I suspect it might be harder for many of us to celebrate, or even appreciate, the International Day of Happiness this year. Even before the pandemic and financial crisis began to affect everyone worldwide, the difficulty of being happy seems to have become overwhelming.
It’s certainly possible becoming happy and remaining happy has always been as difficult as it seems today, but I’ve only recently made myself aware of the importance, and resulting difficulty, of “happiness.” As an example, the current pandemic and financial crisis are neither unprecedented nor crazy, both have happened before, and I suspect both will happen again. Maybe the difficulty with the concept of happiness, both becoming and maintaining isn’t new either, it’s just something most of us are unfamiliar with.
Being a fairly pragmatic person, I understand things better when there is something tangible and measurable that I can see and touch. It’s hard for me to understand advice such as “just be happier.” That’s good advice, but how? Where can I get some? Can I put a little in a box and save it for later?
When I was diagnosed with high blood pressure my doctor did more than just advise “be calm,” or “you need to lower your blood pressure.” High blood pressure has a negative impact on a person’s physical health and should be addressed to promote good health. I needed solid advice on something tangible I could do to improve my physical health. My doctor gave me a prescription for medicine and a prescription for a lifestyle change. It was easy to take the medicine and it was a quick fix. The lifestyle change was much harder and definitely wasn’t a quick fix. It took a long time and several doctors prescribing the same lifestyle change before I finally accepted their advice. I followed the prescription for exercise and diet, losing weight and increasing my fitness level. Eventually I started feeling better and then, inexplicably, I started feeling worse, much worse. I was tired and would often feel faint when I stood up. I went back to the doctor and discovered that my blood pressure had become too low because the lifestyle change had finally taken hold and the medicine was now causing low blood pressure. Normal blood pressure without medication seemed like a success for my physical health and was the result of a behavioral change. For me, the behavioral change was a tangible, measurable change. I was able to chart and measure my weight loss and my exercise routine, which kept me motivated.
Can a lifestyle change alone improve mental health? If being unhappy has a negative impact on a person’s mental health, shouldn’t it be addressed? It takes time for the results of any change to be fully realized, but I have no reason to doubt I can increase my happiness as a part of improving my mental health. I firmly believe that happiness is a key component of mental health. Would it be quicker, easier, or better if I combined my lifestyle change with medication? Maybe, but that’s for each person to decide. Much like the diagnosis of my blood pressure becoming too low, I’m looking forward to a day that I am diagnosed as “too happy” because of my behavioral changes. I can assure you, if I’m ever diagnosed as too happy, I’ll seek a second opinion!
What have I done to increase my happiness? I’ve made a few changes recently and I definitely feel happier. Some of the changes were difficult and scary, but I felt they were necessary. I made a choice to actively work on my mental health, much like I did to improve my physical health. My road to happiness – aka my Happiness Neugroove – began with:
One of the few things I remember from college was a class on anthropology and the importance of ritual. I can remember the class like it was yesterday and how critical it is in many cultures to have a ceremony, at a particular time, to acknowledge change. Think of the weddings, graduations, and birthday parties you’ve attended, all of which are a form of ritual ceremony. The first day of spring this year was yesterday, March 19, for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere. I can’t think of a better time to acknowledge change with a little ceremony than the first day of spring followed by the International Day of Happiness. For me, this is going to be more impactful than a new year resolution, it’s my Neugroove Resolution, a time for a ceremonial acknowledgement of change.
So, what is my ceremonial ritual for the coinciding of the First Day of Spring and the National Day of Happiness? Writing this blog is part of it, but I’m also going to take some time to sit outside and reassure myself that what I’ve started this year is ok, my choices are good for me, and I’m happier. I’m going to take a few minutes to give myself a little self-compassion and I’ll write down a few things I want to explore about myself in the next 12 months.
Maybe I’ll start a chart or spreadsheet to try and measure my happiness progression, like I did with my blood pressure…. A good spreadsheet always makes me a little happy!
Make a Neugroove Resolution and share it with us, you might be the inspiration for someone who needs a little help.
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