I often wonder where the term “finding happiness” comes from. I suppose, were I to do enough Googling, I would find my answer. As for my life, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to “find” happiness, convinced it was behind this corner or within that person or perhaps covered up by old memories.
What I have found, quite recently, is that happiness is not mine (or anyone’s) to find. Happiness is a thing that must be made, produced, created. Happiness is a thing that you might have spent a lot of time looking for, but which was there all along, a byproduct of the doings of your life.
Through making a WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan) with the assistance of my peer mentor, I uncovered and wrote down long lists of things and circumstances and people and ideas that cause me joy. By hanging onto those things, and working from the list every day (as in, actually completing and working on activities and subjects within the WRAP), I have managed to increase not only my feelings of happiness and contentment, but also have greatly improved my distress tolerance skills. A few examples of items on my WRAP include making jewelry, a conversation with a special friend, to more concrete matters, such as getting at least eight hours of sleep and avoiding any sort of caffeine after 11:00 a.m. Through the WRAP, I uncovered the circumstances that cause me to be most happy, most joyful. They weren’t activities or people or things that I had to search for, but rather are more like daily practices that tend to give me positive stability.
I know there are people who might think I am premature in determining that I am having any sort of STABILITY in my life, but I must disagree. The contents of life, at this moment, are quite topsy turvy, and I am handling them with relatively little drama, tears, complaints, or tantrums.
I am learning to take things as they come, and continue to work on sitting with uncomfortable emotions until another emotion can come through. I have hope in my life, like I have never had before. I know, for certain, that this can be attributed almost solely to learning how to turn my mind away from the negative and face forward toward people and situations and circumstances and activities that bring me joy. The longer one can sit with a feeling of joy, the greater, and longer lasting, the feelings of contentment and happiness will be.
I have much to be grateful for, and have come a long way lately on being more appreciative and thankful in my day-to-day life. I must say, (and really can’t say enough) happiness takes practice and work, just as it takes practice and work to STAY miserable. Sure, it is easier to bring oneself down with negativity and maladaptive behaviors and resistance to change and willfulness, and obviously so much more difficult to turn away from the train-wrecks-in-life, but it can be done.
DBT helps me turn my attention and stay in the moment and surf my emotions, and I am thoroughly grateful I have it in my life. Were I not practicing mindfulness and gratitude and using my skills and being effective, I would definitely be having a difficult time right now, with all of the drama swirling around my life. Fortunately for me (and for LarBear and any other close friends and family), I have been able to really focus on DBT and really focus on doing what is most effective, or what works best to keep myself on both feet.
Letting things go, letting really anything go that is disturbing my peace…that is what DBT has taught, and teaches me over and over, every day. It must be a conscious practice, to let things go, and it is incredibly difficult to describe to a suffering person HOW exactly to do it. Maybe starting with the statement that it *is* quite possible, is a good first step.