Happy is the Right Answer, Even a 4 Year Old Knows That.

I’m sitting on a sticky floor, making notes on my clipboard as I dream of bathing in Purell, observing circle time at a daycare. The teacher starts by asking every child how they are feeling today – and I think “yay”, put down my clipboard and forget about the germs surrounding me, so I can pay close attention to how this mini mental health moment will transpire.

The first few children say “happy” or “good” and that’s the end of their conversation. The next child says they are feeling sad, but instead of continuing on, the teacher asks them “Why, what’s wrong?”. After the child gave their reason for feeling as they do, the teacher went on to reassure them (also known in my mind as minimize and invalidate). It was as if they were giving these kids the impression that 1) Happy is the right answer, what you should be feeling and 2) If you are sad you should have a reason, and 3) If you are sad over something that isn’t a ‘big deal’, you shouldn’t be sad. This pattern continued as the teacher made her way around the circle.

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The other thing that gets to me about this is that the children who were sharing that they were happy, there was no questioning why, they weren’t even interested. It gave the impression that if you give the right answer, or if you are genuinely happy we don’t care why, the reasons aren’t important. Almost as if “Happy” should be our default state, the ideal level we all hang out on without having to do anything to get there.

This furthers the belief that there’s no effort in happiness. As if it will just happen to you. All these people are just magically happy, it’s normal. Why aren’t you happy? Why aren’t you normal? What’s wrong with you?

This approach to feelings not only reinforces that you’re broken if you’re not happy – you’re also helpless. If your sadness means you’re broken, there’s no way you can do anything about being healthy or happy. There’s just something wrong with you. This mindset that if we weren’t broken we’d have this passive happiness state makes it really difficult (or impossible) to get better. You need to understand that you are not powerless in order to make the efforts that will in turn make you feel better.

I know this circle time at daycare is a mere replica of conversations everywhere. We get so caught up in the idea that “I’m good” is the right answer, that ‘happy’ is what we should feel, and that ‘happiness’ is this passive state we don’t have to work for.

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Now, I realize I may be a bit bias on this subject. Getting the message that happy is the norm, the “right” answer, and learning to cover up all “negative” emotions caused, and continues to cause, me a lot of pain and stress in my life. In order to heal it has been something I have had to unlearn, and that makes me passionate about others not being taught the same lessons.

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When it has come to healing I have found it very important to realize the role we can play in happiness. That happiness is not just going to happen, that it is an active state. We can’t just wait to be happy, we have to do things that will make us feel better.

I would have loved the teacher to ask every child equally why they feel the way they do. Set up opportunities to reflect on what does make us happy. I think this is an opportunity so often missed in our society. If someone asks “How are you?” and you respond with “Good” -there are no follow up questions. A fellow life coach in my course shared that he has begun asking people WHY when they say things are going well. I LOVE THIS IDEA!

How are things? Good. How come?

This idea reminds me of the positive psychiatry movement. They aren’t just focusing on what’s wrong, they are interested in what’s right.

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Knowing what makes us feel good is a huge part of being well. Being healthy and happy requires awareness and ongoing effort. Just like keeping up with our physical health, we also need a mental health diet. Read more about that here.

I invite you to join me on my quest of sending the message that unhappy doesn’t equal broken, that happiness isn’t a passive default state, and that all emotions are the right answer.

 

Don’t Call it a Dream

Call it a plan.

don't call

I’ve been in a transition phase for a few years now, yet even more so within this last year. Going to earthdance last summer was eye-opening and it sparked something in me that I’m proud to say has not fizzled. In this post I’ve included a collection of journal entries from the past year, outlining the process I’ve been going through in moving closer to my dreams.

From listening when things felt off (instead of dismissing) to actively turning my dreams into plans. Within the last month I’ve made the decision to take a leave from work starting this fall, launch two businesses this summer, and completed my Life Coaching certification (which also entailed a solo trip to Ontario).

Since making the decision to really go for it things have been a roller coaster. I continue to go back and forth between feeling optimistic and excited, to having huge rushes of “What the fuck have I done!”. However, underlying this emotional ride from hell, has been the realization that I am truly more afraid of not trying than I am of failing. I know I need to do this.

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August 25th, 2015

I’m trying to settle this unease with daydreaming of a different life – like I do at these times. And it’s always the same. More nature, less stuff, simpler existence, more time for passions, more freedom. Freedom.

That is what I crave. Especially the shock from going from earthdance back to work- it feels like I got a taste of freedom and now I’ve been shoved back in my cage. I miss the freedom. I yearn for it. I know society thinks we should all live in cages dutifully, but I want out. I need to find a way to make this dream a reality…because going to bed dreading the next day is not an okay way to live for me. I want more.

I think it’s feeling restricted to a time frame too – I have to work for x amount of time, every day M-F, forever. It doesn’t matter if I get my work done in less time, I’m only supposed to take a couple 15 minutes to myself a day. I want to live more than that. I want to have more time for me, less restrictions.

August 26th, 2015

Breathe. Just breathe.

I’m feeling so sad with this caged feeling. I know it’s amplified because I was so free and then woke up suddenly to find myself back behind bars. I know this feeling will subside and this will feel normal again, but that too makes me sad.

It’s sad to think that I’ll lose this ambition for more, I’ll forget that liberated bliss, and this caged life will feel right. I don’t want that. How depressing.

I don’t want to feel restless or caged – but even more so I don’t want those feelings to become so normal it feels fine. Everything is fine. Everything is not fine.

Breathe. Cry. I know things aren’t bad per se, but they feel uncomfortable. I feel like I discovered things I need, and I’m so depressingly aware that I’m not meeting them. Ignorance is bliss. Then again, if I can address this and be fed by it, bliss would seem like an understatement.

I just can’t figure out how to do it. So for now I breathe. Just breathe.

goforgreat

August 27, 2015

I’m feeling quite depressed and exasperated. I’m not sure if I should keep looking for ways out, or work on being happy in this reality. Is it even reasonable to think I could make a change that would allow what I really want? What about being grateful??

No, I need something different. I need to listen to myself.

I don’t know how to make life better….yet.

I don’t know how to live off of less….yet.

I don’t know how to make what I want a reality….yet.

Yet yet yet yet yet.

October 3, 2015

Going after what I want. Asking for change at work and chasing opportunities for something different. I still have to wait to hear if I will be accepted into the life coaching program – but I’m proud today simply for getting this far. Putting myself out there and risking failure – because it’s worth it.

I will keep striving for what I want, keep moving forward. Even getting this far makes my dream feel more achievable. The impossible possible? Could it really be?

It sparked something in me- now I’m also looking into what else I may love that would go along with this current dream. Meditation? Yoga? Bringing social art, ‘live your life’ type things to your city? What’s stopping me?

That feeling of possibility, feeling empowered – I’ve missed that lately. Even though I still feel sick and not myself – and still having difficulty doing all the strong healthy things I need to be well – today I feel less hopeless and that is refreshing.

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October 5, 2015

I got in! I’m so excited at this possibility. Hope. Being brave enough to go for it – even if it seems impossible.

I’m proud of myself for taking this step towards my dream – making changes that will give me more fulfillment. Fill those needs that I’ve come to discover. Wow. I’m really going to do this.

It’s like the excitement I felt about my solo adventure to earthdance. Good things come when I feel like this. Like the cover of this book says, “This is the beginning of anything you want”….turns out I’ve been listening.

It feels so empowering to go after what I want. It’s times like right now – this feeling – that shows me I haven’t lost that person who I found at earthdance. I’m fighting for her.

santa

May 15, 2016

I’ve been so productive lately..admittedly very focused on the future and not pausing in the present as much as I should be. It’s been pretty awesome though, making progress- real progress, on some of my major goals. I’m getting ideas off the ground. I’m creating the lifestyle I want so badly. And it makes me happy and proud.

I feel powerful and full of possibility. Not all the time of course, doubt rushes in and can be very influenced by naysayers and realistic minds who want me to play it safe. I detest it though. Feeling a bit like a toddler who’s been told she can’t have a real baby to play with or build a snowman in the summer – I want to throw a tantrum at their logical reserved mindset and scream “BUT I WANNA!” at the top of my lungs.

Maybe my goals are unrealistic or far fetched. Maybe it will take me years to get there..but I refuse to wait… so where does that leave me?

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May 20, 2016

Acting as if I matter. Just going for it like I am who I want to be. I might fall, I might fail. I might lose it all. But isn’t it worth the risk of getting everything I want?

A lifestyle where I can have more leisure time than work time – and that work is something I’m passionate about doing and I have purpose, mastery, ownership, all that awesome stuff in it. That I could start my days slowly, peacefully, with meditation and nature and yoga. Sip my coffee and read books. Write. Write my heart out. A life where I can feel centered and enjoy my passions. A life where I am making meaningful connections and helping people in a meaningful way. Having the flexibility to help my family. And at the same time taking care of myself and embodying what I truly think life should be about.

Living out my values, everyday.

Believing in yourself. Going for your dreams. Not judging your needs or wants, accepting and embracing them – and meeting them.

Love yourself shamelessly and unapologetically.

Living now. Living fiercely. Being the dragon.

Do the impossible. You don’t have to wait for permission. What’s impossible?

freedom

May 28, 2016

Feeling overwhelmed. Bouncing between ecstatic and confident to panicked and doubtful. Am I am idiot for taking this chance? With no real plan, no secure back up plans, what if I end up having to work my ass off and have no time for me and still can’t pay my bills?

Who am I to think I can do this??

It’s almost thrilling in a way. I stop and think of what I’m doing; how it really must be too good to be true, and panic hits me. Am I toying with my life? What if I put us in debt?

I have to stop thinking so much about this part and focus on how to succeed. I’m either feeling optimistic or hopeless, but mostly still insanely happy about it.

miracles

May 29, 2016

This is just the beginning. Of course I don’t have it all figured out yet. I will learn and get better and gain confidence the more I do it.

June 1, 2016

Proud of myself tonight. I did my speech, without really preparing, with lots of anxious feelings. I did it. And I actually think I killed it. I was authentic, vulnerable, strong, me. I really felt like me. Some laughs, lots of depth, passion, authenticity. Makes me feel whole and powerful.

I’m really excited at the possibility of succeeding. I guess I have no reason to think I will, but I just feel good about it. Is it too good to be true? I can hardly imagine it as true..

My hopes and expectations are high. Maybe too high. Will I fall on my face? Will I fly?

June 4, 2016

I’m almost at the end of this journal and the title is speaking more and more truth as I finish it. This truly marked the beginning of anything I wanted. I feel proud and content as I think about where I am and how I started this book. That girl would be so proud of me right now. Chasing your ideal lifestyle. Going after your dreams.

I can still feel the fear she felt as she worried that I would become complacent and ignore those feelings of unease…but I didn’t. I kept feeling motivated, and uncomfortable enough, to push on.

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June 7, 2016

Leaving on a jet plane.

Preparing for take off. Taking off after my dreams. It’s an adventure. I’m wearing my “You Got This” shirt -it’s become a tradition for me to wear this during brave adventures. I have a great book, my laptop, and a new journal with the words “This is Your Year to Sparkle” lining the cover.

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Heading to Toronto; this time not to hang off the CN Tower, but instead take my bravery to new heights by finishing my life coaching course. Going after my dreams, on my own, in a way I’ve never done before.

I’m not done my presentation. I haven’t written a blog post. I haven’t started reading my book. And I’m still here. Still excited. Am I nuts?

heregoes

June 12, 2016

On the flight back to Halifax. Feeling like my dreams are possible. Excited as fuck about making them come true. So proud of myself. For doing this course, for travelling solo, for going after my dreams and goals so fiercely. I’ve never felt more like a dragon. Wings spread out proudly. 

I feel centered where I am and with where I’m going. It feels right. Truly a life I’m excited to live. 

I can’t even believe where I am honestly. Who is this person? Certainly on a journey that involves finding that out. Who I thought I was, what I thought were my limitations, were so wrong.

Lately I’ve been challenging my default “I can’t do that” reactions and have come through time and time again. I have so many beliefs and assumptions about myself, and lately I’ve been crushing them. It leaves me wondering where my limits actually are. The truth? I have no fucking clue what I’m capable of. 

unstoppable