Finding Happiness From Within #31daymarch

Today’s 31 Day Blog Challenge asks “What Makes You Happy?” I thought about this long and hard, and the obvious answers are: my son, my boyfriend, and my family. Then I remembered something someone wise once told me (honestly, I can’t remember who told me, it could have been in a movie for all I know, but I remembered the advice!): you shouldn’t depend on others for your happiness because it puts a lot of pressure on the other person. I don’t want anyone, especially my son, to ever feel like he has to act a certain way to keep me happy. Happiness needs to come from within. Once you’re happy overall, it’s easy to find happiness in all the great little things in the world.

I wasn’t a happy teenager. I had major issues with depression that lasted well into my early adulthood. Just when I thought I had that under control, I began my struggle with infertility and that caused all sorts of depression on a whole new level. I admit that I’ve also never been terribly happy with myself. I have horrible self-esteem and get down on myself quite a bit. I berate my own writing talent, my appearance, even my intelligence (and I’m pretty sure I’m a relatively smart person). I also compare my site to others and think “wow, I suck compared to them!” Basically, I’m not very nice to myself.

While I was working on Bullying Awareness Month articles for Our Family World (a wonderful family site that I am honored to work with), I had the pleasure of helping out with an interview with pop-star Spencer Kane. In that article, Kane, who is well-known for his stance against bullying, tells readers to stop bullying themselves, because it’s just as bad as bullying or being bullied by someone else. This young man is wiser at 16 than I am at 30-something!

Finally, after well over 30 years (but not quite 40 yet!) of existence, I am realizing that true happiness has to come from within. It can’t depend on other people. It can’t depend on money, even when you’re so broke you have to choose which bills to pay. It can’t depend on material objects, even my beloved collection of books or Alice in Wonderland memorabilia. True happiness is a state of being. It’s knowing that you’re completely broke, yet still being happy because you’re alive to spend another day trying to get ahead. It’s knowing that you could lose everyone you loved at any time, but feeling happy because you have time with them now.

I’ve found that being happy relies a lot on living in the present. I have anxiety disorder too, and I spend a lot of time either analyzing something from the past and wondering how I could have done it differently, or worrying about the future. I find that I’m happiest when I just take time to live in the here and now. Today, right this minute, as I write this, I am happy with myself. I may not be happy with my appearance, I may still feel like my writing skills could always use improvement, but I’m happy to be sitting with a roof over my head, a cup of hot coffee on my desk, and my 11-year-old dog sitting next to me as I write. This moment is good. Who knows what the next moment will bring, but just for now, I’m going to be happy in this one.

Your turn! Tell me what makes you happiest, or how you deal with those moments when you’re just not feeling very positive about life.

About Nicole Etolen

25 Responses to “Finding Happiness From Within #31daymarch”

Read below or add a comment...

  1. Bob Brotchie says:

    A wonderful expression of mindfulness personified, well done you for not only finding your present self and awareness but for sharing so eloquently.
    By the way, my writing and communications can always be improved but its ok to be much less than perfect; that’s the natural state! Would you find a perfectly laid of forest of trees more attractive than the natural state of trees with all their quirks, diseases, broken branches, as well as the healthier specimens? It’s these imperfections that create the beauty within us.
    From a perspective of self-esteem, I found mine when I stopped looking outside of myself for approvals.
    I hope this helps, you are definitely on the path to inner peace IMHO.

    • Nicole Etolen says:

      I love what you said about the natural state of trees being more beautiful than a perfectly laid forest. That’s such a beautiful way to put it! Yes, that definitely helps!

  2. I had a really crappy childhood and I couldn’t wait until I turned 18 so I could get away. ONce I did I put a lot of pressure on my husband I thought I would move out and right away have my happy ever after. It wasn’t until a few years that I realized I had to be happy my husband couldn’t make me happy I had to actually be happy… ( HOpe that makes sense)
    So I did I started to enjoy little things
    I agree with what you said 100%
    “”I’ve found that being happy relies a lot on living in the present””
    Once I left go of my past and started to live now my present I was happy I stared to enjoy things more :)

    • Nicole Etolen says:

      That makes total sense! I think we’re all looking for our happy ever after, and expect it to be like the fairy tales, especially if your childhood reads like the beginning of most of those stories.

  3. Mariah says:

    Being thankful for what I have now seems to make me the happiest. It’s definitely about choosing to be happy.

  4. Paula -Growing Up Bilingual says:

    Loved, loved, loved your post. You are a wonderful writer and your blog rocks. Your advice is wonderful, we need to be happy with ourselves and love ourselves every day. My mom has struggled with depression all her life and I know how hard that is, I am happy to see you doing all the wonderful things you do: writing and sharing with others, networking , raising your family and in a loving relationship. Love yourself every day, strive to learn and improve and live every moment to the fullest! :)

    • Nicole Etolen says:

      Thank you so much for your kind words, Paula! They really made my day brighter! I feel for your mom, it’s not easy to deal with. I hope she can find a state of being that leads her to happiness.

  5. Pam says:

    Great post! You are a gifted writer.

    I don’t know, I have always had a pretty low key personality with no real highs or lows and have never experienced depression. I think a lot of that has to do with your chemical makeup and some with your childhood. I do find as I grow up and grow older, I have a much easier time dealing with disappointments. Things don’t bother me as much. I guess that is one positive thing about aging. 😉

    I am just enjoying life and I don’t need “stuff” anymore to make me enjoy life. Just the little things like going to lunch with my husband and my adults sons makes me happy.

    • Nicole Etolen says:

      I’m hoping to have that same great perspective as I get older! It is getting easier to let things slide, I’ve noticed that.

  6. Alexandra says:

    Hey Nicole, you are an incredible writer and after a rough start to this day, your article is a beautiful reminder to stay positive! I recently watched a really inspiring interview with Alice, a pianist and 109 year-old Holocaust survivor who’s best advice is to stay optimistic. That is something her mother always taught her, and what kept her going in the camps where she and her young song were kept. Of course, they both eventually made it out. To this day Alice holds no grudges against the Nazis and believes the experience was actually a gift in some ways. That’s her other piece of advice: to see everything as a gift, even the bad. At around age 84 Alice was diagnosed with cancer, and she believes it was in part due to her optimism that has helped keep her alive, healthy and strong 25 years later. People visit her from all around the world to hear her stories, and she still practices her piano three hours every single day.

    • Nicole Etolen says:

      Wow, that sounds like an amazing interview to watch! I have to remind myself often, so many out there have gone through far worse than I ever have, and if they can maintain a positive attitude, so can I. I would love to be 109 and say “everything I’ve experienced has been a gift in some way.”

  7. wow what a great challenge for you. I know this will be both difficult and rewarding.

  8. This is a great post! I have anxiety disorder too and find a lot of thoughts worrying about the tomorrows. What I have found is that I have to live in the moment and be happy with the moment and stop letting the tomorrows effect my todays.

    • Nicole Etolen says:

      Isn’t anxiety disorder just so much fun? I’ve gotten really good at forcing myself into a “happy place” every night. I imagine my dream home or something relaxing, otherwise I stay up late worrying about stuff. The sad thing is, of all the major things I have to worry about, my brain picks the most mundane stuff sometimes!

  9. Melissa C says:

    Amazing Article!! Truly enjoyed reading this and you are absolutely right, you have to find happiness from within. I tell my children all the time, you can’t make anyone else happy unless you are truly happy, and your truly happy comes from within yourself.

  10. mel says:

    Great post! I so agree- you have to find happiness within yourself! It took me awhile to come to this conclusion though! Beautiful writing!

  11. Stacey Cockrell says:

    Love this post :)

  12. Being productive makes me feel happiest. I like knowing that I accomplished something. Good luck in your endeavor!

    • Nicole Etolen says:

      I’m a big fan of checklists. Give me a list to cross things off of, and I’ll happily work my way through it. The feeling of checking things off systematically is really relaxing!

  13. Jen says:

    That is a fantastic quote. I am the same way. It’s hard when we run with the group of power bloggers that we do to forget that blogging is about our individuality. We don’t want to be the same. I have been embracing my quirkiness lately and people seem to like me more now that I don’t hold back. Who knew? lol I know I am glad to heave met you and work at the same places blog-wise. My life is much richer with you in it!

    • Nicole Etolen says:

      I adore your quirkiness! Quirky people make the world so much more interesting and fun. I am so glad to have the chance to know you too!

  14. This was such a great post, and I so appreciate you delving so deep into yourself to write it–I know how difficult that can be sometimes. I, too, was not a happy teenager, and have struggled with clinical depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as an adult. True happiness does indeed need to come from within, and getting there is a journey in and of itself. I wish you the best of luck moving forward to all of your future moments, and finding beauty and happiness in each of them wherever you can.

  15. Lots of stuff makes me happy! Sunshine, family, music and so much more. In regards to how I try to stay positive on the bad days–I have a few boards on Pinterest that I make myself go look at. Two specific ones which I made in 2012 and a new one for 2013 My pins on those two boards are about positive thinking, being happy, putting myself first and so on.

  16. Emily says:

    Living in the present and focusing on all of the good in your life is a great way to stay positive. When I fall into a slump, I remember that no matter what my problem is – I have so much to be thankful for and happy about. Some days it is easier than others.

  17. Amber K says:

    I think you hit it on the head when you said “being happy relies a lot on living in the present.” That’s something I realize but have the hardest time living by.

Say Something