Are You Happy?

Are you happy?

Have you asked yourself this question lately?  I mean, have you stopped everything you’re doing, looked deep into your soul and asked yourself ‘Am I happy?’

No?  Try it.

Yes?  What did you find?  What was the answer?

6 months ago

I asked myself this question earlier this year, maybe 6 months ago or more.  I don’t remember why I did it, but I remember thinking that a lot of people around me seemed to be a lot happier than I was, and I wanted to know why.

Surely I wasn’t UNhappy?!  I have a great life!  I have the best husband (really, he’s amazing!), an easy job which I like, I live in an incredibly exotic and interesting city, I travel almost whenever and wherever I want, I have enough money to pay the rent and buy food, my health is good, my family’s health is good, etc.  I thought I was happy – more or less.

I live in one of the world’s most beautiful cities – of course I’m happy

So, one day I stopped everything I was doing, stopped thinking about stuff, and looked deep inside myself to find my happiness.  And I found that deep down I wasn’t happy.  Really. 

I don’t mean that I found depression, or discontent with my life.  I just didn’t find happiness.  I don’t really know what I expected to find, but it was a kind of void, an emptiness.  A hole where there should have been happiness.

So, after a little freak out, I put this information aside and continued on with my life.  Because, really, my life was ok, wasn’t it?  I was managing things well.  My marriage wasn’t suffering, I didn’t have any problems, and I didn’t see that there was anything I could do about it anyway.

A student’s story

Fast forward to about a month ago.  One of my students is a very sensitive soul.  She’s a little overweight, not young, not married, and kind of lonely, I think.  She’s very warm towards me and whenever we find ourselves without the other students from the group, she confides in me about things that are negatively affecting her.  So, I thought she was kind of a pessimistic, negative person (a lot like me, actually).

Then, about 2 weeks ago she told me that she’d been reading some self-help books, and she had decided to follow something that she had read.  That was, every morning, put on your best smile to start the day.  Even if you don’t feel like it.  Even when you’re greeting colleagues in the morning who are the bane of your working life (one of her biggest problems at the moment).   Just start the day, at least, with a smile, and get on with what you have to do.

She said it’s hard.  Yes, I know it’s hard.  I’ve tried it before.  My sister (yes, my favourite one) told me once about this – she called it ‘fake it ‘til you make it’.  So, if you put on this fake smile, every day, it will eventually become a real one.

My student is still working on it, and it seems that she is having some success, even if it’s moderate success.

Fake it ’til you make it

But, with this exchange, I started to think again about myself.  And, although I’m not too good with the ‘fake it ‘til you make it’ idea, I decided to give it a try – in my own way.

I didn’t do the ‘smile in the morning’ thing.  I hate mornings, I just can’t smile in the morning. (Yes, I know, that’s the whole point of ‘fake it ’til you make it’ but I’m not ready to like mornings yet).  So I just decided to change myself a little bit.  Because it starts and ends with ourselves, right?

So, what did I do?  I started to be happier at home.  I’m not sure if my husband’s noticed a difference, but for some weeks now I’ve been less moody.  Nicer (I hope – with some ‘relapses’ of course).  It took a little bit of effort to break away from bad habits but I’m trying. And, surprisingly, it’s making ME much happier (I’ll ask him about this, I hope he’s much happier too!).

I’m also trying to be kinder in my thoughts.  Trying not to dwell on things that might get me down.

Then, something strange/amazing/just-completely-crazy happened to me this week.

The first sign

One day, I arrived at a lesson and one of the students greeted me with, “You look…(a one second pause)…happy!”  Wow!  Does that mean that I don’t usually look happy?  Was that the result of having that empty void deep inside me?  And now, has something changed?  Is the void being slowly filled with happiness and does this show itself to others?

I’ve never been told before that I looked happy.  Tired, angry, upset, sad, well – but never happy.

The second sign

Then, the next day, with a different student, coincidentally we were reading a text called “The Price of Happiness”.  After discussing the text, we turned to more general conversation on the topic, and I asked him, “Who’s the happiest person you know?” 

His answer without any time for reflection was “You”.

Well, I almost fell off my chair!  I was completely shocked!

Our lessons are early in the morning, and as I mentioned earlier, I’m not a morning person so I’m not at my best when we meet.  I’m sure I’m friendly and polite, and he’s an interesting student and I enjoy my lessons with him.  But I wouldn’t have thought I would emit ‘happiness’ during our lessons.

But, apparently I do.

So, that was the second time in 2 days that someone commented on my happiness.

The third sign

Then, later that same day, I was walking to another lesson, along a street I walk down 3 or 4 times every week, and saw the following graffiti on the steps of an abandoned shop. (You know how I feel about graffiti, right?)

graffiti on the steps
Can you see the graffiti?
happy on the wall
Right on the wall of the steps
are you happy?
A message just for me

What’s strange is that it was fresh graffiti, just written that day or maybe the day before.  And even stranger was that it was in English (as I live in Russia, there’s not a lot of English graffiti around).  I felt it was some kind of message to me – only to me. 

Along with the 2 students, this graffiti was speaking to me and telling me to choose happiness.  I’ve lived quite long enough without it.  I’ve lived quite long enough with this emptiness, this void deep inside me. 

I’m choosing happiness.  What’s your choice?

~ Cheryl

Author: Cheryl

I'm an Australian woman who is now living in a village in rural Bulgaria. I lived for 12 years in Moscow, Russian Federation, working as an English language teacher. My current loves are my husband and my vegetable garden.

19 thoughts on “Are You Happy?”

    1. Hi Michele, you’re so right. Unfortunately I’ve been living quite a lot of years with this emptiness – I should have replaced it with happiness a long tme ago. Thanks for the comment. Have a lovely weekend. 🙂

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    1. Hi Debbie, thanks for your comment, glad you enjoyed the post. Still working on the smile thing, slowly but surely I’m finding some small success. I used to listen to the universe a lot in my younger years. Time to start being open to the signs again. Enjoy the rest of your week, thanks for stopping by. 🙂

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  1. I’m a big fan of happiness – I’ve lost mine a few times and had to work at bouncing back. I think that’s where resilience comes into – when you lose the bounce back ability then the spiral continues downward. Catching yourself early and doing something proactive to lift your spirits is definitely key to turning things around. It took me months to get over the job from hell and to regain my “self” and my happiness – so I totally get how you’re feeling better as you regain yours.
    Thanks for linking up with us at MLSTL and I’ve shared on my SM 🙂

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    1. Hi Leanne, so happy for you that you’ve found your happiness, and your ‘self’ again. Yes, it’s hard, and I’ve been using excuses not to work on this earlier, but I couldn’t ignore the signs! Upward and onward (and a lot of ‘faking’ until I get there!). Thank you for your support and kindness. 🙂 xx

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    1. Hi Tammy, I also love the writing on the wall – it’s really amazing, isn’t it? Now I smile everyday when I walk past it. 🙂 I hope your answer to the question is ‘yes’. Thanks for commenting, hope to see you here again. 🙂

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  2. I remember reading something about how you respond to people can have an impact on how they respond to the next person. Usually, when people ask each other how we feel, especially when we’re at work, we usually reply in a negative manner. If we reply in a negative manner, we get a negative response back. People love to commiserate. I decided to change that up and now when people ask me, “How are you?” I always respond with, “I’m fantastic,” or “I’m great.” I’ve found that not only does it have a profound effect on how I respond to other people. It also changes how other people respond to me. People who started the conversation sounding a little down or just blah, tend to perk up a little and actually respond in the same manner. I can hear how it changed their conversation with me. (Granted, it doesn’t change everyone, but it does change most.) As a manager in Customer Service, at the time, I wanted to make sure that all my employees were speaking to customers from that great or fantastic mindset and not the blah or negative mindset they might have started with. It really does work on others and it works on yourself as well. Say “I’m fantastic,” enough times and it starts to become who you are.

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    1. Hi Jennifer, yes it’s really true. We all know that our mood ‘picks up’ when we’re around that person who is always cheerful. And we get ‘down’ when we’re with the one who’s always miserable or complaining. It’s amazing how much others influence us. Although, my husband is happy ALL THE TIME and sometimes I just can’t stand it! I’m only half joking! I’m trying to be happy on the outside, especially since I wrote this post, hopefully things will line up and I’ll get the happiness back inside. Thanks for your comment, and thanks for visiting Born in a Car. Have a nice weekend! 🙂

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  3. Hi Cheryl, I have been contemplating my happiness whilst away on holidays recently. I had become so ‘busy’ with life that I really didn’t know what made me happy anymore (apart from my grandsons, of course). I’ve come home with a new attitude to my life and yes, I’m starting to feel happy again. Early days but it does us good to delve inside sometimes doesn’t it? Take care and thanks for sharing at #MLSTL. x

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    1. Hello Sue! Holidays are always a good time/place to reflect, aren’t they? Without all the stresses and routines of home. I feel that’s my problem too, so busy with life and routine that it’s taken all the fun away. It’s nice to hear about your new attitude, and believe me I’m right beside you trying it too! Yes, early days, let’s keep it up and see the changes happen! Thanks for stopping by, Sue. Have a lovely weekend. 🙂 x

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  4. Cheryl, happiness is a choice that we make every day, so is negativity. I have had a crappy week, and it has affected my usually sunny outlook on life, but yesterday, after three days of wallowing I decided to be happy. The fog has lifted and I feel like myself again. Mind over matter!! Thanks for sharing on #mlstl

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    1. Hi Suzanne, thanks for your very positive post! You’re right, deciding to be happy is the start of happiness. Glad you’re feeling like yourself again. Wallowing can be difficult to get out of, and I’ve also spent days wallowing knowing that it’s not doing me any good at all. Here’s to being happy every day! Have a lovely weekend! 🙂

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  5. I love this Cheryl, both the honesty about having a pretty good life, and not being truly happy, and the realization that you have the power to do something about it. I have found that for me part of being happy was finding tranquility, a peacefulness that whatever happens I will survive and continue to have the capacity for joy. Our family has taken some pretty big hits–my brother was hit by a car and killed, my youngest daughter (a successful nurse and attentive mother) battled opioid addiction. For a time, I felt my joyful days were over, that my life would be a struggle for survival from that point forward. And then I started meditating and expressing gratitude for the small things, and I learned to let go of trying to control or even predict the future, and guess what? Things got better, and I realized how strong I really am. And I am happy. Not dance in the street happy every day (though sometimes), but deep down peaceful, grateful happy.

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    1. Hi Christie, thanks for your kind words. I realise that I need to start expressing gratitude on a daily basis, I’ll probably start a gratitude journal to keep me in line. Sorry that you’ve had such grief in your life. 😦 I think that’s what the cause of my emptiness is – grief. I’m looking for that ‘deep down peaceful, grateful happy’ that you mentioned. Thank you for your support and understanding – I’m going to work on this. I want joy again. Have a lovely week. 🙂

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  6. A great post! It is true, our happiness is up to us. I decided to be thankful for 3 things every morning when I wake up and the result is that I am happy for the rest of the day. #SeniSal

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    1. Hello Darlene, I think it’s a great idea to think of things to be thankful for first thing in the morning. It’s a great way to start the day! Thanks for reading my post and commenting. Have a lovely weekend!

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