The other night, I was watching one of my favorite documentaries, Happy, on Netflix and was reminded that I could be doing a better job of living my life with meaning. The following morning, I read an Instagram post that continued to drive home the message. I wanted to create a permanent reminder to myself, and hopefully others, that sometimes we need to take a step back and reexamine the cycle we’re caught up in.
It seems to me that nowadays with social media, we’ve created an even more extreme situation of keeping up with the Joneses. We have the opportunity to share our highlights, alter images to make them more appealing, and fib about our reality. We can present our lives as more exciting than they are and we can post an old photo to make it appear as though we’re in another location while we’re watching the time go by at work or home lying in bed. We can tear someone down while hiding behind our screens and we can disguise our own struggles with a filtered photo and a clever caption. We’ll go out of our way to take a picture for the likes and the followers, for the appearance that we’re living it up and always having a great time. The messages of live your life, do what you want, focus on yourself, hustle, and be a boss bitch are all too present. We aspire for success and the happiness we think it will bring. We focus on achieving status, money, and an image that we expect will make us content. We look extrinsically for rewards, praise, and the accumulation of things as reassurance, a pat on the back, and a job well done. We live with the idea of being happy when…
What if happiness is not something we have to wait for?
I’ve mentioned it before (here), but I’ll remind myself of it again, focusing on yourself is not the key to happiness. As Happy mentions, those who seek intrinsic goals through personal growth, relationships, and their desire to help others are typically happier than those who look outwardly at extrinsic goals. When we exhibit compassion it breeds connection and community, the very thing humans have relied on for centuries to survive. When we care for those around us, furry, four-legged, aquatic, winged, bipedal, elderly, newborn, and everything in between, it gives us a sense of purpose and belonging. It makes us realize we’re not alone and we never have to go about life as though we are. We have the power to lend a hand to help someone up or to encourage them to pick themselves up and push through even when things get tough. (Thank you, Alice!) We can all count our blessings and search for ways to be a blessing to someone else. Look up from your phone and put it down when you’re having a conversation with someone. Acknowledge the people you come into contact with. Give. Follow the prompting to do something kind. Take note of the things that bring momentary fleeting happiness, like material things. Improve yourself without focusing on yourself. If those improvements can be used for the benefit of others, even better. What can you do today to bring happiness to those around you and yourself as well?