The Key to Happiness:

Examining the Difference Between Being Happy and Being Healthy, and A Challenge to Embark on the Journey or Exploration of Healing.

What better way to kick off the new decade than with an assessment of this construct we call happiness. We all know it. We all want it. But for some reason, we don't know how to keep it. Feeling as if the completion of ourselves is what will make us happy, we often look for happiness in unsuspecting places: our identity, our work, our dreams. But what happens when we finally get the job, get the man, meet our goals? What's next? I think we experience too much change to plant our happiness in aspects of our lives that are constantly evolving. What I've found is, instead of striving for happiness, we should try to become healthier. Prioritizing your mental health and emotional well being will wield far better results at lasting "happiness" because it provides a solid foundation of self stability. However, prioritizing your mental health won't be easy. It will require confronting past and learned trauma, then deconstructing it. Like Rafiki says in the Lion King, "The past hurts. You can either run from it or learn from it." Once we discover what is causing our happiness to be so inconsistent, we can work towards fixing it, by learning personal healing techniques that will aid in a healthier lifestyle, so we can be "happy" despite wherever we're at throughout future healing processes and endeavors.

Happiness requires growth; correspondingly, growth requires introspection. Self reflection is essential to healing. Notably, the show Bojack Horseman comments on happiness often. In season one episode one, Diane simply tells Bojack YOU are responsible for your own happiness. Embarking on the journey of healing will require taking personal accountability and making yourself responsible to take the necessary steps to achieving whatever happiness means to you.

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Now, most people will tell you not to give attention to negativity. I'm going to tell you- give it attention. Give it lots of attention. Not necessarily in an indulgent way but in a confrontational way. I can tell you confidently trying to fix problems with apathy leads to regression and more problems. For example, Bojack Horseman is a character constantly running away from his problems, thinking he'll find happiness in what once was or in fulfilling his dreams. However, while on the run (sometimes figuratively and other times literally) he simply goes from place to place spreading his toxicity because he refuses to confront the negativity that causes him to be so unhappy. Consequently, dismissing our problems will lead to problems stacking on top of one another; eventually, you might begin to feel you are drowning in negativity. So, it is imperative we learn to heal, and in turn self reflect, whether that means confronting trauma, reconciling relationships, or atoning for our misdeeds. Trauma is an inherent part of being human. Not only does trauma follow us, but it reinvents itself in new ways. Will Smith said in a recent interview, "You can't achieve your way out of childhood trauma." Trauma won't go away with money or a trophy. Unfortunately, life is just not that easy. Rather, striving to learn healthy coping mechanisms might literally save your life. Now I will warn you- the journey to healing might cost you. It will bring to the forefront toxicity in people, practices, values, and environments that you've relied on for comfort for however long. But, there are contexts I encourage selfishness and this is one of those times. As stated earlier, YOU are responsible for your own happiness. Nobody else. I encourage you to find comfort in your passion and your confidence, and let go of anything and everyone not serving a positive purpose in your life (within reason).


Furthermore, at the end of season three episode three of Bojack Horseman, a character named Cuddly Whiskers says, "only after you give up everything can you begin to find a way to be happy." What that means is we need to give up the unrealistic expectations around the idea of happiness. To put it simply, stop searching for it and give up the idea that one can be happy all the time. Additionally, wishing to covet the lives of others won't bring you happiness either. (Cliché I know) but everyone is fighting their own battles. So, what's truly the key to happiness? Prioritizing your health. The difference between being happy and being healthy is happiness is a construct, so there are not necessarily steps to achieving happiness because it doesn't really exist. Healthiness, however, is achievable because there are active exercises and practices one can do to actually achieve good health. I know people find it hard trying to be happy all the time. And they're right, it is hard. Searching for happiness is a burden, instead seeking to achieve better health works to relieve us of our burdens.

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After reading this you might be thinking, 'Where do I start? What do I do?' I say just start. Start anywhere, but start small. My advice to anyone- don't try to be strong all the time. Don't let you pride keep you from crying regularly. Don't think apathy will solve your problems. One of my professors once said- you know you've healed from something if you can talk about it without crying. Start there. Start crying. The process of healing is not something that just happens over night. At the same time, allow yourself to be happy sometimes. I also think we fear happiness because we've experienced it to be so fleeting, so often. But, let yourself feel whatever you need to heal. Especially if those feelings bring you peace.


Similar to the way we clean our houses every season, our minds deserve the same attention. And, like exercising the body, exercising the mind will require discipline and personal accountability. The hardest part about healing and maintaining is learning to be consistent. Just remember,

"It gets easier. Everyday, it gets a little easier. But you got to do it everyday, that's the hard part. But it does get easier."- Bojack Horseman
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