do we even have the energy to be happy?


Between work, friends, life, going to the gym, going to the spa, shopping, dinners out, dates, studying for a Masters degree, time on facebook to keep in touch, I thought I had the perfect balanced life for a while when I was living in Tokyo. I thought I was “living it” and was happy. Actually, I didn’t even have time to think about whether I was happy or not. In fact, I didn’t even know what made me happy.

I was blinded by society’s standards and expectations — if I had a well-paid job and a big apartment, lots of friends, social life and all that, I should be happy. Why shouldn’t I?

Assuming that is the definition of happiness, the irony is that I didn’t really have the energy to be happy. I had the spare time, but I was too bogged down by all these images and reputations I had to live up to: “the caring friend”, “the cool boss”, “the loving child”, “the efficient one”, “a good RM & sales”… And by spending all my energy living up to these standards, either imposed by others — or worse, I presumed was imposed by others or what would make me loved and liked, my spirit and vigor was being consumed.

I had no energy left to be happy from the heart. Yet I convinced myself I was. I am not an ungrateful little b!tch, just whining and complaining about everything. I was strong. I was smilely. I was happy. In front of everyone else.

When I was alone, I was too exhausted to even give the topic “happiness” a thought. I went to sleep whenever I could, or studied for my exams for more qualifications. That would make me happy surely – more achievements!

The outward veneer of happiness eroded gradually, and keeping up with myself started to weather my soul. My core was empty all along. Until I was forced to sit at home everyday for so many months due to being ill, I never actually had the opportunity to stop and contemplate happiness. I was too engrossed in running, running, running all my life – faster, quicker, more, better.

So I am thankful I got ill – especially when I was not terminally ill. I am thankful I got depressed and sunk to the deepest depths of hopelessness and despair for a while. Because it gave me time to reflect. It was a slow process because most energy was spent being sick and being depressed during those months. But a little a day, as I struggled to come out of depression, I finally pondered the issue of how would I be happy. It took a complete halt in my life just  to get to this point instead of doing all these things that I initially thought would make me happy. Ironically amusing. Almost funny.

Do YOU have the energy to be happy in your present life? Do you know what makes you happy? Like, really happy? No, seriously, it’s not a silly question. Or would you rather catch one more wink of sleep than to think about this?

As for me, what would make me happy? Simple really. Just to be me, and to be natural. I’m learning.

19 Responses

  1. seth says:

    E, glad to hear you are feeling better. In answer to your question, I find my happiness growing as I learn to ignore expectations and logic and fear of what happens, and just do what I feel drawn to do, even if that may make someone disappointed. At least, that’s when I’m feeling happy. When I’m alone, tired, blue, then sleep beckons.

    One of those evenings when I felt like I should just call someone to make “full use” of the evening, instead I just did some yoga under the stars and cooked and ate some rice with tomato. That’s all I did. No music, no TV, no book, nothing “interesting” to the mind. Just moving the body, taking care of its need for food, and sleep. And I felt very happy.

    • Christina says:

      Seth, I like how you had nothing on while you ate and did yoga. Silence makes me happy and I love when you don’t do much in your spare time. Just taking it easy can make anyone happy. I love doing yoga and hoped to do more of it.

  2. nochnoch says:

    u’re totally right seth. i forgot to make myself happy for so long. now i do wat i want 🙂

  3. kk says:

    love this post.

    I pray that this will become somebody’s wake up call, or at least cause them to think hard on why they are doing what they are doing – before it’s too late.

    Recently, I’ve learnt one way of differentiating between ‘happiness’ and ‘joy’ – it could just be semantics but I found it enlightening. ‘Happiness’ refers to a feeling that is dependent on some external thing / situation (“I feel happy because…”), whereas ‘joy’ is something that is generated inside you, stays with you always – independent to any circumstances. I pray that you will find this joy from the God who has loved you all along, and be able to be satisfied in Him.


  4. nochnoch says:

    i dont think is a matter os semantics kk – but perhaps a meaning that only Christians can fully understand. dunno… 🙂

  5. germain says:

    I had a similar experience, back when my Crohn’s disease hit me hard. I was just 13-14 back then, and was living my life straight forward. No much time to actually know if I was happy or doing what I wanted or even where/how I was going to spend my only one life. I think those times are emotional challenges where you HAVE to look at yourself, what you have done, where you are and hope that you have the chance to do more… If luckily you emerge from one of those experience, your life priorities change, your view, your philosophy as well… I do not wish that to anyone but I do wish people would ask those questions themselves more… Death will be coming, your life is only yours and too short not to think about…
    The thing is, once you pass through this experience and settle back into a “comfortable” life, keep remembering those feeling, keep asking yourself those questions and reminding you what you want from your life so the next time we are close to our “time”, no regret is left 🙂

  6. karl says:

    Great points.
    Sometimes wake-up calls are needed, to learn and/or remember who we truly are.
    Asking those question, or better yet, questioning everything can be of immense value to the quality of our lives.

  7. nochnoch says:

    ma cher germain… je suis tout a fait d’accord!!!! it’s so easy to get bogged down by life itself that we have no time to think about it….

    but Karl, I think also important not to go over the balance and think too much 🙂
    that was part of my problem too hahahah

  8. karl says:

    you’re right, Enoch
    balance is key

    exploring the questions by feeling (within) instead of thinking…

    our heart always knows what’s best
    the head does not

  9. nochnoch says:

    indeed – and i forgot to do that for so many years. using my head all the time. now it exploded. hahha. no wonder it hurts

  10. Sue says:

    Time to be happy? What is happy? I have suffered from depression for many years. I’ve tried the drugs, the counciling ets. Some of it workds for a while but then back I go again. Each time it is harder and harder to fight what I call the dragon. I really wish someone could give me an answer.

    • nochnoch says:

      i’m not sure sue, it’s hard to say and what is happy to some might not be to others. a lot of it i believe, is in the state of mind. medicine can only help so far. it’s difficult to train the mind to be strong all the time, but perhaps we can try. what are you interested in? what are you curious about? places you want to travel to in the world? are you hopeful for something? these could give u causes to be happy? non?
      i hope whatever it is, please take care and don’t give up. i do not know your story enough but hope we can share more here

  11. adeline says:

    “I am thankful I got ill”.I think you are right. I understand your experiences. For many years, you lived up to other people’s expectations imposed on you consciously and subconsciously. But actually your mind is not strong enough to stand so many expectations at the bottom of your heart. Unballanced for a long time. You have lost yourself for a long time. That’s the reason why you got ill. Your illness reminds you to adjust the unballanced situation, that is , to follow your heart. In pshchology,it’s abnormal for someone to lose his/her natural self. In the long term, the temporary illness is useful for you. You are going better! You have changed a lot!

  12. nochnoch says:

    @adeline: that’s totally rite – the unbalance in my mind is too extreme. i think my body told me to stop so i can rebalance and refocus. so working on that now .need time. but i’m so impatient thahhaah

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about Noch Noch

Enoch Li, (pen name: Noch Noch) was born and raised in Hong Kong and Australia. She has also studied / worked / lived in the US, France, UK, Japan, The Netherlands, China, and has travelled to more than 40 countries. She loves travelling and her curiosity in foreign cultures and languages has led her to enjoy her life as an international executive in the banking & finance industry. However, she was forced to take time off work in 2010 due to her illnesses and after spending time in recovery, cooking, practising Chinese calligraphy, reading and writing – in short, learning to take care of herself and letting out the residual work stress, she has transitioned into a Social Entrepreneur and founded BEARAPY to help corporates make workplaces mentally healthy, and support executives to become more resilient.