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  • Writer's pictureErika Sardinha

The 3 Happiness Habits to Go From Numb to Happy & Fulfilled as a Thriving Survivor

When I started healing from childhood trauma and abuse, I was desperate for a change.

I was worried about my emotional state because I would feel sad and defeated for entire days, and then I was just completely numb.

I knew I had a spark hiding somewhere within me, but the thing is, I had no idea how to activate it.

I wanted desperately to feel alive, but how do you go from numb to happy? It sounded impossible, but for some reason, I was certain I had to give it a go.

I tell this story jokingly now, but there was a time I went on Google and typed “How to be happy.” I don't even remember what I found back then but fast-forward a couple of years, and I did bump into a way of being happy most of the time. It wasn’t all because of Google - of course - but that was a great start to my quest to find lasting happiness.

Because of the story I just told you, I couldn’t help but smile when I came up with the topic for this article. Here I am, several years later, pondering on the subject of happiness again. But we stepped up, and I am proud of us because now, we are talking about fulfillment too. You see, in my pursuit to find happiness, I realized that...

"You can’t be truly happy if you’re not feeling fulfilled. And if you are incapable of surrendering yourself to happiness, you won't be truly fulfilled."

I know, you probably have to read that again, but basically, we need both. Inevitably, We need happiness and fulfillment to thrive in life.

Here's the thing: Happiness and fulfillment are closely intertwined, but they represent different dimensions of our well-being. On one hand, happiness is a positive emotional state that you could describe as joy, contentment, and pleasure. Whereas fulfillment is more of a deep sense of satisfaction and contentment.

Happiness is also often described as related to external circumstances like achieving a goal, spending time with loved ones, or doing something that brings you joy, while fulfillment is more associated with aligning your life with your values, purpose, and authentic self. And I love that!

In my quest to find lasting happiness, I found myself constantly being drawn more and more toward true fulfillment, because I realized that I feel the happiest when I am honoring myself, my purpose, and my values. I understand that these are big words, and you may be wondering what you need to do to get to that, but in reality, it is quite simple. All you need to do is incorporate a handful of positive habits into your busy lifestyle, especially if you are a thriving survivor seeking genuine happiness.

You see, as survivors, we have seen our lives sprinkled with trials and tribulations and were forced to adapt to challenging situations. For that reason, our mental and emotional well-being was certainly affected. But the good news is, by incorporating these positive habits you will be proactively improving your overall well-being and, therefore your happiness and fulfillment levels. Are you ready to know what these habits are? Keep reading to find out my top 3 best happiness habits and start taking steps to create lasting fulfillment!

Happiness Habit #1: Prioritize Self-Care

Before we get into this habit, I want you to answer this question: Have you been - really- prioritizing self-care? I’m not talking about the occasional visit to the spa, or the mani-pedi, even though these sound ‘awesome-ly’ well! I’m talking about you scheduling moments of care and introducing them into your daily routine and in the middle of your work day. If the answer is no, you are not alone. It’s pretty common for survivors to believe that our feelings and needs are not valid, and shouldn't be met or fulfilled. Besides that, some of us have learned to dissociate from our body, mind, and emotions as a trauma response, so connecting to those needs may be challenging.

Now, how in the world can we automatically do self-care? Well, first we need to understand what self-care is, and then define what it means to us, and our particular needs. You see, self-care isn’t just something you do sometimes to pamper yourself. Self-care is a crucial habit for your overall well-being and happiness.

The busyness of life paired with the belief that our needs are not supposed to be met can lead us to neglect ourselves, and consequently hinder our well-being. Have you noticed that happy people do not neglect themselves? And if they ever do, they quickly get back on track. That’s the type of person I believe we should aim to be.

So, today, I want you to start prioritizing self-care. Is there a visit to the doctor you’ve been avoiding? Have you been talking about start going to the gym? Or maybe you just need more sleep every night? Did something else come to mind? That is a great place to start.

Happiness Habit #2: Practicing Mindfulness

At the beginning of my journey, I quickly learned that there was no way I could move on healthily without learning to live in the present moment. I went from finding myself trapped in the past, to hyperfocusing on the future. And to be honest, eventually, that did not make me happy because… I wasn’t living. I needed to find out how to be happy now, in this moment, so when I got to the future I was praying for, I could fully appreciate it, instead of just keep going. Plus, I wanted to be happy now, not somewhere in that future I didn’t even know if I could materialize.

When I had that awareness within my soul, I immediately started searching, and that led me to the book that changed my life: ‘The Power of Now,’ by Eckhart Tole. That book made me understand that having goals out there is great, but life is happening now, and that is where everything is manifested. Besides the present moment, nothing else is really real. Either past or future, are just moving pictures in our heads. They may feel real but they’re not.

Don’t get me wrong, I love dreaming about the future and dwelling on fond memories I created in this new life I’m living, but as in everything, balance is key. You can not be so trapped in the past or so obsessed with the future that you stop yourself from living your life now. Actually, that’s where depression and anxiety come from, and we don’t want that right?

We’re here to be happy and find lasting fulfillment!

So, how do we practice mindfulness? Well, there are different ways, like doing some breathwork and applying various grounding techniques, but today I want to put a spotlight on gratitude. Implementing gratitude in my daily routine is one of my favorite ways to bring myself to the present moment and cultivate happiness at the same time. It is simple, easy, and a great mood booster! Also, an attitude of gratitude will rewire your brain to think more positively and teach it to look for more things to be happy about. Doesn’t that sound great?

Happiness Habit #3: Setting Boundaries and Prioritization

Living life can be an overwhelming experience if we consider all that it entails. Think about it: The responsibilities, the roles we play, our relationships, the emotions to regulate… Life can be hard! And if you are a survivor like me, sometimes the tiniest things may give you an overwhelming sensation. First and foremost, it is important to recognize that you may be easily overwhelmed like I do or to identify the situations that may provoke you to feel overwhelmed.

The trick here is not to escape overwhelm completely (I mean, life happens) but to avoid at all costs that the overwhelm gets to a point where it takes over you. And the best way I know to do that is to set my priorities straight, as often as I need, even if I have to take breaks in the middle of the day to connect to my emotions and if I am feeling overwhelmed, reprioritize. You see, I tend to overcommit, so if you’re like me, you may need to apply this tip, and the next one…

I’m sure setting boundaries i not new to anyone’s vocabulary, but how many of us really set boundaries and stick to them, without feeling guilty?

As a survivor, I didn’t want anyone ever to feel like I once did: alone, and abandoned, so I took that idea to the next level, and for decades I’d say yes to pretty much everything, to the detriment of my health, overall well-being, and happiness. I would often end up exhausted, and overwhelmed by other people’s problems, trying to help them when they didn’t even want to help themselves. In the meantime, my life, happiness, and fulfillment were on hold.

Now, it’s a different story. I learned the importance of saying things like No; I’ll need some time to think about it; it doesn’t align; I’d love to be there for you but I won’t be able to attend; and Let me check my schedule and I’ll get back to you. At first, it was uncomfortable: I had to sit with the guilt for a while and soothe myself into standing in my ‘no’ and it was well worth it. Because I understood I was worthy of setting boundaries and prioritizing what’s most important for me and my life.

Setting boundaries helps you support your priorities, and ensures you have that crucial time to do self-care and practice mindfulness. In the end, when you do say ‘yes,’ that yes will be a powerful one and you’ll show up in ways you never imagined, and truly enjoy the moment because you’re not exhausted, drained, or extremely overwhelmed.


If you are on the path to finding lasting happiness and fulfillment, these three strategies will certainly help you get there faster. Remember: take good care of yourself by defining what self-care means to you and honoring that; try to be mindful, set priorities often, and build your boundaries around that.

I wish you all the happiness and fulfillment in the world!

Love and light,



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