social health by running and being with my friends, I treat my happiness in a similar manner. I’ve chosen to be happy, just like you can choose what to eat, what to do each day, you can also chose how to feel.

I should say here that it’s important not to affix your happiness to one particular person, place, or activity, because if that goes away so does your happiness. I’m still working on this as every day is different and there are so many dominoes in place which can fall at any time, so it has to come from within so that this doesn’t happen.

a sign that says "grateful thankful blessed"

Practising gratitude is a good way of doing this, to write down two or three things each day that you’re grateful for. And this can be anything, from how good the trees looked on your morning commute, to how good your coffee was that day, to a smile on your loved one's face.

The more gratitude you practice, the happier you’ll become and you’ll soon start finding joy in the small things in everyday life. Gratitude is like a muscle that you can build, with the right exercises and practice, you can find at least something small to appreciate in even the bleakest of days.

This kind of thinking leads to a release of serotonin and dopamine, chemicals in the brain that are associated with happiness and pleasure, whilst lowering stress hormones. As gratitude boosts your mood, it’s no surprise that it can also boost your overall mental health.

two notebooks, the top one says "Today I am grateful" on the cover

Approaching life with a more positive mindset can do more than just improve your mood, it can have cascading benefits in other areas of your life, such as:

- Better sleep

- Improved focus

- Higher self-esteem

- Increased patience

Research shows that grateful people are more likely to engage in healthy behaviours such as exercising regularly and following a healthy diet, as they’re likely to re-frame healthy lifestyle choices as opportunities rather than obstacles.

Maintaining My Happiness

So by now, you must be wondering how I maintain this level of happiness every day? And to that, I say it’s a work in progress every day, it’s not like taking your phone in to be repaired and in two hours it’s ready to go again, it’s a bit more like planting a tree.

At first, you don’t see anything, but slowly, over time, it starts to grow and soon it becomes a sapling, with leaves and branches.

a large tree in a field

I try to find the good in every day and be appreciative of how lucky I am to have the things in my life I do and to have found a tribe of people who genuinely want to see the best in me and support me in running and outside of it, and me to them as well.

I try not to tie my happiness to any one thing or person in particular because like I said at the beginning, if that domino falls, then so do the others. I try to be thankful for everything and remind myself that not long ago I felt like I was living in the dark, so every shaft of light which penetrates is very welcomed.

pink and orange balloons

After being in such a dark place in the past, I am very hopeful of staying in the light now and am working on my happiness little by little every day.

How are you working on your happiness? Do you have anything in particular you do to ensure you’re feeling good on a bad day? Let me know in the comments below!

Love, Sarah


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A 30 something woman navigating life, sharing posts focussing on mental health, midsize fashion, self-care routines and life as a vegan.

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