OMG, I Just Fixed Your Life! You’re Welcome!

You want to be happy? Stop reading articles about how to be happy.

I’ve been a complete sucker for online articles that claim to have the secret formula to happiness, self fulfillment and peace. I’m the first one to scoff at them, but I’m also the first one to hungrily click on the links, hoping for a quick fix.

Bloggers approach it as a one-size-fits all prescription. “Do this, and you’ll be successful.” They often present it as if it were a fact instead of mere advice.

It’s false.

What is a fact is that life is really stinkin’ hard. Obstacles jump out of nowhere like waves and knock us on our unsuspecting butts, so being happy each day takes more than following a canned, cheap recipe posted online.

What works for me could make you miserable because I suspect our brains are probably very different. Let’s hope, for your sake anyway. In fact, happiness is such a subjective state that it’s impossible to prescribe everyone the same routine and expect the same outcome.

I’ve read that waking up early, journaling, taking a cold shower, eating 30 grams of protein (does anyone eat that much protein in one day?) and meditating for 45 minutes is the golden key to happiness.

Sure, yes, I could see how someone could find that routine to be comforting and a nice rhythm to start their day. They clearly don’t have kids or laundry piling up anywhere in their house.

But we’re all sewn differently. I don’t want a cold shower, no matter how good it might be for me. I want a scalding shower that leaves red marks on my back. That’s my happiness.

The only journaling I want to do when I wake up are quick love notes in my kids’ lunches that I throw together while listening to BBC radio. When I listen to it, it transports me back to when my kids were babies. I woke up to nurse them all hours of the night and would rely on the BBC to keep my sanity, the British accents reminding me people around the world were awake too, and I wasn’t alone.

My meditation is running with my dogs and looking up at the early morning stars, basking in the enormity of the mystery as I curse at my dogs for pulling at me while I’m trying to pick up their poo with a bag that has a hole in it.

I don’t want 30 grams of protein in the morning. I want to drink strong, black coffee on an empty stomach and then get the jitters while I’m working out and my rooster of a son sleepily walks into the room and says, “Let’s snuggle.”

Waking up early for me is something I’ve come to rely on not to guarantee a great day, but as a good tool to not have as crappy of a day.

I wake up at 4 most mornings to make sure I have the time to let myself unfold and sit in silence before I dig in to exercise, dog walking and getting myself and 2 kids out the door in time. If I wake up at 4, I’m less likely to lose my temper, yelling at them to “put a fire in your belly!”

It doesn’t magically guarantee it won’t happen.

But you know what? Sometimes the alarm goes off, and I get up and lie on the couch “just for a minute” and a minute ends up being 2 more hours. And my happiness for that day is finding peaceful sleep and stepping outside of my usual routine.

A hard and fast routine is nice to keep us on track, and I get that being persistent and driven is the way to happiness for most folks, but maybe happiness doesn’t come only from staying committed to these routines we set for ourselves out of habit or ritual. Maybe happiness comes when we can make peace with the flaws of life and completely breathing in the imperfections.

Life is not about these sweeping generalizations like “wake up early and you’ll be happier”. Happiness comes in small steps like being able to walk past a sink full of dishes to have an 80s dance party with your kids.

It’s about remembering who you are and the goals you’ve set for you instead of constantly pushing them aside for others while simultaneously remembering life is too short to be so focused on success that you miss the beauty in front of you.

So what do you need to be happy? Think about it, and go get it. Don’t analyze yourself or compare your journey to others. That’s a definite recipe for unhappiness.

I’ll be eating a pound of bacon while shivering in the shower as I meditate for an hour as you think about it.

About Rebecca Rine

Rebecca Rine is a nonfiction writer living in Dayton, Ohio, transplanted from Chicago. She contributes to the Dayton Daily News as well as public radio. Her first book of essays is called "Sunbathing in a Body Cast" and is currently working on a book about surviving divorce called "Face Your Divorce Poo." Yay!

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