Deciding what to post for International Happiness Day yesterday got me thinking… what is happiness to me? Over the years I have struggled with what happiness is, what it looks and actually feels like. For me, happiness for many years was the end goal and what I strived for but it was always in the future or in the past. I would think things like… “I was so happy when it was like this…” or “I will be really happy when I look like this”.

Like many women, striving for a better body was one of the things I had highlighted as something that would make me so much happier. This is encouraged through relentless media advertising and body shaming on social media. I was victim to it just like everyone else. I believed being skinnier, being thicker, having a bigger bum, having abs, having a thigh gap, not having a thigh gap, were the answer to happiness. Goals were continuously set, achieved and passed but I never felt the divine happiness I was expecting. People would compliment me on my body but I didn’t see what they saw. I just saw what more I needed to change. Instead I would set myself a new goal in the hope that when I achieved it I would finally feel happy. Don’t get me wrong, for the majority of the time I didn’t feel unhappy, I still enjoyed my life. Although there were periods of time when I definitely felt unhappy, most of the time I just felt incomplete, under accomplished or lacking that extra glow I would see in other people. I placed most of the blame on what I looked like. There were times that striving for my fitness goals became destructive in other areas of my life. It honestly became an obsession to the point that it was actually making me unhappier.

I’m not saying that striving for a better body is a bad thing and that it shouldn’t be one of your goals, it is great for improving confidence and self esteem and training has taught me some amazing life lessons. I’ve learned the importance of  discipline and the value of strength and so I will always promote and encourage all my clients to improve their body composition for these reasons. However, this should never come at the expense of your health or having an enjoyable, balanced lifestyle. It should also not be seen as the key to happiness. The body is just a vessel at the end of the day, it’s just where your organs and your brain are kept. It isn’t who you are spiritually. Going through a not very nice break up put me into a period of self reflection that really changed my whole perspective. It forced me to assess who I am and what I want to achieve in my life, and to realise that it doesn’t matter what you look like, attraction that means something is long lasting and comes from within. Being in a place where I lacked life goals and was unsure of who I was because my focus was on constantly driving for external perfection, was making me unhappy and that unhappiness was what was making me unattractive! A vicious cycle that is easy to become trapped in!

I now believe that happiness comes from having purpose that helps and benefits others in some way, whether that’s your loved ones or larger groups of people. It is also a choice and can only be achieved now, in this moment. You make a choice to be happy everyday, as each day happens regardless of circumstance. For example, once my focus became more internal i.e, on what I can learn each day to improve my life and how I can better enjoy my life with people I love and less on how I looked, the less stress and pressured I felt to achieve the unachievable perfection goals I set for myself and so the better I actually looked. Once I started to change my mindset and think this way everything began to change. If something bad happens to me, nine times out of ten I will manage to see the lesson I have learnt in the situation and feel grateful for it. This means that even when something bad happens, it doesn’t ruin my day, halt my progress or slow me down, if anything it fuels me to work harder. Of course, there are some days when that isn’t possible and the rain cloud over your head just can’t be shifted, but by focusing on the positive things you can take out of bad situations the effect they have on your life will at least be significantly reduced.

In relation to happiness and your body, my view has drastically changed. I no longer strive for perfection, because perfection does not exist. I have realised no matter how hard I train, I will never see my body as ‘perfect’. In an ideal world there are things I wish could naturally have been slightly different and there isn’t anything training wise I can do to change that, like I would love wider hips and bigger boobs! However I am grateful for it’s health and for the fact i’m actually alive and able to use it! I also realise that while I have worked extremely hard to create a body shape that I really love that I should cherish and take care of, I also value the enjoyment of food and training and believe finding a balance between nourishing your body and eating foods you enjoy and training the just the right amount to stay in shape and not allowing it to become an obsession or replacement for something else. My gym goals are now purely performance based. I aim to get stronger, improve my technique and most importantly, enjoy my workouts. I have actually found this more relaxed, less stressful approach has improved my physique even further.

I urge anyone who is struggling with perfection issues related to their weight or body shape to try to talk to someone about it. Sometimes talking to someone who has been through the same struggle as you can set you on the path to get through it. For anyone who would like to get in touch with me and learn more about how I handled my own issues with perfection, you can contact me at lauren@laurencharlottefitness.com