_doesn't make me happy anymore. Insert your pronoun. These are words echoed by millions around the world every day, from couples contemplating divorces to people in dead-end jobs and careers. And it's okay. As humans, we are a complex species and as we grow, we change. Things that once made us happy can lose their shine and suddenly become a burden to us. That's fine too. Disclaimer this isn't an article guaranteed to make you happy but hopeful by reading this, you can realize you are not alone and that happiness is within your grasp. First things first: No one can make you happy but you! (Louder for the people in the back). This is a fundamental truth echoed by psychologists, self-help books, and all the influencers on Instagram. And it's true. While we can find happiness in other people and things, this is often fleeting and personally, I don't consider it true happiness. For that, you have to start from you. Happiness is a state of mind. Like all emotions, happiness is just a combination of chemicals playing tricks on our brain (weird I know.) This leads us to a buzzword - Mental health, have you heard about it? The two are very much interlinked. If your mental state isn't right then happiness stays out of sight. (oh that rhymed). Talk to someone you trust about your problems, be it family or a professional (I highly recommend a professional). Cut out toxic relationships, handle problems as they come, and don't bottle up emotions. Anything to make sure your mental health is as healthy as it can be and those chemicals are mixing right. It's a journey, not a destination. Most people believe that happiness is this magical destination of beauty, light, and everything right (the rhymes just keep coming) and that once you get there you can set up shop, kick back and relax. If it were, I'd hate to see the price listings for the houses. But if this were the case, how come your second cousin Sophia who was on top of the world last week is currently sobbing into your shoulder about how unhappy she is. That's easy. Happiness isn’t a destination or a task to be ticked off a list. It's a journey and like any journey, there are good stretches and then there are Nairobi road sections. If you treat it as a destination or a one-time goal then every time you feel unhappy you will undoubtedly feel like you have failed and that leads to more unhappiness. This brings me to my next point. Sadness is a part of the process. Just because your goal is happiness doesn't mean sadness can't play a role. There is a stereotype that negative emotions are bad and should be avoided at all costs. This is simply not true. Case in point: when people tell you they feel better after a good cry or more scientifically, research that has shown that cursing in anger after feeling pain e.g stubbing your toe, helps lessen that pain (only a little, so don't go cursing up a storm). I choose to believe that this is because letting out these negative emotions in a good way is healthy and cleansing. This allows for the mental space that good emotions can fill up. So yes a good cry or occasionally feeling sad and down is allowed and even encouraged (let's be honest we are all secretly freaked out by perpetually happy people). After all, how can you appreciate joy if you never know sadness? You are enough. To really be happy you need to put yourself first. I once read something, once upon a time, where the author detested the line in the wedding vows about two becoming one. According to her, it made it seem that most people weren't whole or couldn't be whole until they found their partner. While I get the symbolism in a wedding, the implications, in reality, can be a little scary. You are whole by yourself. You are enough. Rather than think of this other person as completing you, think of them more as making a great thing even better. Like a real-life upgrade pack, helping you to achieve even greater heights that you never thought of because all those heights you wanted to achieve? you got there on your own.
I was reading a book a while back about a mother with a special needs child. She lamented about how people would see her with her baby and walk up to her with smiles and happiness but this would quickly change to pity when they realized that her baby had Down syndrome. She absolutely HATED this. Reading the comments this was echoed by a lot of other mothers including those with autistic children. They felt that there was nothing wrong with their children that they should receive pity. And they are right. In Africa, autism is often undiagnosed in children and this leads to cases of children being in situations that one would term as child abuse. It is not uncommon for them to be locked away and hidden at home, beaten severely by their parents for their behaviours, tied up and left alone while their family is out, or be ignored and pushed aside. In many cases, it is associated with curses or witchcraft. It also doesn't help that many clinicians in poorer areas are unable to spot the signs and centres dedicated to autism are few and often very far away.