Recently I was discussing with a client the issue of happiness and how to have more of it. One of the questions that came up was “isn’t that rather obvious”, and it occurred to me that a lot of what I say in my work does have a feel of being rather obvious. In the treatment of depression for example we often use a ‘visual / analogue scale’ or more simply a line on a piece of paper with zero at one end and ten at the other end. People are asked to rate their depression at this point on the scale, then a second rating in answer to the question “has there ever been a time in your life when you have been less depressed than you are now?” As you can imagine most people have had better times and when they explore what was different they often say things like, “I had more friends” or “I had a job that I loved doing” or “I used to walk my dog everyday”, leading to the realization that in many cases they have stopped doing the things that gave them pleasure and satisfaction, and therefore made their lives happier.
My recent reading led me to the writings of David Myers and the subject of Social Psychology. He points out that what can appear to be common sense is that we often invoke it after we know it, this he terms a hindsight bias. So I will continue to promote the principles of happiness and how to have more of it, as I am increasingly doing in my day to day work, and if I get told that I am stating the blindingly obvious, then I will gladly accept that….
No doubt about it one of the greatest principles to promote happiness in an individual is having people to love and having people in our lives that love us. This last several days has been a little different as my daughter and I have had the opportunity to spend time together as my wife has been away visiting family.
There is certainly a different dynamic operating when one key person is removed from the family unit, fortunately only for a short period. I have to say I have very much enjoyed this time with my daughter who is getting ready to leave the nest and head out on her journey, and to continue her education in an area that she is passionate about. Having that passion and seeing it as a purpose in her life is something that can only contribute to her life.
One other factor that has been evident recently is the importance of the silly stuff in our lives. Having time to play is critical in enhancing happiness and creating opportunities to see things differently. If we are relaxed our minds have the opportunity to process information and we do this subconsciously, our ability to solve problems is then enhanced, and clearly the more effectively we can deal with problems, the less we have and the happier we can be.
So time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time….
As I continue my work in mental health, the one thing that that occurs time and time again, and something that undermines peoples attempts to recover from crises in their lives is social isolation. When illnesses such as depression strike, the need to be with supportive groups of people, whether this be family or friends, or in the case of the need for hospitalization meeting people like myself or my nursing colleagues is clear. Of the many things we can do for our fellow man is to be with them when the going gets rough.
In modern society however, with all of the challenges that we face on a day to day basis, we often turn away from other peoples issues’ as we have enough on our personal plates. However if we refrain from turning away, we are presented with an opportunity to enhance our personal happiness. Many studies have demonstrated that acts of kindness have the capacity to enhance our own personal satisfaction, it even enhances the personal relationships with a partner when we extend kindness during times of their personal need.
We are social beings and although most people value personal time, when that is extended or even in some circumstances enforces, we experience distress. It has been said that there is only one race on the planet, the human race, and an increase in we more than me thinking can only be beneficial to our collective species. So if you meet someone who is down, give of yourself a little, reach out and give them a hand up, you will likely find yourself benefiting in the longer term yourself.