CULTIVATING MENTAL WEALTH OVER STRIVING FOR 'HAPPINESS'
When I first began using this platform to write about my life and travels (many years ago), I had an idea in my head that this blog would be used to document my 'quest for happiness'. After all, I was about to leave home and embark on what I assumed would be a life changing journey full of exhilarating experiences and everyday feelings of euphoria.
The word HALCYON, refers to a time in ones life that was considered 'idyllically peaceful and happy' - hence why I named my virtual documentation of this period in my life after it, possibly with the intention that when I am old and grey I can read back on my adventures and remember them as the 'halcyon days'.
But did I leave home to find 'happiness'? Is 'happiness' all I wanted to document? As I traveled I realised that happiness was an emotion I felt often, but it was not a permanent mental state. It wasn't something that could be constrained for later use. It was fleeting. There and then gone. I must have known this already, surely. It's common sense. But I guess I was so weighed down before I left the UK that I had imagined that it was possible.
I also wanted to make sure that I was being transparent about my lifestyle through my writing. I wanted readers and friends to know that traveling isn't all partying, making friends and stroking kangaroos. It's home sickness, missing major life events, occasionally defying death, learning, growing, falling in and out of love with people who you may never see again. Saying goodbye to those you finally get close to and feeling lonely. It's being skint and having to work in mundane backpacker jobs. It's never being able to catch your mates on Skype because of the weird science of time zones.
It's so much more than just landing spontaneously on another continent and winging adventures. So, inevitably, my 'quest' altered as I did. I was no longer searching for happiness.
But what I actually found was so much better - and much more realistic.
I found Mentalwealth.
Mentalwealth, to me, is the idea of abundance, excitement, elation, euphoria, empowerment, education (lots of nice 'e' words), determination, creativity, curiosity, contentment, success, prosperity, inner peace and occasionally just simplicity. It's anything that allows you to feel like you are taking care of your mentality. And it isn't about equipping all these wonderful things forever, because that's unrealistic. But it's about recognising what can bring about those feelings whenever you want them, if you put your mind to it and live presently.
ALTERING THE QUEST
If you have been following my stories since I began writing for Hous of Halcyon then you may remember my very first tagline description; "Halcyon will be an online journal trailing my quest to find happiness". When I left the UK to go traveling I wasn't in a happy mental place and believed that traveling would help me locate that feeling of inner child again, removing all case of worry and woe from my newly found diet of adventure.
Sure enough, as I bounded energetically across South East Asia and Australia, I genuinely thought I had won the happiness lottery. Like Winnie the Pooh stumbling upon a grotto full of honey pots, I was surrounded by these magical, enduring feelings of exuberant jubilation. I had finally found my bliss.
But as I haphazardly drained my bank account and reached my last $200 whilst in Sydney, the reality of needing to obtain a job ASAP kicked me like a horse to the crotch. I also needed to find a place to live. I needed to make some friends. I basically just needed to stop being so care-free and start caring again - quick.
As I began my new life admin and got all my financial necessities into place (a job, a bank account, a tax file number...), I also settled into a hostel for three months and was lucky enough to build a tight network of friends who had also arrived there from all over the globe. But, despite copious memory making in my new temporary home, that sense of fulfillment that I had felt so immensely whilst on the road began to slowly drain from me.
At the time, I couldn't understand why.
In hindsight, I believe it is because I was so obsessed with the adrenaline and thrills of the everyday that I was experiencing whilst backpacking, that I managed to convince myself that that was my happiness. I had found it. I was harnessing it. And when I got to Sydney and had to begin living a normal life again, I noticed that I was no longer harnessing those same feelings. It left me feeling sometimes as empty as I had felt back in England. Was backpacking the only way I could retrieve that immense feeling?
I have learnt many great lessons from a lot of wise sources over my period of travel, whether it be from scholars in articles, authors in books, script writers in film or other like-minded beings in conversation, and yet it is the most basic quote of them all that resonates as one of the wisest;
"HAPPINESS IS A JOURNEY, NOT A DESTINATION"
- Alfred D. Souza
Yawn. I've seen this quote tattooed on chicks abdomens and inserted into insta bio's a million times over and rolled my eyes at how unoriginal it has become. But I was COMPLETELY missing the point. The reason it is so popular is because it speaks a truth spoken by so many, yet understood by so few - and no longer am I one of the latter.
Traveling was not a 'quest for happiness' at all. Like the quote states, happiness is NOT a destination. Nor is it something tangible that you can hold and draw energy from. It is a transient emotion that can be felt, indulged in and let go of just as quickly as anger can. Being happy and being unhappy are all a vital part of the human cycle of emotion and neither make you more or less of a person.
As most humans will experience throughout their chaotic lifespan, I have been both very very unhappy, and really really happy. And at those stages, both emotions have sporadically woven themselves in and out of my very being, in order to make way for all the other numerous emotions that need their turn in spotlight. So how could happiness ever be the end goal? what makes it more important than any of those other overwhelming feelings?
If you spend your life aiming for an unrealistic objective, then by the time you're knocking at heavens gate, you will have wasted so much time and energy chasing after it. This is an understanding that is detrimental to your mental health, because even if you 'find' happiness, you have to recognise that you won't be able to grasp it forever. Life happens, and it will be a healthy (or unhealthy) cocktail of extreme highs and extreme lows no matter what you do. So like Paul McCartney said; you have to let it be.
RE-IMAGINING WHAT IT MEANS TO BE HAPPY
I soon altered the tagline on my website to explain that Halcyon is a 'celebration of humankind's cosmic creativity' - exploring all that it means to be mistake making, passion driven, free-thinking foolish dreamers and experimental defiers of convention.
I then understood that my journey across the world was about aligning myself with the universe that I wanted to create for myself. Since I left, I have made room in my heart for things I had never even considered important to me before. I have learnt so much about my planet and it's people, and the education that I am absorbing every day is only making me eager to take on more.
Before I went to university I wanted to be a fashion stylist, I thought the only thing I was really good at was making things look nice. But I've dug deeper than what I could create in black and white and realised that I have a strong voice, stubborn attitude and determination to achieve. I am a fighter; I was gifted with the cahonies of someone who doesn't mind questioning authority and standing up for what I believe to be right and just. There is so much more to me than just a steady hand and an eye for detail. I have brains, I have passion, I have it in me to inspire change. And hopefully now that I have discovered my worth, I will continue to act on it, and be kinder to myself in the process.
THE NEW RICH
Because of this realignment with the world, I have become less fixated on the material side of life. Sure, sometimes 'things' can make you happy, but they are not a sustainable source. A new bag won't bring you everlasting elation. But you know what can? experiences. Upon all these realisations I became a part of something called 'The New Rich', a group of self elected people described in Timothy Farris' book The Four Hour Work Week as thriving from becoming rich with experience, over material items.
Tim's book explores what it means to enjoy money, yes, but more importantly, he focuses on what TIME that money can bring. It's not about the new car, it's about the travel opportunity. It's not about the private jet, it's about volunteering in Africa and embracing a new culture. It's not about the indoor pool in the bottom of your mansion; it's about that quality time spent surrounded by loved ones. Though a pool would be fantastic.
On our death beds, will we remember how many pairs of sneakers we owned, or will we reminisce the parties filled with laughter and glitter? Will we reel off the number plates on our collection of fancy motors, or will we think about the names of those that we spent our most memorable moments with? All of these special feelings that are deeper than material objects, that provide us with means to 'happiness' are a part of our journey and contribute to our idea of mentalwealth - acts of well being for your most precious attribute; your mind.
CARING FOR YOUR MENTAL HEALTH, BEGINS WITH DEVELOPING YOUR MENTAL WEALTH
I believe that the more tragedies you experience in your lifetime, the more you tend to relish and appreciate the triumphs. When others demonstrate beautiful positive acts of kindness, they tend to mean more to you when you are suffering, because it is so much harder to find those moments by yourself. But expecting to develop your mental wealth without putting the work in is like expecting to win the lottery without ever purchasing a ticket.
Ask yourself everyday, what will make me feel closer to my mental wealth? it isn't always about being happy in the general sense that we imagine, with a big grin and a heart full of joy. Happiness can be more, it can be less. Some days all you want is contentment and ease. Other days, all you want to do is cry and have a cathartic effect - sadness can therefore, bring about happiness because you are now happy that you spent your time having a healthy release of emotion.
Mental wealth is not about eating a cake full of rainbows and smiles. It is about being present, self aware and doing things for yourself that create care for your mental health.
What makes you feel ALIVE?
What makes you feel good?
What makes you sit up and listen intently?
What sets your passions alight?
What brings you sense of purpose?
What helps you breathe calmly, gently close your eyes, and soothe you into a blissful sleep at night?
What experiences make you feel RICH?
What are you grateful for?
This is your mental wealth. Cultivate it.
Write it down
Begin living with your new intent at the forefront of your mind...
...Not to find 'ultimate happiness', but to try your best to find little snippets of happiness in every mundane task or adventure that you undertake. Your mental health NEEDS YOU to act and act now. Your mind is the closest thing we have to anything magical or supernatural and it deserves prior attention.
YOU should be the most important entity on the planet to yourself. You come first. Your health comes first. You cannot change or influence the world positively until you recognise this. Once you have bettered yourself, you can then pass on your wisdom and experiences to others in order to help them on their own journeys too. The greatest thing you can do for this world, is heal yourself.