Have you ever asked someone “Are you happy?” Do you ever ask yourself if you are happy? What exactly is happiness? How do we get it? With International Happiness Day on 20th March I thought this was an apt issue to consider.
Earlier this week, the sun was shining, the sky was blue and the daffodils were showing off their yellowness in the breeze. So I decided to take an hour out of my day and walk through the fields. I noticed the grass is getting its fresh green spring hue. The buds are out on the trees and the birds are singing happily all around. I sat feeling my face warmed by the sun and hearing the curlews, a sure sign of Spring, lapwings and gulls claiming their territory. Lambs were bleating and leaping whilst hens were clucking as they scratched contentedly in the gravel. I suddenly noticed that I was smiling and a contented feeling was filling me from the inside. I was aware I was happy and I was literally doing nothing other than being present. Is happiness really as simple as this?
Before Lockdown I found I was in a cycle of FOMO, (fear of missing out) trying to ensure my children were attending after school clubs, having swimming lessons and arranging play dates for them so they could socialise. I would then spend my time battling to get them out the door as my blood pressure and heart rate rose to what felt like being off the scale. Who was happy with this arrangement? Nobody. I was always onto the next thing and rarely stopped to take in the moment. I would go to bed exhausted but not actually sure what I had done or achieved during the day.
Lockdown came and took away the sense of pressure. I no longer needed to look at Facebook and feel that I was missing out and everyone else was having a better time. To be honest it was a relief! I felt a degree of happiness at being free from expectation.
A year on and the country in general is looking forward to getting back out into the world but when I do it will be in a more circumspect way. I will not be guided by a need to fit in and a fear of missing out. I will focus on what I like doing and not what I think I should like doing. I will be pleased for other people’s success and leave it at that. I will not compare myself unfavourably and be my harshest critic. I am the only person placing unrealistic expectations on myself so will stop, or at least be aware when I am doing it. Hopefully, this way happiness lies.
I will also learn from my experience on Tuesday afternoon and try to give my full attention to each activity that I am doing. The present is the only moment we can actually interact with and do anything about. The past has gone and can’t be changed, the future hasn’t happened and is unknown so really we should enjoy the gift that is the present. Surely living like this will increase our happiness because we will not be living with regret for what has been or worry for what will be. It will perhaps also help us be more proactive about how we spend each moment if we are aware of the happiness that comes from making it count.
I am aware this all sounds simple but will probably be hard to do as we gradually slip back into our old ways. So to reduce self expectation (otherwise known as pressure) but still work on being present I will make sure I spend time (ideally at least an hour) every day doing something for me that I genuinely enjoy doing. Perhaps having a bath, walking in the sun or phoning a friend for a catch up. What will you do?
What are your thoughts on happiness? Do you think it’s as simple as being in the present?