I've survived a lot: a tragic house fire, multiple severe car accidents, abuse as a child, multiple suicide attempts, my biological mother abandoned me, etc. I have a learning disability and other mental illnesses, as well as a very rare, incurable bone disease.
Given all I've been through, you'd think I'd be miserable. Quite the opposite, however — I'm so grateful and happy I spent so much time in emotional, physical, and psychological pain, that I staunchly refuse to be unhappy anymore.
My keys to happiness are simple:
1. Focus on the positives
t's incredibly easy to get bogged down in negativity. News outlets are constantly reporting only the worst things going on in our world, and many of us are easily given over to anxiety and worry. As the old saying goes, "A negative mind will never give you a positive life!"
I used to be a total Negative Nancy. I was a complainer, a whiner, and I only saw the negatives in every situation. Making the change to positivity was something I consciously had to work for. I had to literally catch myself thinking negative thoughts and force myself to think positive ones instead; to see the silver lining in every situation. Eventually, this became habit, and I genuinely trained myself to be a more positive person, which has made me so much happier.
2. Don't be afraid to stand up and advocate for yourself and your own interests
In our society, we're taught to put others first; that it's the polite and right thing to do. You can be kind and compassionate without being a doormat, which is something a lot of people need to realize. Stand up for yourself! Advocate for yourself like it's your job to, because it is. Don't wait for someone else to come along and give you what you need or put you where you need to be; do it yourself, and you're sure to get what you need.
3. Love yourself and take your happiness seriously
When you see your own value, loving yourself comes easily. Value yourself! Realize that you're a wondrous, magical bit of stardust with infinite potential and a fierce roar inside you that the world is waiting to hear. The goal here is to live a happy and productive life, and you deserve happiness. Especially if you've been through tragedy and heartache like I have. Now's your time! Take charge of your own life and advocate for your own happiness.
4. Be bold in the pursuit of whatever gives you joy
Do what makes you happy. Get what you want and don't apologize for it, because it's your right. It could be something as simple as making time every morning to stop for a delicious cup of fancy coffee. Or following an offbeat career path that you feel called to. Or adopting a companion animal. Whatever makes you happy is what you should pursue with ferocity and passion, because you deserve happiness.
5. Don't waste time with negative people or in negative, unproductive situations
I've had to cut so many people — friends and family alike — out of my life because they weren't good for me. They were manipulative, negative, toxic relationships that I had to realize weren't serving me positively the way that they should. When talking about it with them failed, I had to make the decision to cut the cord.
It was difficult without them at first — I'd wondered if I'd done the right thing, I missed them. But, in the end, I'm so much happier and healthier now. Relationships evolve and change naturally; don't be afraid to let go of ones that are no longer serving you the way they should.
6. Don't bully your body
Getting into the Body Positive Movement has helped to heal my old wounds so much! It's made me learn to love myself and my body unconditionally, no matter what it looks like. I used to be too ashamed of my body to enjoy sex, go to the gym, or wear the trends I wanted to. Then I realized that I was my biggest bully. I would look in the mirror and nit-pick my body, focusing on what I'd considered "problem areas." I'd beat myself up mentally, and call myself all kinds of names. Once I trained myself through positive thinking to stop bullying my body, and start loving and appreciating it, the sun came out and I started living my life. It was the single greatest thing I've ever done for myself.
7. Be compassionate and give back to your community
This is point absolutely crucial. While you're advocating for your own happiness unapologetically, it's important to stay grounded and recognize your role in your community. You have passions; pursue them in a way that benefits others, otherwise you could easily become a selfish, self-centered prick.
For example, helping animals keeps me grounded and makes me feel good. Just knowing that through my efforts of volunteering, adopting, and training that I changed even one animal's life is such a rewarding feeling, that really fills me up and makes me feel good about myself. Take whatever cause you're passionate about and run with it until you get that feeling, too!
8. Take care of your mental health
Positivity starts with mental health. If you have trauma in your past, it's so important to seek help and go to therapy. Remember, there's no shame in seeking help! Don't listen to anyone else's noise on the subject. And you're not weak or giving in for taking medication to help yourself become a better, happier person. Be brave and do what you need to do for you!
9. Look back every once in a while on how far you're come and be proud of yourself
It's important not to live in the past, but it can be healthy to look back every once in a while and take stock of just how far you've come. Celebrate your accomplishments, you earned it!
Remember, happiness isn't determined by what's happened to you; it's about how you choose to deal with it all. You're smart, you're strong, you have a voice and you matter. Don't waste another moment being unhappy. You deserve happiness and the world is waiting to hear you roar.