The Happiness Connection
Is taking care of yourself selfish?
Do you regularly take a working lunch so you can get a few extra tasks off your list, stop going to the gym, because you just can’t find time, and spend your weekends doing things that make other people happy, rather than something that will make you happy?
If so, you are in good company. Focusing on making other people happy, to the detriment of your own well-being, is common.
If you are a woman, you may have been raised with the belief that a mother’s role is to nurture her family with no thought for herself.
My mom often felt most satisfied when she knew everyone else in her family was happy. I’m not sure if she realized that the days she was happy, were the days that guaranteed the rest of us felt happy, too.
I was raised in a church where we learned that good people prioritized in the following way:
If you put yourself higher on the list, you were selfish.
It is important to consider other people, and not to act in a manner that will negatively affect them, but this philosophy encourages people to view self-care as self-centred, and unimportant.
If my mom had taken regular time for herself, she would have been happy more often, and so would we.
Happiness is a choice; the only one who can make you happy is yourself. If you always put other people first, you are ignoring these nuggets of happiness, and jeopardizing your own well-being.
By taking enough time to look after yourself, you will have more energy to help others. You can’t fill anyone up from an empty vessel. You need to be at the top of your game if you want to help others.
Developing a healthy relationship with yourself is an important behaviour to model for your children. Children learn through observation, and imitation. Show them that taking time to nurture themselves is a life skill that should not be overlooked.
The safely presentation on any airline always advises you to put on your own oxygen mask before helping anyone else, the same goes with any form of care. For optimum effect, look after yourself before you attempt to look after others.
If you want others to treat you well, you need to believe that you are worth being treated well. What better way to show the world that you are worthy of respect, than by respecting yourself and taking time for self-care?
Set boundaries. Make sure that everyone realizes when you are carving out some time for yourself. If you choose to have a relaxing bath with a book and glass of wine, let everyone know that you are unavailable for the next 30 minutes.
There is no rule that says you must be available to clients 24-7. Don’t take business calls, or answer business messages outside of your predetermined work hours.
Ways to take care of yourself include:
- Take time to read, meditate, garden, or do other activity that you enjoy
- Eat regularly, and healthily
- Get enough sleep to achieve peak performance
- Create regular opportunities to socialize with people you like
- Take a break during your work day to get some exercise
- Remind yourself that you are a work in progress, there is no need to expect yourself to be perfect
Emotions are contagious. If you are happy, the people within your sphere of influence will benefit.
Challenge yourself to do something just for you, each day, and discover how much better the people in your world feel.
When I tell people I specialize in helping the world to be happier, I get a wide variety of reactions.
For the most part, they fall into two camps: one that believes my work is important, and the other that thinks my vision is unachievable.
All lives experience light and shadow; no one can live in perpetual sunshine. For some reason, talking about being happier conjures visions of Cinderella skipping and singing among the forest animals.
In the minds of many, a happy life seems to equate with being free from worry and difficult times.
In truth, you can go through problems, challenges, and deep darkness and still be happy. You do not have to live in a fairytale, or have lots of money to feel great about your life.
Regardless of whether you are happy, or miserable, you will still have hills to climb, difficult people to deal with, and deep holes to navigate around.
Happy people recognize the benefits of climbing the hills, view challenging people as an opportunity to improve their people skills, and are willing to attempt to jump over deep holes, knowing they can always climb out of them if they fall in.
It isn’t what happens to you in your life that makes you happy, or unhappy, it is how you react to those things.
Happiness involves making a choice to be happy, and then taking small steps to achieve that goal.
If you are the impatient sort, you might think by taking huge strides, you can reach a state of happiness quicker.
Giant leaps have a place in your travels through life, but if that is all you take, you will soon exhaust yourself.
Small steps can get you farther in the long run.
Start by choosing one small action to add into your life to boost your happiness. Concentrate on turning this action into a habit, as that is the secret to lasting change.
If you don’t know where to start, try changing the way you look at life’s events. Attempt to view challenges from a more positive perspective.
When I was caught in the rain the other day, I didn’t bemoan the fact that I was soaking wet. I reminded myself that it could be worse; it could be snowing.
When I lost my car keys, I chose to be thankful that I had a car to lose the keys to, and was grateful that I had a spare set.
These may be small shifts in thinking, but they will build into a major change if practised consistently.
Does that mean I am always positive, and cheerful?
Far from it. I slide backward from time to time, just like everyone else, but sinking into negativity happens less often the more I practise maintaining a positive perspective.
When a shadow falls across your path, try to see a purpose for the darkness.
It might be an opportunity to learn something new about yourself, or a chance to take a break from wearing sunglasses. If you can find a positive reason for the challenge you are facing, you will feel better about the experience.
Your life will have ups and downs, whether you choose to be happy or not. It isn’t a change in your circumstances that make you happy; it’s a change in your perspective of the circumstances.
As I sit at my computer, I am looking out on snowy Kelowna, and wondering where spring has gone.
Doesn’t the weather realize it is the middle of March. Isn’t spring supposed to have sprung by now?
These are not unusual, or unique thoughts. In fact, they are downright common in the Okanagan these days. What is unusual, is that I’m not feeling frustrated, annoyed or any other negative emotion when I look at the snow, and tie up my snow boots one more time.
My lack of hostility toward the weather has me perplexed. I don’t ski, I don’t like cold weather, I love the summer. Why am I managing to be so calm about the length of winter? Did an alien invade my body when I wasn’t looking?
As it started to snow last night, I took the time to ponder this phenomenon. Why was I able to endure the cold season this year, when it has caused me so much angst in the past?
As an entrepreneur, with a husband, children, and aging parents, my life is always full, but this year I have increased clarity around what I want to accomplish in my business, and as a result work is occupying even more of my time than it has in the past.
Feeling depressed about the weather has to get in line behind all of the more pressing matters I need to deal with.
My home office window looks out on the weather, and I get out twice daily to walk my dog, but I have so much going on, that I don’t have time to give winter much more than a passing thought. My attention goes instead, to my business, family, business, friends, and business.
This is a good lesson to remember, and one I would recommend you tuck into your belt of wisdom. If there is something in your life that is causing negative emotions for you, don’t allow your thoughts to dwell on it.
If you are feeling desperate for better weather, and you can’t find the time, or money to jet off to a warmer climate for a few months, find a project to become absorbed in. Set yourself a goal that will challenge you enough that you don’t have time to think about the number of snow days we’ve had, or how cold it has been.
This strategy will work for any annoyance that is following you around, and is out of your control to change.
If you can’t do anything to make it better, and it is making you miserable, don’t think about it any more than is absolutely necessary. Let go of both it, and your depressed, and angry feelings.
If you pay attention to negative things, you will feel negative, so make it a habit to pay attention to positive things.
Of course, I am willing to accept that there are many winter sports enthusiasts who are loving this weather. For you, give the weather all the attention you can muster. Enjoy the snow and cold temperatures, for it will soon be spring.
More The Happiness Connection articles
Did you watch the Academy Awards last Sunday?
Do you agree with the winner, or would you have chosen a different movie to take the top honour?
Every year, as soon as the nominations for the Oscars are announced, I set myself the task of trying to watch each one of them before the ceremony happens. My husband joins me in this challenge.
The fun of this task is that we go to movies we otherwise wouldn’t have chosen. Too much violence will keep me away, and too much dialogue will stop my husband. We take the viewpoint that if the movie is good enough to be nominated, it is good enough to invest our time and money in.
If possible, I like to see these movies on the big screen, the way they were designed to be seen. Watching the movies in the theatre has a strange advantage. I get to sit among other people and listen to their conversations.
Many times, I hear people mention all the great things they have heard about a movie – before they watch it, and then how it didn’t live up to their expectations when it is finished.
Sometimes it is the other way around. People have low expectations about a movie and then are pleasantly surprised at how good it is.
My husband often quizzes me on what the movie is about as we are on our way to the cinema. More often that not, I can only give him a vague idea.
I’ve stopped paying much attention to whether other people love, hate, or are indifferent to movies that I want to see. I used to do that, but I discovered that too often I’d get so excited to see a movie that everyone was raving about, only to be disappointed.
Some of the best movies I’ve ever seen, I didn’t think I’d enjoy before I watched them. Hacksaw Ridge fell into that category for me this year. I had heard how bloody and violent it was, which was true, but I enjoyed the story behind it, and it was beautifully crafted.
Do you ever find yourself disappointed in a movie that you heard was the best ever, or go to a party full of anticipation about how great it would be, only to find it wasn’t as good, or as much fun as you had imagined? If so, you are not alone.
When your expectations are high, they have no where to go but down.
If you are ready to increase your happiness, try lowering your pre-event expectations.
I’m not suggesting that you should go around thinking that everything is going to suck, but don’t let your imagination go wild, and build expectations up to unrealistic heights.
Use this information to your advantage. Going someplace when you don’t expect to have much enjoyment, may well mean you are pleasantly surprised. This gives a little kick of unexpected happiness.
Being disappointed isn’t always a bad thing, but it can really create havoc with your level of well-being.
The next time you have a trip of a life-time planned, give your imagination some time off. Go into it feeling excited about the adventure, but axe the more detailed expectations.
Being in a rainy Dubai when you had been dreaming about lying in the sun will do nothing for your enjoyment of the holiday. Hoping for sun, but realizing you can’t control the weather is a better approach.
Next year, if you want to see all the best picture nominations before the Academy Awards, go into them with no expectation, good or bad. Just appreciate them for what they are. Ignore what others have to say.
A blank slate can contribute to a happy state.