After reading books about happiness, and having several ideas of what I thought happiness was, I have come to the conclusion that it isn’t some goal we should strive to attain! Happiness is not about material things, it’s not about some picture we imagine we have to create in order to feel what we are expecting it to be. Happiness is a feeling, and it is a feeling we can stop and enjoy at any time, it is something we have to allow. Let me explain.
We are so busy these days trying to fit so much into our lives that we forget to stop and “enjoy” the important things. We forget to enjoy the cup of coffee with have with friends for 20mins because that was all we could spare them, we forget to really stop and listen to our spouses’ debrief when we ask them about their day, we forget to listen when we are catching up with friends, instead we are thinking about being heard becasue we have our own issues and concerns with minimal time to deal with them while we have a listening ear, not to mention thinking about what else we have to get through today, trying to remember what engagements we have this week and thinking about all the chores and errands we still have to get through before dinner… Oh, and what are we going to cook for dinner?!
Are we ever really present with people anymore?
I don’t have children, but I used to work as a sort of nanny so I understand the running around involved in the school pick-ups, shopping, after-school activities, and then there’s the maintenance of the house to fit into the day, not to mention work. What I wonder about is where is the time to enjoy all the achievements, the precious moments you will never have again, and the togetherness that we will all miss when the family unit or close support network is no longer available to us?
Are we so busy rushing around, trying to organise everything that we’re actually already missing it?
Or does highlighting this just bring us more pressure, as we realise there is yet another aspect of life that we are failing to achieve? OR can we use this observation to take a step back, re-evaluate and prioritise our daily goals? Is it possible to make certain moments count, to create quality interactions, to be present in the moment and enjoy it rather than looking at the time and worrying about what else we should be doing, when those other things might be able to wait?
I may have written about this before, but this is something I really struggle with myself. I try to fit so much into my day, I commit to things I would rather not be doing, all I look forward to on my days off is half an hour on my verandah with a coffee, glass of wine (whatever the beverage is) and some downtime that isn’t occupied by tv where I don’t know where the time has gone. A moment in the week just to be present and enjoy sitting peacefully, no rushing, no stressing and no planning. My husband and I are both shift workers, so we don’t get a great deal of time together lately, so I have been trying to maximise the time we do get off together. When we have a couple of hours together or when I am home alone in the evening for dinner I make two all-in dinners to put into the fridge or freezer to use for leftovers for work, or for those nights when you really can’t be bothered cooking. It means we don’t eat take away, we can talk while we do it, we use it as an opportunity to plan our week together, and we do what we can to keep the days we have off together free of housework, meal prep and errands if we can help it. What I really want to do is plan a weekend away with him, but so far we haven’t had enough of an opportunity where our rosters allow for it, so instead we go out to the movies, or to dinner together.
I have been getting into a magazine called Simplify, by the guys that run the facebook page “Becoming Minimalist”. I read an article yesterday from someone who was diagnosed with cancer and had gone through time-consuming alternative therapies that left no time for social interactions with family and friends, and had ultimately made him re-evaluate his “quality of life”. This had me thinking about where we place our values, and what I would do in that situation? I wondered about my life choices. I work full-time (often overtime), I never say no to people and fill my days off with things for others leaving no time to do the things I need to do, and I feel as though I am only keeping my head above water with the housework and things I would like to do. Don’t misunderstand my dilemma, I love spending time with friends and catching up, but I am also a homebody and I feel as though I am not allowing enough time for myself to wind down, relax and de-stress. Consequently, I am stressing in my sleep instead.
So I wonder, why are people so “unhappy”? I feel as though this might be a topic unable to be thoroughly approached in a blog post, however, it has led me to approach my own ideas and make some of my own realisations.
What is happiness?
A quick google search leads me to definitions along the lines of “a state of emotional well-being”, “encompassing having a good life”. While this definition is broadly generic and subjective, it raises for me an array of new questions. What is well-being and what do we determine as a “good life”? Instead, I wonder if we need to set our own happiness guidelines? My husband and I have often talked about what is important to us in the future, and it’s much the same as most people, financial freedom, travel and the opportunity to go out and do things. He likes to go fishing, I like to go to the markets, go shopping for fabric and sew, catch up with friends, I guess fitness is important too so that we are able to do these things. We don’t need to live in a big house by the beach, but that might be happiness for someone else, to wake up to the smell of the ocean every day.
Our long-term happiness goals are split between financial goals (that give us peace of mind rather than material possessions that we want to purchase – we would like to be debt free), time – we would like to have more free time so we are working towards getting into a position where we can both drop back at work and do more together, and slow down. That last one is mostly directed at me, I rush around too much, and I need to stop filling my days off before they arrive. While those are our long-term “happiness goals”, we are actually happy as we are, all that other stuff would improve our level of happiness, as we would have less to worry about, but I do wonder if that’s just life’s journey. If we didn’t have something to achieve what would we do, and how would we know we have progressed?
Happiness is being contented with the moment!
The homeless can be happy, terminally ill people can be happy, and even prisoners can find joy in a moment during their final meal. Our ability to be happy is not so much about some unrealistic feeling we think we should be experiencing, it’s about finding joy in what we have and not worrying about the future, even if for just one moment.
We can have a plan for the future, but we need to enjoy the journey before we miss it