So this wasn’t the blog I intended to write this week but sometimes something just grabs you by the hair and drags you off course. In a good way. Today, I’m going to blog about a kids film, called Trolls. But really this is a blog about the search for ‘happiness’. So bear with me.
So no, I haven’t lost the plot, but having a six year old daughter means much of my life revolves around stuff she likes. Generally that means anything brightly coloured, preferably glittery, fun and full of singing and dancing. Actually, I love it because it helps me embrace my inner six year old that still loves these things too.
So yesterday afternoon I snuggled up on the sofa with my girl and finally watched her favourite film with her. The Trolls movie is an explosion of rainbow colours, glitterbombs, electric energy, joy, singing and dancing – all helped along with a good dose of ‘hip’ in the form of Justin Timberlake. Seriously, watch it and try not to smile, it’s impossible. You can’t help but feel good. But it’s way more than that.
It’s a story about seeking happiness, only to discover that it isn’t something that can be ‘found’. It isn’t an external ‘thing’ – it’s something that’s right there, within us all. We just have to understand how to let it out. And that knowing it’s there inside us, however deep down, that we can stop the search, is the first step. Isn’t that kind of comforting to know? That we don’t need to chase happiness, it isn’t a goal to be pursued and found. After all, life can throw some crap at everyone – happiness isn’t about always smiling and being cheerful and not allowing yourself to feel other normal, less pleasant emotions like sadness, anger or disappointment. It’s about being true to yourself, doing more of what you love, but mostly it’s about knowing you have a choice about how to react when life isn’t all roses. Do you dwell on the bad or look for the good? Do you wait for the storm to pass or do you get out there and dance in the rain?
I’m not suggesting it’s as easy as it appears in the movies, it can take time and a lot of work, but that doesn’t make it any less true. I’ve learnt over the last few months to really look inside myself, ask myself tough questions about who I am and what makes me happy. What do I really love doing? What makes me smile? What are my passions? Am I living them out? The answers for me usually come down to two simple things – having fun times with people I love, and being in nature. All mixed up of course with a good dose of music and glitter! What it is will be different for us all, but unless you take the time to honestly answer these questions, you might miss out on what happiness really is for you. I believe it’s about really understanding – and accepting – who you are. Being authentically you, whatever anyone else thinks.
I personally think happiness is also about slowing down to take notice of those little moments that can bring huge joy instead of being busy just being ‘busy’ or chasing the extraordinary, the big ‘bucket list’ adventures (which, the way, do also have their place, I love making the most of the amazing experiences the world offers, but you can miss out on the everyday joys if you focus too much on chasing the exhilarating).
When I was stuck in bed for weeks, too tired even to read or watch TV (even if I felt up to it I’d soon find my over-sensitive nervous system go into overdrive from the stimulation, which would bring on anxiety symptoms) I spent a lot of time just looking out of the window. Luckily it was a beautiful Autumn, filled with sunny days. I started to notice and appreciate the little things – the fluffy white cotton-wool ribbon trailing behind the airplane as it cut smoothly through the blue sky. The happy chirrup of birdsong, the rustle of the breeze in the trees and the feeling of the air on my face through the open windows.
I noticed how much these little, inauspicious moments calmed me and what joy I found in them. It’s funny how sometimes it’s only when we’re physically forced to strip away all the other distractions in life, that we can realise the tiny moments of beauty that we’ve been too busy to see.
So what does all this have to do with anxiety? Well I think us anxious types tend not to be very good at looking after ourselves. We tend not to put our own needs first – if we even know what those needs are in the first place. We also tend to spend a lot of time in our own heads instead of looking out and seeing those magical moments that are taking place all around us. And in truth, anxiety can easily make you pretty miserable, because it really can be pretty hideous. But believing you have the ability inside you to be happy, and making time for the things that you know you love doing, can really help.
Oh and going back to Trolls – it’s also a great reminder of what it is to look at life through the eyes of a six year old. My daughter doesn’t have a care in the world and sees joy in tiny things – long may it last.
“Find your happy place” Trolls Movie