As I’m writing this, we are in the early days of the COVID19 pandemic in the U.K.. The world as a whole seems nervous, confused and curious all at the same time. 20th March also happens to be the International Day of Happiness.
Debates are ongoing about who is right and who is wrong. Many people are suffering with pandemic-related anxiety. News is hurtling in from every direction, which is mainly negative in content. So now might not seem the best time to be talking about happiness. Or is it?
I’m not talking about hiding your emotions or pushing them away; I’m a big believer in feeling the feels. And I’m definitely not one to say “all you need is to think positive” – because it’s not that easy, and besides we know you can’t trick your brain just like that.
But if, when you’re ready, you’d like to find a way towards happiness, there’s no harm in giving some thought to what that would take (even if it seems a way off right now). And that’s where I talk about some key ingredients.
1) Moments of Joy
Many people confuse happiness with joy, and that’s why I’ve mentioned this first – because it’s just one ingredient, not the ingredient.
You can experience a burst of joy when you win £2 on a scratch card or someone asks you out on a date. But it’s transitory – it doesn’t last, and the danger is, if we think it’s the only path? We will try to recreate it (which never works) or seek more of it, only to find it’s never enough.
So instead of searching, it can help to recognise that, throughout day, there will be moments you can cherish, without expecting it. It might be a smile from a child. A text from a friend. Finishing a good book. It all counts.
This is where mindfulness can be so helpful. You learn to experience the present moment, without judgement. Just as you wouldn’t think a tree needs more leaves, you appreciate what Gelong Thubten calls a micro-moment, and what it has to offer just as it is.
Yes, joy is important. But it is just one ingredient.
What gets you out of bed in the morning; what puts a little bit of sparkle in your eye? These are the things I encourage people to think about, when they say they want to be happy. Happiness includes ensuring your needs are met, in the form of self-care and purpose.
One suggestion I offer is to get a blank sheet of paper and write the word “Me” in the middle. Then create a mind map of all the things that get your motor running.
It might be spending time with friends, helping out at a Foodbank, exercise, writing or something else. Then when you know what nourishes you, see if you can find ways to do more or it.
You might join a sports club, set up a writing group, or offer some more hours to a charity. You could ask a good friend “If I didn’t do the job I do now, what could you see me doing?” and see if their reply inspires you. You might also find compassionate goal setting helpful.
We are hard-wired for connection. In our lives before technology, and in the days when we were “hunter-gatherers”, we were always part of a community. We shared. We communicated. We belonged.
It’s been said that the opposite of connection is addiction. We find ourselves needing “stuff” to fill a hole, to plug the gap of what’s missing in our lives; we can be addicted to pretty much anything. Sex, shopping, gambling, our phones. Even our thinking.
So, the key then may be to pause and reflect on how you can reconnect. Like the second ingredient, meaning, you might find it involves like-minded people. Set good boundaries. Communicate mindfully, authentically and wholeheartedly. Start with you by finding a way that feels right to say “I am enough”. And have a think about what connects you to others, especially if you’re having a difficult time.
Below is a video by Brené Brown that explains this which you might find helpful.
You might also like: Monday Mojo™ – feel-good motivation for the week ahead. Click here to subscribe.
©️ Copyright Delphi Ellis 2020