We, humans, are an interesting kind. We do not precisely know what we want all the time, but we are always looking for something. We are pleasure-driven creatures and we are constantly seeking things that make us feel good. Everything comes down to a simple fact: we are always seeking happiness. Happiness by definition is the state of being happy, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary (geez, thanks for the profound explanation Mr. Dictionary!). Needless to say, this doesn’t clarify what happiness is and I am sorry people; happiness is neither shopping nor chocolate! Although everybody will have a different perception of what is happiness, most people will share similar concepts of it. Throughout this blog series, we will share some things that can help structure some parts of our individual lives, which are normally associated with “being happy” so make sure to read them all to understand the entire concept.
Perhaps the simplest way of understanding what makes us happy is by observing the purest form of happiness… children. Children are innocent and are not corrupted by mundane issues. Their factory settings allow them to learn and view the world according to their experiences and overall exposure to the world. Children can experience true happiness by playing with a stick or kicking a can and truly enjoy the company of their playmates. They enjoy and appreciate a basic meal and form genuine relationships with the people around them. The problem is that somewhere along the way, they are exposed to the grown-up and environmental issues, their relationships begin to be conditioned and pleasure is now something that they have to work for. Although it is impossible to return to an innocent state of mind, it is fair to say that to be happy we often have to change things that we are not okay with. So, before we go on a pursuit of happiness, we have to keep in mind that change will not come without discontent. In other words, we will have to change the things we are unhappy with.
I believe that happiness has three main elements. Although there is not a Key to Happiness, these elements are usually present with it. The personal part of happiness involves the things that make our “person” happy. These are the things we enjoy and the way we have fun on an individual basis.
Who is the most important person in your life? I hope the answer is YOU. Although in theory, we know we are important, there are times in which we put ourselves last among others or other things. Some time ago, I went to a mall to buy some clothes I needed. I had recently become a parent and as a new parent, a stop at the children’s clothes area was inevitable. Somehow I ended up buying clothes for my daughter but not for me! I am sure I am not the only parent that does this, but why do we do this? Why do we put ourselves last at times and put our loved ones, our work or our responsibilities first?
I once treated a guy who sought therapy for depression. His reasons were genuine, he went through a divorce and lost his children along with it. We were able to successfully treat everything we needed to focus on and process every area we needed to. We scheduled a follow-up therapy appointment in one month to make sure that everything was okay. Upon returning, he said: “I don’t feel depressed. I feel good, but I still live depressed”. In other words, he was still living a depressing lifestyle. Sometimes, we associate feeling happy with only our emotional state of mind, but we forget that we also have to act upon our happiness. One of the key aspects of a healthy lifestyle is to have meaningful activities. Yes, those things that do not work… you know, hobbies.
There are three categories of hobbies we should have and we will discuss the first one in this blog:
A productive hobby is something you enjoy doing and getting a measurable result. Something you can see, hear, touch or even eat. Things like sports, arts, digital designs, crafts, or anything that you enjoy doing that will have a product or result. You know that gym membership that you’re paying but you never go? That kind of stuff! Sometimes we become too focused on the people and world around us that we forget that we also need to entertain our minds. What would you do if you had an entire day for yourself without books or electronics? We all have a passion for something but we tend to neglect it as we start working and caring for our loved ones. So, now would be a perfect time to get those things you have stored that you never use. Even cooking can become part of this if you are really into it. “Here is your mac n cheese kids! There I’m done with my productive hobby for today…” No! people that have a passion for cooking tend to have cookbooks or are always looking up recipes online. You prepare for that particular meal and go grocery shopping for it. A productive hobby will be the thing that occupies your leisure mind even when you’re not doing it.
“But you don’t understand! I don’t have time for any of this. My job and family use up all my available time.” I agree that as adults we start getting consumed with lots of things that need our attention. This is why it’s important to purposefully separate the time for it. If you are unable to go to the gym after work because things happen, then you go early before work and you train your loved ones to respect that time. I am sure that out of 168 hours in a week you can prioritize 7 of them for this. As you practice your productive hobby, you will see how people begin to associate with you with it and also have the opportunity to meet new people with your same interest. Furthermore, you will notice that as you practice your productive hobby your stress level will decrease considerably. If you think about it in a way, this is just asking you to have fun!
We will discuss the next hobbies during our next blog.