Why I’m happy

Someone asked me yesterday why I’m happy.

I turned 36 last week and I can confidently say for the first time in my life, I actually am. As someone who spent the majority of my teenage years and 20s crippled by anxiety, getting older is a source of great peace for me because I seem to get better at living. I know what works for me and what doesn’t.

Here’s what I’ve learnt so far:

Anxiety medication
I need it. I spent decades trying Emotional Freedom Technique, counselling, Brahma Kumari meditation retreats, yoga, acupuncture, flotation tanks, massages, exercise – you name it – if I thought it would take the crushing sense of doom away, I would give it a crack (and spend loads of money on it). Eventally my insomnia and free ranging anxiety got so bad that I went to the doctor and described my symptoms, including the fact that I salivate too much when I am freaked out (hello awkward!). That conversation changed my life. I have suffered from this symptom ever since I was a kid and, as it turns out, it’s a classic anxiety symptom. My doctor prescribed Pristiq and ever since then, I no longer feel like, a) the worst person in the world, or b) like something terrible is about to happen.

I love them and I am much happier when I have them in my life. I can’t explain why but every time I hang out with dogs, I get a sense of calm combined with glee. Maybe it’s because they are super loyal, maybe it’s because they possess an abundance of joy, maybe it’s because I am actually a dog dreaming that I am a human. I don’t know. Whatever it is, no amount of picking up poo or being covered in hair could ever undermine my love of puppies.

One thing all that counselling taught me is that you have to love yourself before you can love anyone else. Sure, I still spend inordinate amounts of time thinking I’m fat and occasionally winding up in a self-loathing shame spiral but, for the most part, I think I’m OK.

Healthy food
The mood enhancing effects of a good diet are powerful. I eat loads of fruit and vegies, cook at home as much as possible and avoid stuff that makes me feel crap (most of the time). I also never feel guilty about eating. I listen to my body as much as possible, even when it’s saying, ‘Eat the icecream because you’re sad’.

Not doing stuff
I have increasingly stopped doing things I don’t want to do. If I am feeling resentful or stressed about something that can be avoided with a little diplomacy and courage, I just don’t do it. We all have shit we don’t want to do – tax returns, major surgery, long, boring meetings – whatever it is. Some of this cannot be avoided but things like going out drinking when you don’t feel like it, getting up early to walk when it’s cold or attending social functions with people you don’t like – you don’t have to do that so don’t.

Telling the truth
It’s really hard and I don’t always manage it but I am committed to at least trying to tell the truth all the time, no matter how painful or unpleasant it is.

Having a job that I love
I love my job. My employers are flexible, my team is positive, my colleagues are fun and I am surrounded by creative, intelligent people who I genuinely like. I get to write all day, get sent overseas to explore the world and attend glittery parties involving ball gowns. I am on a sweet wicket.

I get a lot of sleep because I live around the corner from work. It makes a profound difference. The way I perceive the world when I am tired versus the way I see things when I have had enough rest is like the difference between living in Hobbiton or Mount Sauron.

Friends, boyfriend and family
This may seem a little Captain Obvious but my friends and family rock my world. I adore my flatmate, I am head-over-heels in love with my boyfriend, my friends are the most beautiful, charming people in existence and I have a family populated with exquisite humans who have loved and supported me when I couldn’t (or wouldn’t) do it for myself.

It’s everywhere. Nature, art, film, music, books, food, wine. It goes on forever.

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