You Can’t Buy Happiness
“Oh yes you can!” You may be saying.
But no, the hard truth is that while things may make you temporarily feel joy, they often leave us feeling guilty, regretful and can clutter up our homes and lives.
It has been REALLY, really hard for me to fully grasp this concept, but I am getting there.
For years I searched for happiness. In our 19 years of marriage, I pushed us to move 4 times (to get a “better” house) and if we weren’t moving, I was pushing him to have another kid or interviewing for a “better” job. If you asked me if I was happy, I’d tell you yes with certainty. After all, I had the house, the 2 car garage and 2 ½ kids, and after 4 years of teaching at sub par charter schools and interviewing constantly, I finally landed a job at a public school in an amazing community.
After a few years in what I would call my “dream job,” I began to get the itch again and started looking at schools that were closer. I also considered a career change, even though I love my job working with small groups of students. I was not feeling fulfilled and was eagerly looking to see what would come next.
While in recovery I hit the external happiness ceiling. Meaning, we had bought our “forever” home, we were too old to have another baby and there were no other jobs for me to move onto. Even though it would be wildly irresponsible of us, I considered talking him into buying a large church up north and quitting our jobs. In my defense, it was an awesome building and home on like 5 acres and was dirt cheap.
While in recovery I learned all about “transfer addiction.” So when I quit drinking, I stuffed my face for a long time and gained a lot of weight. I also turned to things to consume like caffeine and sugar. It took me a couple years to realize this, but after a particularly stressful family party followed by a couple weeks of mindlessly stuffing my face, I realized how drinking, overeating and even shopping are merely a symptom.
The symptom consists of reaching for external stimuli to fill a void.
I am still trying to master this concept of reaching inside not outside to find peace. I have found that there are simple practices that can help with that empty feeling.
Daily rituals or routines
Self Care (warm baths, regular exercise, decent nutrition, etc)
Connecting to others
For me, meditation and exercise are the biggest things. I have something called “Monkey Mind” (a constantly wandering and indecisive mind) and both of these things help me tremendously from feeling restless and uneasy in my brain.
Here’s the thing: While I know that meditation and exercise are extremely important for my mental well-being, it’s way too easy to forget this. Many times, I’ve fallen into a funk and stopped my routine which inevitably leads me on a downhill spiral of eating or drinking too much, or spending too much money on things I don’t need. It is such a gradual slope though, you barely notice that you are falling apart until you are completely unraveled. At least, I’ve found this to be true for me time and time again.
The best part? Mediation, walks and baths don’t cost a thing!