I was today years old when I learned that there is an international holiday dedicated to happiness. It is celebrated on March 20th. My first reaction to learning about this holiday was, “You’ve got to be kidding me? That actually exists?” Low and behold, it is not only an actual holiday; it was created by the United Nations in 2013 as a way to recognize the importance of happiness. The ultimate goal of the International Day of Happiness was to increase awareness in others that life is not just about increasing economic growth; it is also about your overall well-being and happiness.
As a concept, this is a holiday I can absolutely stand behind. Since I was a small child, everyone I knew, my parents, my teachers, and my friends, all described me as one of the happiest people they had ever met. That is still how most people would describe me. There is one thing that has changed over the years, my mental health. As I entered my teenage years, I started to experience periods of overwhelming sadness, periods of grief and loss, and experienced times of significant anxiety. I have had days and weeks where I struggled to motivate myself to complete daily tasks, and I have experienced moments when my anxiety was so elevated that it prevented me from sitting through a Broadway play. However, even though challenging at times, the states of my mental health have not stopped me from being happy.
I know that I am not the only one who struggles to feel happy at times due to anxiety and depression. Per the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), 40 million adults in the United States are affected by an anxiety disorder, while 16.1 million adults in the U.S. suffer from Major Depressive Disorder. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that 264 million people worldwide are affected by depression.
After learning about the International Day of Happiness, I asked myself, “How can I be happy right now? We are still in the winter months where sunlight feels limited. We are also still stuck in a pandemic, which is strange since it feels like March 2020 was only last month.” Given some of the topics that have come up during some of my therapy sessions, I know I am not the only one who has asked this question. So, I brainstormed some ways to experience some happiness.
The first thing that we can do is be social. If you are anything like me, socializing with loved ones is important. I feel happy when I’m talking with people I love. So, I’m thinking one way that I feel safe socializing is to schedule a zoom call with loved ones that I have not talked to in a while. I could also be social and go for a walk with a close friend. Another option that I have found works for me is to make a gratitude list, a list of things and people I am grateful for in my life. I have also found that although there are many things I would like to do, but can’t because of the pandemic, I can still reflect on things that I have and have done. For example, I still have a warm place to sleep at night. Another example of something I would put on my gratitude list is that I was able to see one of my favorite bands perform songs from my favorite albums. It is easy at times to forget all of the people, places, and good things in our lives when we spend much of our time thinking about the things we wish we had instead.
Most importantly, I have found my own personal therapy to be extremely beneficial to increasing my happiness levels. Through my own therapy, I have been able to process events from the past that I have been holding on to. Through therapeutic support, I have been able to reframe the way I look at myself and my experiences. I have also learned coping skills to help me manage my feelings of sadness and anxiety when they feel overwhelming. Through therapy, I have found that it is much easier to connect with my parts and experience happiness a bit more.