If only I was taller…it’s being this short (5ft) that makes me unhappy, it’s embarrassing having to ask for things off high shelves in the supermarket, to have your feet swinging above the ground when sitting on a chair, like a toddler on a potty.
If only I was thinner…small bottom = direct correlation to happiness, surely?
If only I had a new carpet in the sitting room…I need a new carpet, this current scruffy rug is making me miserable.
If only I had a new laptop…this old one is outdated, I NEED a new one, I need a MacBook…a MacBook, that would make me happy…happier…
Absolute verbatim examples of the kind of crap that goes around my head. Talk about being a victim of your own self-created, non-existent-in-the-real-world misery! Reading back on these examples is not only embarrassing, it’s certifiably insane. Trying to find ‘happiness’ from ‘things’, we all know it doesn’t work. We get the prized ‘thing’, holding it above our heads like a scene from The Lion King, and within days (if not minutes), the momentary ecstasy has been usurped by the ‘need’ for the next ‘thing.’ It reminds me of when I was drinking, the initial first drink relieved the incessant internal dialogue of “should I, shouldn’t I” which, as soon as you had given in to that first one, was quickly superseded by anxiety over where the next one was coming from and was eventually replaced with “I wish I hadn’t”.
But being happy is surely the ultimate life goal? Don’t we put ourselves through the challenges of life in order to make ourselves happier? The tiny Kingdom of Bhutan, tucked away in the Himalyas between China and India, is known worldwide for its innovative Gross National Happiness Index, a measurement tool used to incentivise state policies that increase the well-being of its people. When I read this I wondered what such state policies could be? National access to MacBooks? Average heights for women above 5ft 5? A CarpetRight on every corner? Free access to beautiful carpets? In my research for happy nations I stumbled across Finland (not literally, you don’t stumble across a country – actually, on second thoughts, that’s not strictly true, as someone who has stumbled, drunk, around many a country), Finland was allegedly the happiest nation on earth.
I liked the sound of The Finns, who so pride themselves on their stoicism that they have a word for their national ‘grit’: “Sisu,” and who have been named the happiest people in the world for the third year in a row. So, what was their secret? The editor of the Happiness Report reckons that the Finns’ happiness stems from Trust. They trust each other, care about each other and that’s what fundamentally makes for a better life.
It reminded me of when I was at most recently at my happiest. Last year to be precise, for six months between April and October. I was fundamentally happier than I’ve been for a long time. The reason? I’d stopped drinking, completely. Not drinking per se didn’t make me happier, it was bloody hard, especially at first and there were lots of times of anxiety, upset, questioning of whether or not I needed to totally abstain, feeling uncomfortable in situations, tears, new addictions came to the fore…you name it, it happened. But one huge, unforeseen benefit was the ability to trust myself again.
When you have been caning the booze, for twenty-odd years, like I was, it is not without consequence. Alcohol destroys your natural confidence and that, coupled with endless failed attempts at packing it in, making a fool of yourself in public, hiding your problem, feeling like an idiot most of the time, erodes your self-belief and your self-worth. When I gave up last year, I learned to trust myself again, I was beyond happy that I could be relied upon for actually achieving something I set out to do.
Not drinking didn’t of its own volition make me happier. It took hard work and some very unhappy days, but I see it as a trade-off. A trade-off between anxiety, sleepless nights, self-doubt, self-deprecation and ultimately trading your life goals of happiness for momentary ‘fun’. Fun and happiness are not the same. Achieving something you set out do, enjoying the unforeseen benefits of abstinence: looking after yourself, having deeper, more authentic relationships and friendships, having trust in yourself and those around you, trusting your own decisions knowing they are made in the full light of a sober brain, these are the things that can make you happier.
My own sobriety story has not been an all-out success. But I’m taking a leaf out of the Finns’ book and will carry on with “Sisu”, never giving up in my attempt at giving up, for good. At the moment it is going well but I know that hard times will come again so as a kind of Bhutanese-Finn hybrid I build my own nation of happiness using my sobriety as the key definer of my own Happiness Index.