“Behaving habitually takes no effort at all – no conscious awareness means no free will need be exerted.” -Dr. Joe Dispenza, D.C.
I have spent the majority of my life on auto-pilot. I have been blessed with supportive parents, a fantastic group of friends, intelligence, (debatably) a good sense of humor, and good looks (perhaps other than my complete lack of cleavage). I have only been yelled at once in my entire life and I am the epitome of the girl Brooks and Dunn refer to when they sing, “She got an A in math and never cracked the book”. Even with a wonderful setup for life, I have dealt with bouts of unjustified unhappiness my entire life. While I consider myself incredibly lucky in terms of the sum of my past experiences, I still find myself battling anxiety, self-doubt, and fear when I step back and start to think about what my purpose in life is.
And so based on the facts, I was forced to realize that I am doing something wrong. Herein lies the problem: I did not realize that I am responsible for my own happiness until last year. I know that most people will read that and think that I sound like an insane person. It took me until 22 years old to realize that I am responsible for myself (I would like to pin this on “only child syndrome”, but that wouldn’t be fair to my parents). Regardless of the source, it is how my life panned out and cost me multiple relationships and countless moments of sadness. While I believe it’s probably not very common for someone to develop without any source of inner fulfillment, I think that many of us do not realize how much power we truly have to choose joy for ourselves.
I am starting this blog because I do not want anyone to ever have to feel how I have felt on my worst days. I want to provide helpful hints and tips to empower anyone who wants to feel happier on a daily basis. I’m going back to graduate school to get my PhD in Law & Economics and I firmly believe in maximizing utility*. I know that there are plenty of other people out there who, like me, have the resources at their fingertips to live a happy life, but do not understand how to break free from their emotional addictions and become the best versions of themselves. Society will benefit if even one person begins to alter his or her day-to-day mindset and habits in favor of compassion and bliss, so I hope I can provide support to others as I make that transition myself.
Gratitude as a Basis for Joy
I want to start off by encouraging a simple, easy change that I have implemented into my nightly routine. My parents gave me a gratitude journal for my birthday a few years ago, but I didn’t start using it regularly until I went through a breakup about a year and a half ago. I made it a practice to write down 5 things that I was grateful for every night. I found that it was a good crutch during a hard time; I was able to shift my nightly thoughts towards everything that I had enjoyed during each day.
However, even more importantly, I’ve realized that the value it added to my life was not the band-aid it provided when life was difficult. It added significantly more value in the way that it subtly shifted my mindset. I find myself thinking more logically anytime something bad happens to me. When something doesn’t go my way, I can more easily recognize that it is not a big deal and that there are so many beautiful things in the world to focus my energy on instead of dwelling in negativity. Before I started this practice, I intellectually understood that having the mindset I have come to adopt would be a healthier, happier way to live. I wanted it for myself but I couldn’t figure out how to get there. The reason the gratitude journal is so effective is that it is easy and routine. It takes 5 minutes and the only challenge it presents is that sometimes I have to get out of bed to find a pen. It has taught me that if you want to change your life, you have to start by making simple changes in your habits. You can build from there, but you have to start small.
So looking back at this weekend, I am grateful for:
1. Saturday morning pub crawls
2. Afternoon front yard naps (complete with no alarm) –
3. The Atlanta Braves
4. Having the courage to start a blog
5. A great Sunday night dinner with my parents
There have been difficult days when I did not have anything I felt like writing down other than “being alive”. The important part isn’t the things on the list, it’s the mindset with which you embrace them.
Here is a link to the one I use – I hope someone finds it helpful!
*In economics, the concept of maximizing value while minimizing inputs (getting the “most bang for your buck”)