I was having my cup of Papuan coffee this afternoon when a friend texted me. “How do you stay happy all the time?” she asked. I replied immediately with: “I don’t.”


And I am telling her the truth. I don’t stay happy all the time—whatever that means. I am still a human being, after all. In fact, I cried under the shower two days ago—when anger consumed me in such a short burst. On the bus ride to the office this morning, I got really pissed when a mother asked her kid to just-throw-the-trash-into-the-floor. A few months ago, I got heartbroken and I went into my pathetic mode for a while.

I do get sad. And mad. And bitchy, sometimes.

However, I always remember something a friend told me once: “It’s okay to be sad. Or mad. Feel it. Recognize that feeling. Accept it. You don’t have to fight it. But don’t indulge yourself in it, either.”

And I learn to do just that. When I’m sad, I’ll cry. But when my tears stop falling, I stop. I know I am still sad inside. I can recognize the pain—as if something has been taken away from me, causing that empty feeling—lurching somewhere above my stomach. So I let myself be sad.

But there are other things I can do when I’m sad apart from keeping crying or punching my pillow or feeling sorry for myself (or not taking a shower all day long). I can write a blog. I can read a good book. I can go out with some friends and have a good laugh with them. I can bake a cake. I can watch some cheesy teenage movies. These are no fancy things, just some random things I enjoy doing. Normally, I won’t even notice how these simple things make me happy and lift up my mood. But sadness makes me appreciate happiness more. It’s a reminder for me to be grateful for life’s simple pleasures.

When the desire to stay miserable creeps in, I remind myself not to indulge in it. I refuse to go back into my bed and just stay there thinking about all the bad things that have caused me this sadness, replaying the hurtful scenes over and over again. I do other things that will make me happy instead: go for a short walk at the Botanical Garden, treat myself two bowls of my favorite chicken noodle (with loads of chili), go on a photo-hunting, write poems, sing stupid songs in a karaoke place, browse over cute kitten pictures…

I told my friend just that, and she said she had heard it all. She had read books about it. “But I find it so hard not to indulge myself in sadness,” she said. “It’s not that easy.”

At that moment, I remembered asking her a few weeks ago about the things she enjoys doing.
“Singing!” she replied. “I have always wanted to take a vocal lesson!”
“Then do it!” I smiled. “Now you have the time and money to do that, so why not? Do the things that will make you happy.”

As I recalled that episode, I texted her back: “Hey, anyway, what about that vocal lesson? Have you enrolled in one?”

She replied with: “No. Not yet.”


I wish there’s a simpler way to do this—but I’m afraid there isn’t. I know that for some people out there, this may sound too harsh; or it may appear that I oversimplify the problem—but sometimes, to get out of sadness, the first thing you need to do is wanting to get out of it. And then start climbing out.


“If we focus only on happiness, we’re neglecting the richness of the full emotional spectrum–and we’re overlooking the fact that you couldn’t make sense of happiness if you didn’t know sadness. The loss gives you access to a wonderful array of very real human experiences, especially the connection between people. Sadness is tinged with an incredibly profound depth of appreciation of life. You’re acutely aware of what’s important. A lot of the things that preoccupied me before seem rather trite and superficial now. Now, I’m much more connected to the little things. I’m much more profoundly moved by music. A walk in the evening just seems like a gift.”

Chris Skellett, When Happiness Is Not Enough


23 Responses

  1. It is so true. Happiness is a choice. Sometimes, it is a tough one. And no one person can be happy ALL the time, but to want and TRY not to be sad, hurt, angry, etc. is a step in the right direction! Everything takes effort! Thanks for the reminder, and Happy Tuesday!

  2. Thanks for this much needed reminder. Unhappy people see the difficulty in every opportunity; happy people are the ones who see the opportunity in every difficulty… As cheesy as that may sound, it’s so true!!!

  3. When I’m sad, I go to secondhand bookshops or read or write poems. When I’m sadder, I go for a long, long walk as if distance is nothing.

    Happiness and sadness, like most things in life, both are not our fully-conscious choice. We live, get broken, assemble the shattered pieces of ourselves, get broken again, reassemble, and on and on. 🙂

  4. This was such a beautiful post.
    I love this -> to get out of sadness, the first thing you need to do is wanting to get out of it. And then start climbing out.
    Being happy is the ultimate expression of self responsibility. It’s saying to the world that you get what’s important and you’re willing to allow it. We’re all constantly going in and out of happiness and not-so happiness. The important thing is keeping clear on where we want to be. It’s an important choice.
    I love your thoughts here ~ thanks for sharing. 🙂

    1. Thank you for your lovely comment, Andrea! Oh, and I feel the rush of happiness just by seeing the pictures on your blog! :’) The latest one–with that hiking view? That was just STUNNING 😀 Wishing you and your husband loads of love :*

    1. Harry, I’m gonna let you in on a little secret.
      Every day, once a day, give yourself a present.
      Don’t plan it, don’t wait for it, just let it happen.
      Could be a new shirt,a catnap in your office chair or two cups of good, hot, black coffee.
      Like this.
      – A present. Like Christmas?
      – Yeah.
      Man, that hits the spot.
      Nothing like a great cup of black coffee.


  5. i’m glad i scrolled through my ‘reader’ page because i am actually quite low-spirited these few weeks. i feel quite down, left out and sad for no reason. this post is what i need. to know that i’m not the only one fighting my own feelings 🙂

  6. i’d like to think at this age i’ve tasted the full spectrum of emotions. the heights and depths of both despair and love. the sharp pang of loneliness. and the euphoric moments of joy. the experiences were all intense and defining.

    but they aged me. consumed something in me, i could no longer lift another finger at my curiosity to find out what else is there that i have not tasted. that i have not devoured and broken. that i have not inspired and unmade.

    like a great big ferris wheel. it got me nowhere.
    or maybe it has. tick, tock, tick, tock..

    skellet is right.
    a walk in the evening just seems like a gift.


  7. What a beautiful post! It reminded me of Kahlil Gabran’s “On Joy and Sorrow” in which he states: “The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.” Once we decide, as you said, that we want to get out of the sadness, then we will realize that the sadness is what leads us to fully understand and experience joy. Thank you for sharing!

If you made it this, far, please say 'hi'. It really means a lot to me! :)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.



Legs and Apples
Do it because it’s fun. Because it brings you joy; because it’s meaningful to you. Do it because it gives you simple tiny pleasures. Do it because it makes you smile.
The view from De Klok
I took another digital detox this weekend—I limited myself to a 5-minute screen time on Saturday and Sunday to quickly check my business account. I closed my social media account for the rest of the days.
Hanny illustrator
I am an Indonesian writer/artist/illustrator and stationery web shop owner (Cafe Analog) based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. I love facilitating writing/creative workshops and retreats, especially when they are tied to self-exploration and self-expression. In Indonesian, 'beradadisini' means being here. So, here I am, documenting life—one word at a time.