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Question from J. to me sent via e-mail:

When you decided to be happy, and to be good to yourself, how did you manage not to fall prey to the negative voices in your head? I mean the ones who say that it doesn't matter what you do, things will never change.
I feel awful asking you this question, as it lays a lot of things at your feet, but I would really like to know: how did you get up each day and keep doing what you knew you needed to do? How did you not get discouraged?
My answer:

Dear J.,
The journey to happiness is a long and slow one. It's a learning experience.
It took me a long time to understand the "anatomy" of my mind in order to be able to modify it. A great part of it was willpower but most of it was understanding how the mind and the body work.
I read many books that helped me get that understanding and then, one day at a time I tried to bring those lessons into my daily routine.
It wasn't fast or easy but little by little it all became part of the new me.
When I decided to change things I first decided to accept how imperfect I was at the time. I embraced myself back then with all my problems and limitations but with a new angle. I told myself: It's OK to be here now, you're human and humans are very imperfect, but tomorrow you will be in a much better place. I reminded that to myself every single day. And it worked.
I will never be perfect, I still have many limitations and problems but I do my best everyday to do the right thing. I am in a much happier place now. My imperfections are now OK, they're human and normal, but they don't overwhelm me anymore, they're a lot smaller than before.
You need to love yourself in order to do that. If you love someone you more likely will do the right thing for that person instead of hurting her/him. I realized that I didn't love myself enough. I never put myself first and I wasn't forgiving and gentle with myself. The bottom line is that the world and your vision of it starts and ends in yourself.
Instead of changing the world or the people around us we need to change ourselves. And more than changing ourselves we just need to improve, because basically nobody becomes a different person. We only become a better version of ourselves.
I hope that this answers your question a little bit.