Once I ____________, then I’ll be happy again.”
It’s a convenient lie we tell ourselves, isn’t it?
Or maybe it’s not a lie. Maybe it’s what we really believe. I know I kept thinking that my sunny disposition would return... After my marriage was perfect. After I lost weight. After I started making better money. After I started getting out more. After I figured out what I wanted to do with my life. Always after, after, after.
What if I told you that's not how it works. That the secret to finding that elusive happiness is actually to stop chasing it. Because it's right in front of you.
I know. I didn't believe it either. It took a steep fall into the darkness of depression to finally get it.
Hi, I'm Sahar Elhodiri Aker...
...and I've been CHOOSING BEAUTY every day since November 21, 2013. This is the picture that started it all, and finally ended my insatiable search for happiness.
Clinical depression runs deep in my family. I have struggled with it most of my life, but this time around was different. This time, I didn't see it coming. It had been building for years and I didn't have a clue that I was slipping into a dangerous downward spiral.
I woke up one morning and found myself curled up at the bottom of a deep dark hole where I could barely breathe, wondering what happened. Wondering how I got here. And not really caring if I ever saw light again. I didn't even realize it at the time, but so many things had happened over the years that pushed me here. Little by little, until I hit the bottom.
All of a sudden, someone who thrived in the spotlight for years as a TV health reporter and model wanted to hide from the world. I couldn't stand to look at myself in the mirror. I felt hideous and hated myself. I thought this would never stop. That I would never feel good. That the only way to stop hurting was to sleep so deeply that I wouldn't wake up. I had fleeting thoughts of suicide.
I finally found the strength to get help. It was a long tough climb for me out of that dark hole. I kept falling back down. After months of raw excruciating work in therapy, I was feeling better, but still very vulnerable.
Then came November 2013.
I was living in Ohio at the time, and winter was the hardest time of the year for me. Once the days get darker, the temperatures drop, and the snow falls, I struggle to keep going. My therapist suggested I look for something beautiful (to me) every day to help me get through the next few months. He told me how Positive Psychology researchers have found people who notice and appreciate beauty are more likely to find joy and meaning in everyday life. I didn’t actually believe it would make much difference, but decided to give it a try. Anything to ease the brunt of a brutal Ohio winter.
I'm very visual, so I decided I would document the beauty I saw each day with pictures. And so there, on a freezing cold day, I posted the very first #ICHOOSEBEAUTY photograph to Instagram - a striking red bush contrasted with a blanket of pure white snow.
I felt a glimmer of hope.
So I kept going, and within another week, I was hooked. So much so that I didn't quit when winter was over. I kept going. Every single day. For more than eight years! In fact, February 5, 2022 marked my 3,000th day in a row of posting #ichoosebeauty photos on Instagram!
I’m still posting the beauty I see to this day, just not *every* day. After I hit my 3,000 days in a row, I decided that was a good point to take occasional breaks from social media, as well as focus on helping more people see the beauty in their world.
I’ve now also started an entire company around the concept of choosing beauty. Each and every day, new people from around the world join me to take my free 30-Day #ICHOOSEBEAUTY Challenge. Some post on Instagram using the hashtag, and others keep it private to themselves—and you're welcome to do whichever you prefer.
Taking a picture every day has really helped me to shift my focus to an entirely new frame of mind, and just notice all the little things every day - whether it's the clouds, a text from a friend, or just a hot cup of tea. I'm noticing beauty everywhere that I had overlooked before.
And it’s changed everything about the way I live my life.
As someone with depression in her genes, I still have occasional episodes, of course. There are still tough days when I can barely get out of bed. But #ICHOOSEBEAUTY has become my life preserver, and my daily images keep me afloat.
Now, #ICHOOSEBEAUTY can be your life preserver, too. I’d like to personally invite you to take out your camera phone and simply try it for a few days with me. I’ll walk you through the first 30 days, and help you find the beauty in your life, even if you can't see it now.
Because we might want to believe that we’ll finally be happy later, but the truth is?
We can be happy right now.
And all it takes?
Is one photo a day.
Which one will be your first?
I can’t wait to see.