In recovery, I've spent a lot of time trying to figure out what happiness really is. I've moved through a lot of options - appearance, praise, food, academic success, financial success, social media likes, sunshine, fitness accomplishments, wide spread recognition…
I just kept jumping from one thing to the next, continuously asking "so am I truly happy now?" And I would be, for a little while. I remember early on in my dance days being selected for a prestigious role. I spent the coming weeks cheesin' through campus, life was good! On stage finally performing this beautiful piece my mind swirled around the thought, "this is true happiness". And then it was over… and so was the euphoria… and so was any idea that I had finally made it to the wonderful land of 'happiness'.
I went round in this cycle with so many things thinking I made it and then losing it again just to go searching for something else. No way you too!? I hear it all the time from friends, family, random strangers that I've started chatting with because silence is more awkward than awkward small talk. Point is, we all have different ways of trying to create happiness in our lives, but there are two kinds of happiness here: momentary happiness or life happiness. If you're familiar, it’s the same concept as hedonic or eudaimonic pleasures from Aristotle (shout out to the philosophy nerds!) Getting a big dance role or being praised for your appearance - momentary happiness. It goes away eventually and then you're left looking for more. But life happiness is consistent, it’s the thing that doesn’t depend on anyone else or any other certain thing happening but rather it just exists in your life. Pretty abstract, I get it, but this is how I found my life happiness.
I went to a meditation class, and they asked us to ponder a question, what is most important? We were instructed to not think through it logically, just let things pop up in our head, acknowledge those answers, then move on to whatever came next, we continued this process until something stuck and kept popping up. Then they asked - what's most important about that most important thing? Again urging the same process of acknowledging and letting go. I landed on what brings me life happiness - connection. Connecting with people, nature, myself, my purpose, feeling intertwined with other things in my life, this is where I find long lasting happiness. That means not checking out moments of joy OR pain, it means staying connected in challenges. It means staying present when I'm uncomfortable and when I'm angry. It means that happiness is connecting with every single experience I will ever encounter. Maybe connection is your happiness, maybe it’s a higher power, or maybe its within adventure. Wherever it is, it will not mean that every moment is enjoyable, but it will mean every moment is worthy of living.
Written By: Rae Thomas
Emily Estes lives in Lincoln, Nebraska with her Goldendoodle pup, Miss Adley Mae. Recovery from her own struggle with an eating disorder, anxiety, and depression has led Emily to create community and resources to empower others on the journey. Emily owns Sage Nutrition, LLC where she serves as a Registered Dietitian. Her work revolves around her motto that "food is meant to nourish our bodies, not nurture us."