Why do we always see happiness as something we’ll have in the future?


It feels as though happiness is something we’re all working towards. Hoping that if we work hard enough at work then a promotion will make us happy, if we could just have one more pay rise then that money would make us happier, if we just lost that niggly half a stone we’d feel so much happier, but why don’t we just accept happiness in the present?

It’s ridiculously easy to not see the moments that make us happiest until they have passed, rather than as we’re living them – but why do we struggle so much with feeling happiness as it happens?

I’ve just got back from a fun little jaunt to Costa. I had a gigantic cappuccino, a little lemon tart and a good book – I wasn’t there to kill time or meet someone, I was there just to be, to have a little relaxing time for myself, and it was absolute bliss, and I appreciated it, and I thought ‘yeah, life is pretty damn bloody good.’

Now that i’m freelance i’ve got a lot more time and energy than I ever had working full-time in London. There’s no commuting (bar the odd trip into London) and I finally have time to just do things for myself – like take coffee trips, read, bake, heck… I even do the ironing now, because I quite like the feeling of completing chores i’ve never previously been able to spare a minute for.

And yes, i’m happier than ever before too.

Maybe it’s because I’ve got time to appreciate when i’m happy, and i’m not so exhausted by tubes and emails and tourists being constantly in my way that I just want to sob all of my emotions onto my face, or maybe it’s because i’ve found the things in life which make me content.

I spent a lot of my teenage years jumping about emotionally. My friends used to joke that I was bipolar because one moment i’d be full of energy and cracking jokes so much people would get painful bellies and the next I would be feeling hollow and burnt out whilst sobbing in my car listening to JoJo.

The thing with being a teenager, or even a thirty-something living with parents, is that you’re not fully in control of your situation – or for that matter, your happiness.

I tried to make people laugh so much and have spontaneous adventures and create fun out of nothing a lot when I was younger to cover up how much unhappiness I had inside that I didn’t feel I had control over – things that were situational, that I couldn’t change. I tried to force my own happiness rather than dwell on the less than ideal situations I had going on at home.

The fact my mum was an alcoholic, and I wasn’t particularly close to my dad or step-mum distressed me, but I still relied on them financially and for a roof over my head because I wasn’t in a place where I could support myself.

It’s only as i’ve got older, and been able to have the freedom to do what makes me feel good inside, and the money to make my own life choices that i’ve finally been able to find my own sort of happiness.

I’ve always believed that unhappy people, the sort of people that moan on Facebook daily about how hard life has been on them, have only themselves to blame – it’s probably the same reason I, very unfairly, never give money to homeless people – because I feel like we all make our own choices in life and always, no matter what, have choices.

Yes, some people are born into more ideal circumstances than others, but the moment you are old enough to make your own decisions and carve your own life, your happiness is entirely in your hands.

I’m happy today because I spend a lot of time questioning how I can mentally make myself a happier person, but also because I have a lot to be happy and thankful for – a successful blog, a journalism career, a wonderful boyfriend, a pretty cat, a loving home and some pretty damn sweet friends and family – but I didn’t get all that by sitting and uploading Facebook statuses about how utterly shit and unfair life is. I got those things because I kept moving forward, I kept working towards improving myself and my life.

A lot of it is about being in control – not having money worries, having a secure job and an even more secure network of people around you for support, but this level of control is something we can all create ourselves.

It’s fine to keep dreaming bigger and aiming for more – I want to have babies and write a book and buy my own home – but I won’t be unhappy because I haven’t got those things yet, because I’m grateful for everything I do have and I am more than aware that something more dreadful than being in my overdraft, or gaining a stone, could happen.

And for when those worse things happen, and they will because such is life, I want to be able to remember how wonderful life can be and how happy I can be, so that I know that even after the dark times yet to come, I will remember what I have already achieved and battled and how happy I have been and can be again. Because if we can’t be happy and grateful every day for the small things like driving and singing to your favourite song or buying fresh flowers or going for coffee alone just because, when can you?

I *might* have just made myself well up because, as lame as it sounds, i’m pretty darn proud of myself and I think we should all appreciate ourselves and our lives just a little bit more – because really, they’re not as bad as all that. Not really.

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  • Tamzin

    Thank you Hannah – This struck such a chord with me, not least with it being World Mental Health Day today.
    I too grew up in an unstable home – Perfectly presentable middle-class to everyone outside, but miserable, abusive and at times violent behind closed doors. Although it feels wrong to say it – I’m glad for my trials and tribulations, because although I cannot forgive my family for some things, there is no doubt that they made me the strong, independent woman I am today.
    I still have a long way to go to achieve everything I want, but I’m also only 23. I need to sort my finances out, I need to get a firmer step on the career ladder, and I need to learn to let people in when I’m in trouble. But as you say, these are all things that we can work towards whilst enjoying the progress we have already made.
    Every day I wake next to my gorgeous, supportive boyfriend, in our beautiful home, I am thankful that I didn’t let the dark days beat me. I only hope to be able to reach out and touch people in the same way that you have with your post today. xx

    • hannahgale9

      This is so lovely. I feel the same way, although I would have given everything to have had a more secure and happier childhood, I would never have got where I am today without the sheer determination and independence my less than perfect childhood gave me.

      Good luck with everything, and keep holding your head high – I often think it’s the people who know true unhappiness that really appreciate happiness the most xx

  • This is a really touching and lovely post. Personal, heartfelt, so true.
    Glad you enjoyed your you time!!

  • Danielle

    One of the best blog posts I’ve read. I even read it to my boyfriend and he agreed. I think you speak for all the 20 somethings out there. Don’t listen to people who bring you down. X

  • Beautiful post Hannah – you should be very proud of yourself πŸ™‚ xx

  • good post, we should totally appreciate the present – sometimes we need reminding that life is good and at least we’re living it! http://thewanderlusthasgotme.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/a-visit-to-bodo-schloss-kensington.html

  • Amy

    Appreciate the sentiment of this blog, and as a journalist myself I understand you’ve broken a tough industry, no doubt through hard work and perseverance. But having done so you’re starting to take on a responsibility for what you’re putting out there and that’s worth keeping in mind. Bipolar Disorder isn’t the Jekyll & Hyde, black and white problem that so many people assume – the fact that it was WMHD should have meant you thought twice about using what is a devastating and random health problem as an example of something people ‘joked’ you had because of mood swings. Imagine if a fan of your writing happened to have Bipolar and was reading this. How would that make them feel? As for the homeless, again, the psychological and situational complexities involved with choosing to or having to live on the street are so much bigger than you’ve flippantly referred to here – for some people, it really *is* all that bad.

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  • Bb3110

    This is such a fantastic post. I too grew up with alcoholism in my family and have been in some pretty awful circumstances having to look after younger siblings. Having such big responsibilities and making decisions that no child should have to make at such a young age, I now see has made me the strong young woman I am today. I couldn’t wait to escape home…..so I went off to uni and am now teaching in a youth development college for kids who are in the care system and have behavioural difficulties. I thank my lucky stars that I haven’t had to go through what some of these kids go through, and it has put everything into perspective. It takes the bad stuff to really appreciate everything you have. I am turning 25 in a couple of weeks, and I am very content with the life I have made for myself. I have a beautiful boyfriend of 5 years who has done 4 tours of Afghanistan. We have been each others rock even through the distance, he is now home safe and sound and we this year moved into our first house together. I have some wonderful friends, a fabulous job, iv learnt to drive and i’ve quit smoking this year! It really is about the decisions you make and i am now trying my best to make a difference in other peoples lives to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Keep writing your stuff Hannah! It really does mean something to us all x

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  • Saoirse Linder

    I love reading your blog and always feel I relate to your posts but i felt very disappointed by this line. “it’s probably the same reason I, very unfairly, never give money to homeless people – because I feel like we all make our own choices in life and always, no matter what, have choices.” Although you’ve gone through hard times I’m sure, you said yourself you were able to depend on parents financially and have a roof over your head. That cannot be said for many homeless people who have no family, no money, no qualifications and due to society no chance of any of the above. I just hope others reading this blog don’t have the same attitude.

  • Vicki

    I really do love your blogs, and the unashamed honesty within them. However I too feel disappointed with this post.. having said that I can understand your point of view – when you’ve battled through an unstable childhood and a mental illness without giving up, the idea that happiness is attainable for everyone is a fair assumption. Before I continue this is not a criticism of your post exactly; your blogs continually make me think about my life, my values and the difficulties that many people struggle through, and I am only writing this comment to give you something to think on too. I got raped just over a year ago in Turkey by a waiter at the hotel I was staying in with my friends. Thinking that the chances of any justice were slim I decided to not go the authorities, particularly after confiding in the hotel manager and being flippantly told that his staff were known ‘perverts’. This incident occurred just before my university graduation and I had job interviews lined up and a flat that I was renting for the next six months. The rape destroyed me and ruined my friendships with the girls I had gone with and all I wanted was to lie in bed alone and sleep. I felt guilty that I had not sought justice and scared myself with thoughts of him doing the same to other young women. But I needed the money so I dragged myself to the interviews and managed to secure a job. However, some people are left completely traumatised by sexual assualt, it’s a senseless and cruel thing to happen to you. And I can’t help but wonder how someone else may have coped, or even how I would have coped if I’d been unable to get a job. The spiral downwards is not as easy to avoid for all people. Yes you have been incredibly strong and determined and I am so glad you are proud of yourself, you have achieved so much and it is damn impressive. And I’m not saying any of this to negate any of your achievements, on the contrary I am just saying that not everyone has your strength or intelligence (which is fairly paramount to getting a decent job) so not everyone would be able to proceed with their lives as brilliantly as you have. Some may barely be able to proceed at all. I think you are an amazing person (if your posts are anything to go by πŸ™‚ ) and I really admire what you do – as someone who currently has a mental illness, to read someone talking so bluntly about EDs and depression as you do is uplifting. But I think perhaps people who haven’t got through their problems as successfully as you and I have, deserve a little more understanding. Some people may not hold the key to their happiness, some people may need a little help.
    Sorry for the mammoth comment, and a big congratulations from me that you’re feeling the happiness your deserve πŸ™‚

  • Laura

    This cheered me up after receiving some bad news – thankyou.

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