PHS Founder and Managing Editor Trish Wylie, questions why we view happiness as something in the far off future when we should be striving to be happy now.
Why do so many of us view happiness as a destination rather than something which should be present in our lives every day?
Fairy tales may have something to do with it. In them, happily ever after is a reward at the end of a long journey. There has to be some kind of reward for all the trials and tribulations the characters have experienced and the sacrifices they made along the way. Otherwise, what was the point?
For a long time, romance novels perpetuated this belief. They still do, to a certain extent, because the assumption is the couple live happily ever after beyond the last page of the book. If they were happy before the story began, they wouldn't need each other. So, there must have been something missing from their lives or pain they carried from the past or a lie they told themselves for them to have stayed where they were for so long without changing anything. Then something unexpected happens or something changes and the adventure begins. And there is a promise of happily ever after waiting for them on the distant horizon, if they can just make it there. We only get a glimpse of that happily ever after. The rest is left to our imagination. But even if it still takes a little work to maintain, we still believe it's there. And that leaves us with a sense of hope.
The premise of happily ever after was something I never thought about much while either reading or writing love stories. It was just a destination I had to get the characters to and trusted would be there. But recently, when finally getting to watch the final series of a TV Show I had been chomping at the bit to see, it did what every good story should do and made me think about things in the real world. In the show, the characters were time travelling, trying to change what had happened in the past so it would result in a better future. It was an epic version of the happily ever after goal, made more noticeable by the fact a love story was right at the heart of it. As we got closer to the end, the odds of those central characters getting their happily ever after diminished to the point where it seemed all hope was literally lost. Then there was a twist in the tale and the subject of happily ever now was presented as an alternative to the ending I'd been hoping to get.
I loved that! And, what's more, it resonated with me. Deeply. Profoundly. But most of all, emotionally. Because it felt like both a validation of what I've been trying to do and a reminder of how much further I need to go.
For over a year now, I have been harping on about the importance of the little things. How we need to embrace them, make the most of them and treasure them. The same is true of happiness. It shouldn't be viewed as a destination. Nor should it be something we look back on, transforming our memories of the past into halcyon days of blissful happiness we view with poignancy when we realize we didn't fully appreciate them while they were there.
What many of us don't realize until we're older is that happiness isn't a full time state of being. Much as we would like to, no-one can be happy every moment of every day. Life just isn't like that. It's filled with ups and downs, good days and bad, losses and gains. Along the way, there will be moments of happiness to balance out all of the other crap. Embracing them should make the dark days easier to bear. But to do that we have to make a conscious decision to breath deep, exhale, smile and remind ourselves that oh yeah, this is what happiness feels like, I remember now. Living in those moments on a day to day basis is hard, particularly if they're fleeting. It's kinda like trying to hold on to a ray of sunlight to stay warm or keep a snowflake in your pocket to show someone when you get home. But we gotta keep trying.
The reason the phrase happily ever now felt like a validation to me is because its something I've been trying to do to keep on top of my depression. It's in my ethos of appreciate the little things and the smile a day campaign I launched earlier in the year. It's present in the daily decision I make in the workplace to be bright and friendly with the people I meet. It's been there in every editorial I've written for the PHS since we relaunched in March 2017. All of this time, I've been striving for something I hadn't named. Now that someone else had, I am unashamedly adopting it as a mantra. But not because of the validation it provided. Because it's the kick up the rear I needed to spur me to do more.
The way I see it, just as it is at the end of a fairy tale or a romance novel when the characters get their happily ever after, if I want to live happily ever now, it will involve a commitment. I've gotta jump into it with both feet, with my whole heart, take a big ole leap of faith. Like any relationship, whether fictional or real, I've gotta work at it every single day to sustain it. I must actively seek out the things that make me happy, pursue them and grab hold of them and hold on tight.
Changing your mindset isn't easy, particularly if you struggle with depression or anxiety or insecurity or a lack of confidence or any of the other things which try to convince you that you'll never succeed. Just like every great story ever lived or told, there will be set-backs along the way, too. But if there's one thing we all learn as readers, writers and watchers of TV Shows and Movies, it's that bravery is always, always rewarded. The way I see it, all we gotta do is re-train our mind to accept the fact that reward doesn't have to come from someone else, we can provide it ourselves. And it doesn't have to be at the end of our journey. Instead, we can all live Happily Ever Now.
It's what I plan to do. Anyone wanna join me?
To find out more about Trish and her writing, you can visit her website or follow her on Facebook or Twitter.
What do you think of the happily ever now theory? Is it something we should all be trying to do more of every day? What else could we be doing to help us get there? Tell us in the comments or join the discussion on our Social Media using the hashtag #HappilyEverNow