When I was in the murky depths of depression, I used to love it when it rained. The more gray, gloomy and miserable the weather, the better. My then-partner was always puzzled by this meteorological preference. "Who prefers bad weather?" he asked, "Why on earth do you like it so much?"
The answer came swiftly, taking me by surprise with its simplicity and bone-aching truth: "Because it's the only time my outsides match my insides."
Because it's the only time my outsides match my insides.
In the middle of that five-year journey through my own private hell, crappy weather provided a sense of relief. When it was gloomy outside -- as it always was within -- it was such a relief. I didn't have to pretend. I could finally exhale. It was such a blessed, welcome reprieve to feel aligned for a day or two while the heavens opened up... even if that alignment was not in the happy, shiny direction that most people prefer their inner compasses to point.
Mercifully, I climbed out of my depression. But at some stage during the reflection and dissection that was to follow, I came back to this point -- to the intense feeling of relief and release that I got when "my outsides matched my insides."
And I realized this truth: It's still true. It's always true. In fact, having outsides that match your insides is the key to happiness. Seriously. Except, of course, it's not normally about the weather aligning with how we feel, but about our actions, behaviors and lifestyle matching up with our internal state.
This "matching up" is actually a well-recognized concept that far smarter people than me have described in far more intellectual terms. Psychologists call it the concept of "congruence," and it refers to the human drive to live in alignment with who we are and who we want to be. Unhappiness and stress arise when there is tension and discord with who we think we are (or want to be) and how we actually show up in the world.
Most of us know all too well how this feels. It's that feeling when you desperately ache to lose weight, yet spend your nights curled up with a family-sized block of Hershey's finest.
It's when your family is your biggest priority, and yet you find yourself stuck at work, missing your daughter's ballet recital.
It's when you know in your bones you're meant to be a writer/actor/zookeeper, and yet you never get around to doing any writing/acting/zoo keeping because you "just don't have time."
This lack of congruence can show up in even the smallest moments of our day, creating tension that we aren't even consciously aware of, but that is accumulating stress-fully nevertheless. Like when you walk into your room and dump all your belongings on the floor, even though you value staying organized and minimizing clutter. Or when you check your email throughout dinner, even though you highly value being present for your partner. Or when you stay up late binge-watching Suits, even though you know you need more sleep.
All these little actions which are out of alignment with who you are and who you desire to be are hurting you. Perhaps incrementally, perhaps a lot.
Yet the solution is so effortlessly simple (but let's not get this concept confused with "easy" -- it is not always easy). All you have to do is align your life with your values: align your actions with your intentions, align your habits with your desired outcomes, align your minutes with how you want your days to be.
That's the secret to feeling happy, all the damn time. It's how to achieve your goals and realize your purpose and feel the way you want to feel. If you can make your outsides match your insides... everything is possible.
And now, I am happiest when the sky is a clear and blazing blue.
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