“Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.” ~Marcus Aurelius
I’ve come to realize that worrying and obsessing don’t help or change anything.
Hold up. Wait a minute!
Let me rephrase that, because worrying and obsessing do change things. They make your life worse. I think pretty much everyone in the world knows this, but how hard do we try to stop doing these things?
Every day you wake up and you think and obsess and wonder, “What if?”
What if I lose my job? What if he leaves me? What if I lose everything and end up homeless?
Day after day your mind spins out of control contemplating all the things that could go wrong with your relationship or your life. On and on and on it goes, and where it stops nobody knows.
Aren’t you getting tired of thinking all the time? Isn’t obsessing about possibilities wearing you out? At what point do you decide you should stop getting caught up in your thinking, but then actually make a change?
I’m tired, and I know relentless thinking wears me out. Just to let you know that I understand, I’ll give you an example.
Honestly, I have the best boyfriend ever (for me anyway) because he doesn’t let a lot of things get him down. I mean, the guy is genuinely happy and content 99 percent of the time. Me, not so much. He has been through multiple deployments, many of them combat, and still he never lets stuff get to him.
But, how does this happen? Where can I get some of what he has? This, I have been contemplating.
I’ve come to realize he feels happy more than I do because he doesn’t overanalyze life, question everything, and obsess about the future. And he probably also doesn’t obsess about how happy he is and how he can be happier!
Here’s how it goes:
Me: “Does he even love me? Is he ever going to totally integrate me into his life? Am I too boring for him? I really need to get some hobbies. Am I settling, or do I expect too much? I’m so fussy sometimes and I don’t know how he handles it. Where are we going to move? When is he going to deploy? Where is he going to go? Is he going to leave me here all alone?”
I look over at him longingly, wondering what’s going through his mind, because it must be something serious and important, and he must be contemplating the fate of our relationship or the existence of the Universe, right?
He knows when I look at him with that longing look I want to know what he’s thinking about. So, I say, “Tell me, I must know!”
Him: “I need some new pants.” Or he’ll utter, “I want a key-less ignition for my bike.” Or, the earth-shattering statement, “My feet really stink.”
It’s possible he’s just not telling me what he’s really thinking, but if he is obsessing like I do, it doesn’t show in how he lives his life.
The more time I spend with him, the more I realize I’m wasting my life away obsessing about what might be or what could be or what isn’t instead of simply enjoying the moment and living in gratitude for what I have.
My guy gets all happy and excited about the little things, and for some reason I don’t. I try. So far, I have failed. But, I vow that going forward I will not fail. I will stop obsessing all the time and I will be a lot happier as a result.
Do you know why you obsess? Is it serving a purpose anymore? If not, you can change it. Here’s how.
1. You have to want it.
Are you at the point where you’re sick and tired of being sick and tired yet? If not, keep doing what you’re doing. Maybe obsessing still works for you in some way and you aren’t yet ready to change. That’s okay. We all change when we’re ready, and we get to different points at different times.
Wanting to change starts with a conscious choice you have to make. At some point you decide that you want to take control of your life instead of letting your life, your history, and your mind control you.
Think long and hard. Do you truly, really, honestly want to be happier? I believe that I have struggled with this notion for a long time. In my head I want to be happy, but in my heart there’s a seed of doubt.
Happiness is something I had briefly when I was a small child, but it was shattered by abusive adults. What if I get it back and it gets taken away again? As an adult I know that isn’t logically possible because no one can take away my happiness, but it’s still a lingering fear.
Do you feel something similar?
Despite this fear I’ve decided that I want to be happier. I’m running out of time. We’re all running out of time. Your life is ticking away every day, and you never know when it will end.
Decide you want to enjoy more of your life. Decide you deserve to enjoy more of your life. Decide you will do something to change, and then you will.
2. You have to rewire your brain.
This is the hard part. Your mind has been wired a certain way, possibly due to traumatic events, abuse, or neglect. There’s a roadmap that takes you from Point A to Point B, without fail. Before you know it, an innocuous thought like, “Does he really care about me?” has turned into you remembering every instance he showed you he didn’t care (or at least that’s how you interpreted those events), and you have now convinced yourself you should break up.
See how this works? Often, it isn’t logical, and it isn’t factual. You’re creating stories in your head because your mind is trying to contain and assuage your fears, put them in a box, and allow you to function with the ever-scary “not knowing.”
The fact of the matter is, you don’t know. You don’t know if your partner will leave you (they might die or cheat or break up with you—or they might stay forever). You don’t know if you’ll die tomorrow. You don’t know if you’ll lose your job or have financial struggles or end up winning the lottery.
Recognize when you’re obsessing, then decide to accept what you don’t know and stop getting caught up in your thoughts. Do it once. Do it twice. Do it over and over and over until you have a little peace. If meditation helps, then do that. If sitting at the beach or reading a book helps, then do that. Do whatever will help you bring a little peace to your mind.
Once you’ve created a little space in your head, you have to start believing. When you realize you’ve been wondering, “Does she really care about me?” remind yourself, “She shows she cares about me.” Start believing the good instead of the bad.
It took me about a year to convince myself that my boyfriend really cared, even though his actions showed he did. He kept showing up and didn’t run away, but still, I had to get over my fear that no man would ever really care about me and they’d only want to use me.
If your partner doesn’t show they care, then that’s something you need to actively address. Obsessing about something can’t change it. Only action can.
3. You have to learn to love the little things.
I know this is hard sometimes. If you feel apathetic or tired or depressed it’s hard to see the good in anything. But every day there are usually little things that happen that could bring you joy even if for a few minutes.
Yesterday I went to the beach for a few hours. Being in the sun, feeling the wind, and hearing the ocean brings peace to my soul. I try to do this as often as possible because it reminds me to appreciate being alive.
Watching him cook breakfast makes me happy. I had to learn to sit back and let someone do something (anything) for me, and now I smile a little every time he whips up some eggs and bacon.
They have a baby hippo at the zoo. He weighs five hundred pounds, but he bobbles around like a fat, happy, little apple in the water, and watching him makes me happy.
I decided to buy some flowers to put in our bedroom so I can look at the sunny little yellow bunch every day.
And I’m thinking we need a dog so I have something else to focus on.
I’m trying to find simple things to make me happy instead of waiting for some big, giant event or some magical time when life suddenly changes and becomes more fulfilling, because that won’t ever happen. You create your reality, and if you keep waiting for life to happen, it will slowly pass you by.
What about you? What makes you happy? There must be something you’re grateful for, and if not, find or create something. Do you paint or write? Maybe you like animals and want to volunteer at a shelter. Maybe you need to get out in nature every day even if only for an hour.
Think of those little things that bring you joy and make sure you do them as often as possible. Try to focus on what’s good in your life, because we can spend all day focusing on what’s wrong or what isn’t working or what could be better, but honestly that doesn’t get us anywhere but into a negative spiral.
Most importantly, don’t give up if you fall backward. Don’t let the outside world make you feel like you aren’t enough if you aren’t perfect and happy and smiling all the time like everyone else on Instagram. A picture isn’t life, and social media can make you feel like a failure if you let it.
It’s okay to struggle. You don’t have to be perfect. You’re enough just the way you are, and as long as you keep moving forward and make peace with your journey, you are doing all you can and you should be proud of yourself.
So, get out there. Stop letting obsessive thoughts control you and start living your life for today!
About Carrie L. Burns
Carrie L. Burns is a blogger on a mission of self-discovery. As a sexual abuse survivor that struggled for years with depression anxiety, low self-esteem, lack of self-love, and relationship issues, she found her purpose through writing and sharing her story with others. Check out her other writing at www.acinglife.com.