It might seem obvious that being happy is core to looking after ourselves. This is an area of great debate at the moment. Happiness is possibly a bit over-rated these days. In our search for happiness we might even come to the conclusion that we won't ever be truly happy. A focus on being happy can lead to us searching for something elusive, something non-tangible, something even unreachable. If we understand it is one of many of our feelings that come and go it might become more achievable.
Happiness is closely related to what is most valuable to us. If we value family we might be happiest at times when we are with our family or we feel like we are contributing to their wellbeing. Of course families are complex and there will also be times of tension or conflict. When we can't possibly meet all the expectations of family members. When misunderstandings arise and we inadvertently hurt each other's feelings. We probably won't feel so happy then.
So in our search for happiness we can start to allow these occasions to override the opportunities for happiness. If we instead are more realistic about the trials and tribulations of family life we will accept the times when family life is more of a struggle, embrace it, work with it and really appreciate those moments of happiness when they do arise. We might learn to really value and honor those moments because we know they can't possibly always be there. That makes them so much more special than if we expect happiness to be the norm.
We might also be led to believe from our modern world of advertising and focus on positive messages that we should be happy all the time. That we have so much to appreciate and be happy about. That may be true. Maybe we don't always notice and appreciate the little things in our lives that can make us happy. We might be looking for something more or comparing ourselves to others. So noticing and appreciating can be useful.
However, if we are really worried about things or struggling to find the meaning in our lives it can be self-defeating to just focus on the positives. If we are unwell we can best care for ourselves by looking at what is going on and how we can do something about it. If we are in an unhappy relationship we can care for ourselves most by exploring with the other person or by ourselves what is wrong in the relationship and what we can do about it. Just focusing on the positives might keep us in a negative cycle or place us at risk.
So happiness might be over-rated.It might be elusive. It might be impossible to achieve. Or it might be something we can find in small doses as part of the rich tapestry that makes up our life. Something we can look for it deep inside ourselves, not just on the surface.
We hear regularly these days about people who put on a happy face but deep down are struggling with life. Perhaps it's time to become a bit more sophisticated in our understandings of happiness and support each other to find meaning, to accept times of struggle and seek happiness in the small things in life that give it value. Perhaps some new words like contentment or satisfaction might be more fitting.