We often don’t take the time to do the things that make us happy, but there are good reasons why your own happiness should be your primary goal.
There are 3 main reasons why we don’t take the time in our lives to make happiness a priority.
We feel we are too busy, stretched and overwhelmed
Others’ needs seem more urgent or important than our own
We feel too tired, low or anxious to do the things that make us happy
Luckily, each of these reasons has a counterpoint. In fact, focusing on our happiness can actually solve these problems.
Being too busy for happiness
When we are too busy, we don’t make time for things that give us pleasure and make us happy. This can mean we end up stressed, exhausted, wired and anxious. Being in a state of stress is not good for our productivity. Studies show that our productivity goes down whenever we become tired and stressed. So, taking time for things that make us happy can move us into a more relaxed, happy and creative state. From this place, we are more likely to be productive. We will have the clarity to know what needs doing and the focus and concentration to do it. Instead of spending hours struggling with a problem and becoming more and more exhausted, we can tackle it will the full force of our creative energy and get it done quicker and more easily.
Putting other’s happiness before our own
When we are dealing with the needs of others we also want to be in a good state of mind. We are better able to help others when we feel mentally strong, calm and focused. We are more able to support others more when we are not tired or stressed ourselves. If we take some time to look after our own needs we have more reserves to draw on to help others. We can then help them with clarity, focus, and patience. This helps us meet others’ needs better and makes the important people in our lives feel valued rather than that they are causing us more hassle.
From a place of clarity, we can also see when helping others is in their best interest. We can see when it would be better to stand back and allow them the independence to deal with things on their own or with just a little support. This prevents us from becoming and enabler and allows the other person room to grow, too. Our relationships will also improve when we are calm, relaxed, joyful, fulfilled and happy. So we owe it to our loved ones as much as to ourselves to be in this state whenever possible.
Being too stressed or depressed to seek happiness
When we are anxious, stressed, down or depressed it is difficult to help ourselves or others. We might not feel like we have the energy to do something fun or rewarding but this is precisely the time we need it the most. If this applies to you, you’ll find some tips to get out of this rut coming up.
There is one more deep-seated issue that sometimes means we don’t make time for happiness.
We feel we don’t deserve pleasure and happiness.
For some reason, we sometimes believe that we need to justify our place on this earth. It’s almost as if we have to make sacrifices to make up for taking up room on the planet!
This is far from true. We must learn to accept that we are a part of this universe and have a right to be here. We do not need to justify our own existence. It is not necessary for us to spend every moment of every day taking on responsibilities or trying to make the world a better place. Our presence alone is enough. We are enough.
In order to make our own happiness a priority, we have one last problem to solve. In our quest to be good and dutiful we may have forgotten how to be happy. When we finally do take a moment to see what would enrich us, fulfill us and make us feel joyful and alive, we have no idea what to do. Seeking happiness and pleasure has, for some of us, become a lost art.
Perhaps you don’t have this problem. If you know exactly what would make you happy then skip this next part and go ahead and get on with doing it (as long is it is legally and morally okay to do so).
For the rest of us, here are a few ideas that might you get back on track to happiness.
Start small with simple pleasures.
Seeking happiness doesn’t need to be a big life-changing event. Small changes will add up over time. Pick a simple pleasure you can indulge in today. Stop and smell the roses, or the coffee, or the bacon sizzling in the pan. Enjoy your favorite fruit, film, ice-cream, book, sport, or just sit still for a moment and enjoy doing nothing at all. You can find more ideas for simple pleasures to indulge in in this post from Marc and Angel. There is also much more about this in my book Not Meditating
Consider your senses in seeking what might give you pleasure. Think what you would love to taste, smell, hear, touch or see.
Look for clues
If you have forgotten, or have never really known, what makes you happy you need to become a happiness detective. Look for clues in your life as to what passions and desires lay buried beneath the responsibilities. Search in your cupboards for half finished craft or DIY projects. Search your bookshelves for clues. Are there lots of travel books, or ones on gardening, cooking, mechanical engineering? The same with magazines, blogs, and Facebook pages. Search out the clues to who you are when you are not being responsible, sensible you.
If necessary take your mind back to your childhood and see what used to light you up back then, before so many responsibilities fell on your shoulders.
Allocate time for happiness
Don’t wait to tick everything off your to-do list before you make time for happiness. Firstly, it will never be completed and secondly, even if it were, you would be too exhausted to do anything about it. Make time for happiness, schedule it in your diary, keep it sacred, and lie about it if you must!
Don’t give up on your happiness
Don’t abandon your happiness time even if something comes up or someone needs you. If it were a doctor appointment you wouldn’t change it. This is important for your mental and physical wellbeing so treat it that way. And if you want to give up because you don’t know what to do with the time, then resist that temptation too. Sit and do nothing if necessary, but resist the urge to do one more chore or help one more person. This time is for you. Our loved ones will see the benefits when we are more happy, relaxed, joyful, inspired and fun! Our responsibilities will still be met. But we do have the right to take time to support our own happiness.