finding happiness
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You’re fine. You don’t really believe it, but you are. Beyonce recently spoke about her battle with finding happiness. In the Vogue cover story, the superstar recounted how unhappy and insecure she felt after her first pregnancy. She talked about the fear she experienced in her most recent pregnancy and how she had to fight for her life. She also talked about loving herself through the doubts and criticism.

Serena Williams and Cardi B also recently discussed their current state of postpartum.

Serena recently told Essence, “I still have to learn a balance of being there for her [Alexis Olympia], and being there for me…I’m working on it. I never understood women before, when they put themselves in second or third place. And it’s so easy to do. It’s so easy to do.

She explained her postpartum symptoms saying, “Some days, I cry. I’m really sad. I’ve had meltdowns. It’s been a really tough 11 months. If I can do it, you guys can do it too.”

It may be mind-boggling to some people that three of the most successful black women in the world would be “unhappy” but happiness isn’t just a rich vs. poor problem, it’s a humanity problem.

Rates of depression among women are very high and among black women are even higher. A study found that “women (4 percent vs. 2.7 percent of men) and African-Americans (4 percent) are significantly more likely to report major depression than whites (3.1 percent)”.

Here’s the truth guys- to be happy you have to want it, but then you have to go get it. Happiness isn’t just going to come to you. Sitting in your room wishing to be happy won’t necessarily make it happen. Having an insightful conversation with some of my friends made me realize this.

That being said, our thoughts are also very powerful. Positive thinking combined with action can equal happiness. We live in a society where everyone is trying to go get it and make a name for themselves, however, we don’t always have the resources that we need to make it happen. As a result, at times our efforts may seem futile.

Here are “4 tips for finding happiness in 2018”.

#1 : Be ignorant

“Whoa there! Back up. You want me to be ignorant!?” Wait. Before you set my trial date and convict me, let me tell you what I mean by “ignorance”. I mean “ignore it”. While we may all want to be Superwoman, sometimes the best thing to do is to close our eyes. You need to assess every new situation that comes into your life and decide if you’ll act on it or ignore it. That’s step one to being happy- controlling your reaction.

Preparation, being a few steps ahead, can make a huge difference in your life. Don’t overthink every minor detail because eventually it’ll feel like you’re searching for ways to make yourself unhappy. Happiness is in the simple things, so “Ignore It”.

Tennis great Serena Williams has been open about her postpartum symptoms and battle with sadness (photo credit: Edwin Martinez, CC BY 2.0)

#2: Love yourself selfishly

Here’s a cliché I’m going to throw at you- love yourself. The real key to being happy (whether people want to admit it or not) is to be selfish. As women, we often have to fight for ourselves in order to move up on our own merits and not on our looks. We constantly face obstacles threatening to bring us down and incapacitate us. Women still have to prove themselves before they’re taken seriously; this is a fact. Before you can make anyone else respect or love you, you have to respect and love yourself. When you truly love someone, you want to see them happy; you want to do everything you can to see them happy. Why not do everything you can to see yourself happy? Almost everything you do, whether it be for yourself or for others, will contribute to your happiness.

This is going to sound slightly controversial but, do good deeds, do them with the intention of helping but also do them for your benefit. Doing something good for others not only gives to the receiver, it gives to the giver. Sometimes the giver might even receive more than the receiver. That’s because doing something that brightens someone’s day or improves someone’s life brings you satisfaction. It gives you a sense of accomplishment and the feeling of being useful. This feeling is what many strive for everyday, to feel accomplished and to feel needed, and that’s what makes you happy.

As young women, the pressure that ‘s constantly put on us is tremendous. Images of beauty and happiness bombard you daily and when you start falling into the traps set up by the media and society, that’s when you need to put steps one and two into action. “Ignore It” and begin to teach yourself how to genuinely love yourself. Then “Do good”. Do plenty of it, go out and make others smile, even if you yourself aren’t smiling. By force of doing so much good you will eventually smile. Do it for you, do it because you love yourself and because you want to see the best for yourself. If you love yourself and live against the stereotypes, happiness will surely embrace you.

#3: Your Wants vs. Their Wants

As humans, it honestly doesn’t take much to make us happy. When entering crucial stages in your life you’re told that certain things should make you happy. This is a problem because sometimes (or most times) what society says should make us happy doesn’t really satisfy our true inner desires.

Will being thin and six feet tall make you happy, or would it make them happy? Is every young woman who fits into the social mold happy? As soon as you can wrap your head around the reality that we’re all different pieces of the puzzle, each bringing our unique touch to the final picture, the sooner you’ll be able to erase your barriers to happiness. Knowing what you want is very important. Knowing what’s for you and what isn’t for you is all apart of growing into the “woman of tomorrow”.

I know of a woman (now in her mid-40’s) who lived a very unhappy life up until she started living for herself. When she was young she altered her appearance by eating more to gain a rounder, more womanly shape; she was told men liked that. As she was getting ready to graduate high school she was told to go to medical school as this would bring her much respect and wealth. When she graduated from medical school she was expected to not only become a practicing doctor but also to marry a nice, handsome white man. After she was married she had a child, but she was told that one child isn’t enough and that she should want a big family.

One morning she woke up and found herself in a life that was plentiful and would make many people happy, but she wasn’t. This woman made the drastic decision of leaving her family. She did it for herself so that she could have a chance at happiness. Don’t let it get as far as it did for her. Live for yourself first and if others aren’t pleased well…tough.

#4: Avoid relapse

Alright, so you’ve done it; you’ve reached that sweet happiness and life is going well. You’re happy with your friends. You’re happy with your grades. You’re happy with your love life. Yo’re really happy in every aspect in your life. That little comment that guy made last week, you ignored it. You chose that Writer’s Craft course at your school (much to your parents chagrin) instead of math, and you even treated yourself to a day spa because you love yourself. But you wake up one morning and you’re in a blue cloud. You’re feeling very sad and your heart is heavy. This is usually nothing major; everyone has a bad day or two. It doesn’t mean that you’re unhappy or that you’re doing anything wrong. Many of us just use this time to reflect and see if all that we have in our life is what we want and need. If it’s not, then we change it.

We’re forever growing and changing, therefore our wants are continuously changing with us. It’s probable that you will never reach absolute, complete happiness, but you can get pretty close if you listen to what your heart is telling you.

It’s important that you remember that perfect happiness is rare and that something will always bother you. If you let those things trouble you too much you’ll always feel sad. Those one or two days of glumness, if harped upon, can lead to longer bouts of sadness. To avoid a relapse into your previous state of unhappiness you have to quickly distract your mind. Do something you know will bring a smile to your face; talk to a funny friend, eat your favourite food, watch a funny movie (no depressing dramas), or call your grandmother. Do anything you can think of that will take your mind off your blues.

Remember not to isolate yourself. Your room, or any other place where you’ll be alone for too long with your sad thoughts, isn’t the ideal place to avoid a relapse. Try to centre your mind around all the things that you’ve recently done for yourself to make yourself happy. Think about how you followed your wants when everyone was against you and think about how you succeeded. This will take you back to a place of self-satisfaction. These sad days, like many obstacles in your life, will show up from time to time to throw you off your course. You have to become a very skilled driver.

Life can be a highly satisfying experience or it can be an excessively disappointing one. People aren’t always dealt the best cards in life (especially women) but the opportunities are out there and everyone has the power to be great, make history and be happy.

By Nicky Jean

Nicky Jean is an Ottawa-based poet, podcaster, singer and rapper, as well as a radio host at CHUO 89.1FM