What is happiness anyway?
A friend told me recently she was in a rut. While everything in her life was going smoothly, she was not where she wanted to be physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I told her we all go through cycles and not to worry. Knowing my perky friend, I’m sure she’ll be fired up about something before long.
But her comments got me thinking about what we expect from life. How happy are we supposed to be and for how long? Sometimes I think people have unrealistic expectations about their emotional well being. As women we’re prone to mood swings—that’s a given. But I always think that feeling a little depressed on occasion makes the joyful times that much more pleasurable.
I’ll admit I’m not the world’s happiest person. I probably fall somewhere in the middle. There are a lot of folks who are happier than I and plenty who are less so. I’ve never needed to see a doctor about depression, although I know it can be a very real problem that requires counseling and sometimes medication to resolve. I have friends who take meds for depression. They say it helps, and I’m happy they feel better.
It seems that more and more people find it necessary to pop pills to get through their day. I wonder what it is about life in these modern times that causes us to feel unfulfilled. Maybe it’s because we’re so involved in technology that we’ve lost our connection with the natural world.
Take email, for example. It’s a lonely form of communication, isn’t it? We sit at our desks, fingers flying on the keyboard, all day, it seems. OK, emails allow us to be precise in what we want to say. But where’s the warmth, the laughter, the tears? Picking up the phone and connecting on a human level is more fulfilling, don’t you think? And often if a problem’s brewing, nothing takes the place of a calm phone call and a steady voice to find a solution.
Technology has made the modern world easier to navigate, for sure. We accomplish tasks faster and more efficiently. Even putting food on the table requires less time and effort than it used to. But how fulfilling is opening a plastic bag of frozen food, heating it up, and serving it to your family? Where’s the love?
I watched a TV show once about a bread baker in upstate New York who bakes bread the way his forefathers did two hundred years ago. He visits the farmer, buys the wheat, takes it home, and grinds it in a machine powered by hand. Then he mixes the dough, lets it rise, and bakes it in an old-fashioned oven. If that’s not enough, he delivers the fresh bread to his customers in a horse-drawn wagon! Talk about love! Each loaf of crusty bread he delivers brings smiles and warmth and, for the baker, I’m sure, a deep sense of satisfaction.
It’s hard to find the time to slow down and do things the old-fashioned way, but I think our happiness quotient would improve if we fit in activities every day that connect us to our world and each other in simple ways. Going for a long walk on the beach or through the woods and tuning in to nature is a good place to start.
Or make a crazy-good dinner for your family with fresh corn, sliced tomatoes, and your favorite protein. Then enjoy watching your family enjoy the meal you prepared. And next time you get ready to send an email, call instead and listen to the sound of a human voice with its warmth and compassion. Even better, plan to visit a friend or colleague in person soon.
Sharing smiles beats staring at a screen any day, don’t you think?