Keys To Happiness?

I was privileged enough to listen to a presentation by prominent Australian Psychologist Hugh Mackay last week, discussing the keys to happiness in life – something I think we could all take a little bit of heart from hearing about right now.

As we continue to navigate this lockdown world, I often talk about how living smaller has helped us to whittle down what exactly is necessary to our happiness and wellbeing and that we have each had an opportunity to ponder the things that make us happy.

Here are a couple of things from Dr Mackay we might like to ponder:

A Full Spectrum of Emotions
Many of us have experienced a full spectrum of emotions during this lockdown, sometimes on a daily basis. We are touched by what others do for us. We are frustrated by limitations. Worried and uncertain about the future. Full of love for those around us…. I know I can experience many of these in a short period of time.

While we often seek positive emotions and to reject negative ones, all emotions have their place in our lives. We cannot spend our lives constantly pursuing happiness and rejecting emotions that do not fit in with this. This is pointless – we can only know happiness by experiencing sadness or loss. Without difficult emotions, we show no appreciation or gratitude for the positive ones – we don’t learn how to savour them.

A Chance to Learn and Grow
When do we learn more? When times are good and easy – or when we face challenge? Does victory teach us more than defeat? Usually not. Dark emotions or even, dare I say it – FAILURE are often the best teachers – and conquering them by proactively knowing ourselves and caring for our wellbeing is one of life’s greatest achievements and conquests.

Consider this for children as well – while we often want to save them from negative emotions – honestly these can provide the most growth and the most self-confidence. Allow them to fail or be bored every now and then – and help them reflect on what they learnt and what strategies we can put in place. In terms of the Coronavirus, allow them to express sadness or frustration from time to time and encourage them to problem solve for these experiences too.

The Good Life
Looking back, perhaps we all lived the “good life” before COVID19 – where we could go where we wanted, spend what we wanted, see who we wanted, travel where we wanted, and pursue careers and personal success almost without limit… freedoms we took for granted. The good life was this sense of unlimited opportunity and chances for self-fulfillment.

But the ancient Greeks viewed the idea of living the “good life” quite differently – to them it was not about personal happiness, but about living a life that was about duty, honour, morality and a greater sense of purpose. These were the goals to pursue and the definition of a life worth living. Perhaps these times have brought many of us back to a place where we consider this – all that we do now is a part of our shared purpose of beating this virus. And we know from this previous article and our wellbeing focus at Berwick Grammar this term that Purpose gives us all a strong sense of wellbeing and can give our lives a strong sense of meaning. This gets us through even the toughest of situations.

Now, under COVID19, perhaps we are focused on loftier goals than self-fulfillment? Supporting others? Strengthening family bonds? Building emotional resources? And aren’t these all worthy goals?

Photo By Leah Kelly from Pexels