I am enjoying starting my Happiness Project, but I have been wondering over the past few days whether I was being selfish by focusing on my happiness. Was it wrong for me to not only be looking at ways to improve my happiness levels, but to also be talking about my project to others as well as writing about it here? I have several friends and family members that are going through difficult times right now and I was worried that I looked like I was being self-centered by continuing with my project when they are having such bad times.
I thought long and hard about whether I should stop writing about my project, but then I read something in Gretchen Rubin’s book that helped me to decide what to do. Rubin discovered what she called her Second Splendid Truth;
“One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy.
One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.“
The words jumped off the page at me – they made perfect sense! How could I be a good friend and support system if I wasn’t happy myself?
I am the type of person that when other people are down, or feeling sad or miserable, it brings my mood down too. If I wasn’t focusing on making myself feel happy then I wouldn’t be able to help those around me feel happy. I needed to feel happy before I could listen to their problems and help them find solutions.
Talking about happiness is a funny thing. I imagine that most people would say that they are happy if they were asked, yet if you asked them what made them happy many would struggle to give an answer straight away. We can all talk about things that make us ‘surface happy’, for example hearing my children laughing always makes me feel happy and is guaranteed to lift my mood, but that is a short-lived feeling, it doesn’t give me deep-down, long-lasting happiness because that feeling goes as soon as something that is slightly negative comes along. But what about the deeper feeling of happiness, what do we need to feel happy and cheerful all of the time? What is it that makes our soul feel happy? Is it just one thing or a combination of many things?
It is almost wrong to sound happy or to say you’re happy when talking to others. It is much easier to say that you are miserable, especially as conversations tend to flow much more quickly when you have a common issue to moan about with others. If you were to reply to the question ‘how are you?’ with “I’m really good thank you!” does it put the other person off of conversing further because they don’t know what to say next? However if you were to reply with “I’m feeling ill today” or “I hate that it’s raining again today”, would it be easier for the other person to respond with a suggestion for how to feel better, or with a discussion about the weather?
This thought process has made me wonder; Are we a society that prefers to focus on the negative because it is easier to make allies? Is it better to mask your happiness for the sake of others?