Building Happiness - How and Why
Happiness. It's the ultimate treasure, the most heartfelt goal. We want it for ourselves - for our loved ones - for our children. Yet fewer and fewer of us seem to have it. Every year, more and more people succumb to depression, anxiety, and other crushing forms of unhappiness - from the very old to the very young. What can we do to build happiness, from the inside out - and then to share it with those around us?
My Journey - Moving From Misery to Happiness
Lately I've been thinking about the girl I was, back in my early 20's. I was a young theatre student at the University of Utah, struggling to find my place in a big new world. School pressures, family conflicts, boy problems, spiritual issues, and deepening self-doubts converged in a vast tsunami of abject misery.
In retrospect, I realize that I fell into a deep, dark hole of depression - for months on end. I cried. I raged. I ate junk, to numb the pain - then hated myself for making my problems even worse. I sought refuge in relationships that were bad for me. I sat at the piano in the black box theatre on the top floor of the theatre building, during the dark hours of late evening - improvising sad, impassioned music, pouring out my pain all over those ivory keys, sobbing for hours at a time.
So often I would sit helplessly alone on the hallway floor of that old theatre building, head down and miserable, hoping someone would stop and rescue me. Sometimes, someone did. (Or at least they tried.) But having an audience for my misery just seemed to fuel it even more - a bottomless pit of pain. And after a while, no one stopped to talk to me - not wanting to get sucked into my emotional black hole. My anguish increased, and I fell even deeper into isolation and constant, agonizing pain.
It became hard to go to school. I felt tired ALL the time - so tired I could hardly wake up in the morning, and every step across that large campus felt like dragging heavy hardened cement around on both feet.
I didn't want to do anything. Even things I enjoyed previously, like acting and singing, became weighed down with the darkness of what I was feeling inside. There is no question that during that hard time - and at other times during my life - I fell into full-on depression.
But there is also no question that I AM NO LONGER THERE, living in that dark and hellish condition. I have gotten out.
Finding Happiness, Healing, and Hope
I now live a sweet and happy life - enjoying happy relationships, carrying out happy tasks, doing happy things. Including - the joyous daily work of counseling others who struggle with depression, anxiety, abuse, addiction, relationship problems, and other challenges - and helping them learn to overcome and move past these problems.
Having learned to escape my own personal hell, over the years I have become a guide to help others do the same - in my family, my counseling, my speaking and teaching. For the past 20+ years, I have served as a mental health educator, teaching others the insights, skills, and strategies that helped me move from darkness to light.
I'll never forget the sweet little lady, a young mother who quietly approached me years ago, after attending my class on healing from depression. Through her tears, she told me: "I promised myself I would never go to another class on depression - because I always just came away more depressed! But now, after your class, I don't feel depressed - I feel HOPE! - for the first time in a long time."
Hope is the message. Healing is the process. Happiness is the objective. All are possible, even in hard times - if you know where to look, and what steps to take. You can find 5 "starter steps" here, that can provide a simple but powerful "kick-start" to the process of emotional recovery, as you begin your healing journey.
Building a Personalized "Happiness Toolkit"
After these many years of personal healing, and of professional service as a counselor, speaker, and teacher, I have taken everything I have learned, and put it into writing - so it can help many others, for years to come. Everything that has worked for me - both personally and professionally - everything that has brought lasting healing and relief - it's all there, laid out in writing. A clear and simple path of step-by-step discovery, healing - and joy!
It started in 2019 with the publication of my book, "Your Happiness Toolkit: 16 Strategies for Overcoming Depression, and Building a Joyful Fulfilling Life." In 2020, the audiobook version was released. And now, in 2021, a shorter, more condensed, quick-reference guide has been published: "Your Happiness Toolkit WORKBOOK." Together, these new products serve as powerful 24-7 resource to build happiness, resilience, strength, and joy!
It has been truly joyous for me to share this message of hope and healing with those around me - and to see these strategies bring relief and happiness into their lives, as they had done in mine.
Time after time, as I'm sitting with a brand new counseling client, in their overwhelm and pain, it is such a joy to have a resource immediately available for them, that they can access in those dark and scary moments - day or night - when I can't be personally available to them.
Those early weeks of therapy can so often be intense and overwhelming - with not enough minutes in the therapy hour to cover all the needs or teach all the skills necessary to reverse a client's emotional distress. But now, that expensive therapy hour is not the only help available for them. Now, between those clinical hours, they have access to the tools and strategies they can put to use EVERY DAY, to promote and expedite their own emotional healing process.
And for those who lack the finances or opportunity to receive professional help, a self-help guide like this can be even more valuable and life-changing. Such books were a crucial reference for me, as a young student, without the financial resources to hire healing help. This book can now be a similar resource for others in similar circumstances.
How to Use "Your Happiness Toolkit"
Your use of this set of resources can be as individual as you are, to meet the customized needs of yourself, or of the person you're trying to help.
Here's a few possibilities:
- Read the book, to get a full understanding of the "16 Strategies," and the mindset and philosophy underlying them.
- Use the workbook as a stand-alone resource, to work through practical, action-oriented worksheets and handouts to help you practice and internalize the 16 Strategies, one small step at time.
- Use the workbook as a "quick-reference guide" to the book - scanning through the workbook quickly to identify what you need to work on next - then going to the book for full details on how to implement it.
- Listen to the audibook while you're driving, exercising, cooking, cleaning, putting on makeup, etc. to internalize these ideas "on the go," if your time and energy are limited.
- Mix and match these strategies - eg., listen to the audiobook as you go through your workday - then do an exercise in the Workbook when you have a few minutes to fully focus on your healing process.
- Explore the Bibliography to discover other books and references to help you even more with a defined need or topic.
In my own personal life, as well as in my counseling profession, I have seen these ideas work. They lift depression, increase resilience, and create a sense of personal confidence and empowerment.
You don't have to learn or master all the strategies at once. You internalize them a little at a time, a day at a time, over the process of time. You make small tiny changes, one after another, to make your life just a little bit better, a little bit happier, each day - until happiness becomes your "new normal," and pain becomes a thing of the past.
I hope you'll use "Your Happiness Toolkit" - starting today - to increase joy for yourself and others throughout your life. Of course there will still be discouraging moments, disappointments, setbacks, even traumas at times. But these hard moments don't have to keep you down. Even on hard days, happiness is a learnable skill - if you know where to look.
-- Carrie M. Wrigley, LCSW
Counselor, Speaker, and Author of
Your Happiness Toolkit: 16 Strategies for Overcoming Depression, and Building a Joyful, Fulfilling Life
> Available as a paperbook, ebook, or audiobook.
> NEW: See also the accompanying Your Happiness Toolkit WORKBOOK (paperbook and ebook.)