The desire for happiness is one of the many truths we all share. The Greek Philosopher, Aristotle suggested that happiness could be defined as a balance of Hedonia – immediate pleasure, enjoyment and the absence of pain and Eudaimonia – growth, purpose, meaning and goodness.
Everyone wants to be happy and we’ve all spent a significant chunk of our lives chasing after the things, people and experiences that make us feel good and simply avoiding the ones that don’t.
This desire has been perpetuated by the self-help industry who encourage hordes of willing consumers to ‘shift their mindset’ and ‘raise their vibration’ in an effort to attract more love, success and abundance into their lives.
“The happiness craze – especially the emergence of “positive psychology” – dovetailed perfectly with the demands of modern consumer capitalism. Being happy has become a personal project, something that arises not from our social circumstances but from our own efforts.” Clive Hamilton, womankindmag.com
Happiness is an elusive beast. We find pleasure in consumerism, food, sex, drugs and alcohol but we also seek connection, meaningful relationships and fulfilling careers. We want it all and we want it now.
We’re working longer and partying harder in the relentless pursuit of happiness and success but it’s leading to burnout and overwhelm on an unprecedented scale.
When I was 26 I landed the “dream job.” I didn’t think I was the smartest, nor was I the most experienced person in the team but I was determined to wow my corporate comrades with my impressive work ethic, general chutzpah and willingness to learn.
I was always ‘on’ and struggled to find the balance between work, rest and play. I slept next to my blackberry and often pulled all-nighters and worked both weekends and public holidays. I was trashing-on in between projects and working + partying at an unsustainable pace.
Over time I become slightly despondent and disengaged. My green smoothies weren’t cutting it and no amount of self-love affirmations, yoga or chanting could shift the general feelings of detachment and pessimism.
I had joined the growing ranks of millennial women who had experienced their first bout of burnout before their 30th birthday. Fu*king great. For me the stress manifested into a general feeling of anxiety that I just couldn’t shake, I was petrified about making a mistake and felt completely overwhelmed at the smallest of tasks.
“Commentators were widely diverse in justifying why these women are burning out. Some attribute it to the high expectations placed on them by their parents, unrealistic expectations brought on by an entitled generation, and general culture shifts. Others have less sympathy, describing these women as whiners.” Larissa Faw, forbes.com
I had all the tell-tale signs of burnout but I didn’t have the tools to effectively manage the stress I was facing on a daily basis. My pursuit of happiness – or hedonia – had backfired and I was left exhausted and struggling to cope.
Deepak got it wrong. We can’t always be happy and I what I thought I wanted wasn’t necessarily the best thing for me. Thankfully Aristotle also defined Eudaimonia with the long-term view of ‘doing well and living well’.
Living well means finding the joy in the simplest of actions versus the more ego-driven pleasures.
It’s reassuring to know that whilst I can’t always be happy I can create happiness for myself and others. I have a joy list (yes, I know it’s ghay) that I practice regularly because it makes my heart smile but because it also makes me a nicer and more generous human to be around.
My Joy list –
- Ocean swims
- Walks in the park
- Dancing in my living room
- Cooking epic meals
- Cuddles with Ben
- Dinner with my Mumma
- Skype calls with my Pa
- Yoga and Meditation
- Big belly laughter
- Trash TV
- Wine + endless gossip with my mates
- Reading + writing
- Burning scented candles
- Pyjamas (if I could go to work in my jam jams I 100% would)
- Gratitude practice (I like to remind myself daily for all the good things that I have)
- Sleeping till 10am
- DIY home facials
- Infrared saunas
Whilst some of these things are seemingly incidental they bring me the greatest joy and make all the immediate pleasures so much sweeter and more sustainable too.
Seeking joy in living well makes all the hard stuff easier and helps give me perspective over situations that I can’t change and gives me the impetus to make better choices. Aristotle was bang-on and this list beings me lots happiness and helps balance the hedonia and eudaimonia in my life.