GUEST POST: THE ART OF HAPPINESS
Jessika Steiner-Joscelyne of Magic Faraway Tree
Are you truly happy? This eternal question continues to provoke thought from women of all ages and demographics. Happiness is a state of mind characterised by joy, love and satisfaction but is also something we find hard to define. Over the years a range of philosophical, psychological and religious approaches have attempted to define happiness and what it means to the lives of contemporary women worldwide.
Philosophers like the Dalai Lama often define happiness in terms of living one’s life positively rather than simply as an emotion. He believes that a person’s sole existence is to help others and in doing so, seek out one’s own happiness. He states that: “the fact that there is always a positive side to life is the one thing that gives me a lot of happiness. This world is not perfect…. Realizing this gives you hope”. What he’s saying is, today you may have a pile of dirty laundry the size of Mt Everest and a million things on your to-do list
(= not happy), but if you put it in perspective you know you have a supportive partner and friends, and an adorable child that would give anything to have you by their side and you are looking forward to that girls night out. (= happy).
Positive psychology researchers describe happiness as consisting of positive emotions based mainly on the activities we do. They categorized it into three kinds of happiness: pleasure, engagement, and meaning.
While happiness can’t be guaranteed totally there are ways you can encourage and even increase your own happiness. Here’s some sure fire ways you can get closer to that ultimate goal of complete happiness.
Take pleasure in the little things.
- Spend some quality time with your children on an individual basis. Arrange an outing or a ‘love bomb’ day where you spend every minute doting on that child and granting their every wish. Recent studies have shown that this one-on-one attention will do wonders for the self-esteem of littlies and is a lovely way to spend time together.
- Take time out of your busy schedule and arrange a pamper session for you and a girlfriend at your favorite salon. This is a great treat for a special friend who might be expecting or about to get married.
- Locate an old piece of furniture like a vintage school desk or chair at a garage sale and spend a few afternoons overhauling it to create the ultimate Martha Stewart shabby-chic must have item for your child’s room. Check out Youtube for a range of ‘how-to’ videos for different surface decorations.
- Snuggle up and re-read your old favourite teenage novel – it may make you cringe but will probably reveal a lot about yourself now as a grown woman. The more vampires, unrequited love and teen-angst the better!
- Bake a batch of your favourite cookies and spend the afternoon indulging in watching your most guilty talk show or mini series.
- Re-connect with your partner. Plan a quiet night in (without the kids or TV) so you and your loved one can enjoy each other’s company without the usual havoc of daily life. To get things started you could even write a number of romantic conversation starters on pieces of paper to be picked out of a bowl alternatively by each of you. Some ideas may be; “I liked the way you made me feel when…”, “ I was proud of you when you…”
- Call your mum and tell her 10 things she has taught you about how to be a good mother. If you’re brave you could even try this with your mother-in-law!
- Volunteer at the local PCYC or refugee support group helping out with homework support, women’s language conversation classes or coaching a kid’s sporting team. Contact ALIV or similar networks around Australia for info on how you can help. (www.aliv.org.au)
- Locate your old high school teacher on Facebook and tell them how they have inspired you to do something purposeful in your life. This could be something as big as your chosen career path or as simple as using positive reinforcement with your kids.
Find Meaning rather than Mundane.
- Learn a new language by correspondence. The benefit of this is that you don’t even have to leave the house and after a few weeks you’ll be able to order a café au lait at your local French patisserie and watch Amelie minus the subtitles!
- Foster a child. This is something you may want to consider if your children are already of a certain age and it can bring an immense amount of joy and purpose to both you and your family. (www.barnardos.org.au)
- Smile. The next time your board a dreary train or bus and catch someone’s eye, smile. This could brighten their day and hopefully encourage them to pass on this will little ray of sunshine to others.
- Mentor a young person. With so many absent parents these days there are countless teenagers out there craving a positive role model. Contact the Youth Mentoring Network or similar organizations to be matched up with a young person whose life’s direction could be vastly enhanced by your mere presence. (www.youthmentoring.org.au, www.auntiesanduncles.com.au)
Some inspiring quotes on happiness:
Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy. – Thich Nhat Hanh
There is only one happiness in life, to love and be loved. – George Sand
Unhappiness is best defined as the difference between our talents and our expectation. – Edward de Bono
That is happiness; to be dissolved into something completely great.
– Willa Cather