I choose to be happy!
What does that even mean? It means reducing behaviors and triggers for negative thought patterns that make me a miserable, angsty, shoegazer. It means having fun and surrounding myself with people who make me laugh. It means radical honesty, saying no, discipline, music, and saying yes a lot more often. It means giving fewer fucks and doing what feels good instead of what looks good. It means dancing to Sia at the gym even if I look like a total douche because it feels so good to do things that make me feel healthy and strong, particularly when accompanied by sweet jams. It means making myself a priority. It means having attitude. It means knowing how to avoid falling prey to self-doubt. Most importantly, it means not wasting another minute feeling less-than, unworthy, or insecure.
I know that there is no guarantee that I won’t end my days as a grumpy old curmudgeon, chasing pesky kids away from the double-wide and plucking chin hairs by the light of the moon, but damn do I feel good right now. I never want it to end, even though I know it will. I don’t know what the shit is going on, but I’m happy af rn!
I’m eager to take full advantage of every juicy moment of this human life before the eye blinks and it’s over. Running free and running strong is the most alive I feel every day. I imagine that this must be how it feels to live up to one’s potential. As my desire to spend more and more time on the trails increases, so has my strength and ability to endure mental and physical discomfort. I’ve noticed a substantial internal shift over the last few months. Spending 10 or so hours a week among the snow and ice, the dirt, the rocks and the trees has been a tonic for my body and soul.
Running has also played a critical role in expanding my social circle. It’s not just that I’m meeting new people, but I’m getting to know them in an environment where I am completely at ease just being myself and not taking it personally if people are not into it. I’m becoming much less self-protective, more open to new experience, and just generally having fun. It’s fairly easy to make friends from this mental space. Who wants to be around other people who are in a good mood, laughing and doing fun things with no judgement and lots of positivity? Fucking everyone, that’s who!
There’s a theory in the field of psychology called the hedonic treadmill – a theory that humans have a happiness set point and that no external event will effect the long-term happiness of that individual. That is to say, when good or bad things happen that increase or decrease our short-term happiness, the effects don’t last and we inevitably return to our given happiness baseline. It turns out that winning the lottery won’t fundamentally change your level of happiness, but take heart, because losing a foot won’t either.
But what can change that baseline? Running. Specifically, running trails. As someone who has struggled with intermittent periods of situational depression, and decades of anxiety, it’s one of the main reasons I am driven to be active out in nature. I’ve proven to myself that trail running has not merely been a coping mechanism to avoid tumbling down the rabbit hole, but more accurately, it’s been a vehicle for embracing life, for practicing how to overcome obstacles, for growing my connection to other people and to nature, finding peace, feeling alive, cultivating joy, and most importantly, moving forward when moving forward feels hard.