This might sound surprising, but sometimes happiness actually scares me.
When I have a moment when I’m feeling so deliriously happy that I can’t stand it, I feel a slight sense of panic, thinking to myself, “Watch out! That happiness is going to leave you and then where will you be?“.
Having lived so long in a state of unhappiness, I actually have begun to mistrust the happy times, as if they will come and go whenever it’s convenient. When I see happiness coming my way, I tend to look suspiciously at it out of the corner of my eye, wondering just how long it’s going to stick around this time.
I realize, of course, that that’s not the best way to handle the happiness I’m experiencing. It’s not productive and it certainly takes away from the in-the-moment happy feelings.
Like most people, I go through ups and downs, but I find that, while I fully embrace the sad times, wallowing in them for all they’re worth, I hesitate when it comes to happiness. I find myself standing on the edge of it, just dipping my toe in like it’s freezing cold water. Even though I’m burning up and would love to dive into its refreshing coolness, I stand on the edge of the pool, dipping one foot in and then the other, my heart hesitating, my mind telling me it’s much too cold to jump in.
To be perfectly honest, this fear is starting to get on my nerves. I see other people jump in fearlessly, unfazed by the chill and popping up from under the water refreshed and relaxed. Why can’t I do that? Why can’t I just jump in, untethered by my fear of losing a happiness that, before now, I didn’t even know I would be scared to lose?
Once I made the decision to submerge my full self in the happiness water, I felt relieved. It definitely takes a weight off of my shoulders to think to myself, “Hey, I’m going to allow myself to be as happy as I want to be and I’m not going to worry about whether or not I’m going to be this happy forever.” It all comes back to the main focus of my life and work, which is to live happily ever after, now.
I’m not going to sit around worrying about the future and what could happen. I’m not going to doubt the happiness I feel and tell myself that it’s not real or that, for whatever reason, it’s not something I deserve. Instead, I’m going to to recognize the happy emotions, embrace them, and validate them because, in this very moment, they are real and, like it or not, they are what I’m experiencing. No more worrying about the future (live in the now!). No more doubting the veracity of my happiness (be positive!).
As I was laying in bed last night, a big silly grin on my face, I tried to rationalize with myself. I tried to tell myself not to get too excited, not to allow myself to be too happy. And then this voice came out of nowhere. Like a two-year-old just learning her way around the world, after every statement I made, the voice would say, “Why??” When I told myself, “Don’t let yourself get too happy,” the voice quipped, “Why?” When I told myself, “You shouldn’t be lying in bed smiling like a big idiot,” the voice spoke up again, asking, “Why?“.
I realized that little voice of mine was right and was there for a reason. When faced with all of those “why” questions, I began to realize that there is no good reason why I shouldn’t be happy. Even if it passes and I never feel this way again, wouldn’t I want to look back and realize that I embraced that happiness wholeheartedly? Wouldn’t I want to remember it as pure happiness instead of a battle between happiness and self-doubt?
And, as I smiled into my pillow, I allowed myself to feel it, to really, really feel that happiness. I pushed all of the doubts from my mind, all of the “what ifs” and all of the “buts” and I just let the happiness lay down beside me. I pushed myself against it and let myself – for once! – relax by its side. And, you know what? It felt amazing. It was, in fact, one of the best feelings in the world.
There is something to be said about clearing your mind of all doubt and just letting yourself feel that is amazingly rewarding. My mind always being a whirlwind of activity, this doesn’t happen for me very often. I am always a jumble of thoughts and feelings that I never really just allow myself to just feel without thinking of all of the consequences. Last night I allowed myself that small but powerful moment, a chance to just be happy.
When I woke this morning, I realized that I went through a process before I was able to accept the happiness I was feeling. Here are a few steps you can use if you want to give it a try in your own life . . .
How To Allow Yourself To Be Happy
- Recognize the happiness. The first step is recognizing how you feel. For me, this is actually kind of hard. I’m always on the go, always rushing and doing and thinking, and sometimes it’s hard for me to realize how I feel. I try to pay attention to my body because that usually gives me some pretty obvious clues. For example, last night, when I was grinning like a fool, I realized that something was up. I paid attention to that sign and realized that the reason I couldn’t stop smiling was because I was truly happy. So many things in my life were going well and I had a lot to smile about.
- Accept it for what it is. When I started doubting the happy way I was feeling and thinking that it wouldn’t last so I shouldn’t get too attached, I realized that I had to fully accept my happiness for what it was. It’s what I was experiencing, what I was truly feeling in that moment. Sure, it could fade away. Sure, I could wake to find that something devastating had happened. But that hadn’t happened yet and, for the time being, it was up to me to choose: did I want to be happy or did I want to be worrying that the happiness I was feeling would go away? I don’t know what you’d choose, but the former seemed like a much better option to me.
- Experience the moment NOW. Like many people, it’s easy for me to get caught up in thinking about the past and the future. I found myself going back to the past and thinking of all the times I’d been happy and then been hurt, disappointed or saddened by something. I found myself thinking about the future and wondering what I would feel like if the happiness went away. And then I realized: I wasn’t living in the present moment. I was comparing my happiness; I was forecasting unhappiness. And there was absolutely no reason to do this. The past was over so I shouldn’t let it worry me and I had no idea what the future would bring. Maybe, I would always be this happy. Or, even harder to believe, maybe I would even be happier. Who knows?!
- Avoid worry and doubt. It wasn’t easy to allow myself to just feel happy. I wanted to challenge the happiness and say to it, “I know you’re going to go away and, because of that, I have to ignore you while you’re around.” What I realized after having that thought was that it was completely ridiculous. What if I did that with Bella, my sweet, adorable dog? What if I decided I wasn’t going to spend time with her because I knew someday she was going to die? How ridiculous would that be? When I thought about it that way, I realized that I had to make a home for happiness. I had to push all of the worry and doubt from my mind and just feel it, even if there was a chance it would someday be gone. Because that’s what acceptance is. It’s all about feeling it and not letting your mind take over with it’s pesky little what-if notions.
- Share the feeling with others. Sometimes I struggle with being deliriously happy because I don’t think it’s fair. For whatever reason, I have it in my mind that there’s a limit on how much happiness there can be in the world and when I’m feeling super happy I feel like I’m hogging it all. Even though I know that happiness is infinite and that it’s not selfish or wrong to feel giddily happy, it still helps when you can share your happiness with others. It takes some of that Catholic-school-girl guilt away, I guess. So I’ve been trying to share my happiness – to be kind to others, to smile at strangers, and, most importantly, to tell people about it!
I’m sure there are some people out there reading this and thinking, “What’s the big deal? If you’re happy, just be happy.” I would love for it to be that simple. For me, happiness is hard work and, as I said at the beginning of the post, sometimes it’s downright scary.
Happiness, like everything in this world, is temporary, but that doesn’t mean I should run from it. After all, nothing lasts forever. That doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t enjoy it while I’m here, living this life.
Yesterday I was listening to a Dave Matthews Band song and these lyrics really stuck with me as I was trying sort out all of my happiness issues: “I’m saying open up/And let the rain come pouring in/Wash out this tired notion/That the best is yet to come/But while you’re dancing on the ground/Don’t think of when you’re gone.” These words have always served as a reminder for me to stay in the present and focus on life now, but they also really apply to my struggle to feel joy.
I’m here, dancing on the ground, and I have to allow myself to be happy. If it’s for a moment, if it’s for a day, if it’s for a lifetime, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that it’s real, it’s happening, and I’m finally, finally allowing myself to feel it.
What about you? Do you struggle with allowing joy and happiness in? I’d love to hear your tips for truly welcoming in these feelings. And I challenge you, the next time you feel that familiar pang of happiness, to smile (widely) and allow it to soak in without pushing it away. You’ll be amazed at how good it feels!
Photo by Nicklas Bajema