As we head into the new year, resolutions to ‘lose weight’, ‘stop procrastinating’, and ‘get a boyfriend’ are abound. But what if, after years of failed attempts at goal setting, you decide that all you want out of the new year is to be happy? What if having a flat stomach and being more productive are just by-products of happiness? What if everything falls into place precisely because you’re not setting yourself boundaries for success and measuring your joy in terms of their achievement? This is how I’m approaching 2018. No more ambitious bullet point lists written in Moleskin journals with fancy Parker pens simply because they symbolise one getting one’s metaphorical shit together. No more sticking Instagram quotes about wellness to my bedroom wall, only for the Bluetac to lose its stickiness three weeks later and the card to fall down the back of the radiator. Finally, and most importantly, no more conflating happiness with achieving empty resolutions.
My one goal for 2018 is to be happy. From the outset this is a mammoth goal which requires a lifelong commitment – hence it’s the only new year’s resolution I will ever be setting again. Having suffered from depression for the past three years, being happy has always been a pipe dream. Something I’ve laid awake at night fantasising about. My mind filled with hopes of one day escaping the monotonous cycle of constant darkness. “Maybe one day I’ll get excited about something again,” I’d think to myself only to wake up the next day and do nothing about achieving this dream. Depression is one of the most prolific mental illnesses of the 21st Century not because it’s ‘fashionable’ to be depressed, but because it takes so much commitment to overcome. You don’t just wake up one morning cured and ready to begin a new life of sunshine and rainbows. Sleep just acts as a short break in a conscious awareness of misery. Depression and sleep are intrinsically entwined as sleep is one of the few breaks we can have from our own minds.
Happiness for me is being able to think freely. To have the freedom to let myself do the things I want to do without self-doubt and constant criticism. To go on walks and listen to music, not because it might ‘cure’ my depression but just because I want to get some fresh air. To exercise in the gym with the sole aim of improving my health and fitness instead of hoping to burn off the spoonful of granola I ate at 12am. To go on dates with guys who ask me out, rather than coming up with excuses of deadlines and pre-made plans while I tell myself that being tied down to someone at this age isn’t conducive to my five-year-plan.
I started my self-love and happiness journey (a cliché but a cliché for a reason) late this year because I realised that unless I started to love myself unconditionally nothing was ever going to change. I would carry on being the depressed, socially anxious, alcohol dependent and food-fearing person I had been for the past few years until I realised my own worth. Now I’m nowhere near the point of absolute self-love yet but I’m certainly much closer than I was when my day would start with a list of unachievable goals copied off a wellness influencer. I don’t meditate, I don’t do yoga and I rarely eat superfoods but what I do choose every day is to put myself first. Not selfishly I hasten to add, but I do what I want to do. If I want to go to the gym, I’ll pick out my favourite leggings and head out the door. If I fancy deep-cleaning my room, I’ll grab a duster and spend the next few hours blasting out Dexy’s Midnight Runners and banishing those cobwebs. If there’s anything I want to do and it’s within my power to do it, I will. Because for me, happiness isn’t about having a thigh gap or a posh boyfriend anymore. It’s about doing the things I enjoy simply because I can and waking up every day loving the person I am regardless of what other people may think.
In 2018 I don’t choose detox teas and snazzy bullet journals, I choose to be happy.