The source of happiness by Susan Grimsdell

We’re living in an age of self-fulfilment, finding ourselves, getting to our inner selves, mindfulness, meditation, all about looking deep into ourselves to find happiness.  Self, self, self. 

Ancient values

When I was a kid, we had no idea who we were or what we were all about – such notions never entered our heads.   It was drummed into us that we didn’t matter, other people mattered – don’t be selfish, stop thinking of yourself, share your toys, share your lollies, children should be seen and not heard, don’t talk about yourself no one wants to hear, and we weren’t praised no matter how great the achievement because we’d become big-headed and up ourselves. 

Self before others

The funny thing is, study after study nowadays seems to show people are less happy and content now compared to previous generations. I think all this current obsession with who we are, what we look like, how great we are, leads to depression not happiness.  In fact, dozens of research studies have documented this, finding that the more actively we pursue happiness as an individual search for meaning and fulfilment, the more unhappy we are likely to become, the more lonely and more depressed.

In cultures where happiness is considered a social thing, rather than an individual pursuit, and where people join together with others for social activities and projects, the level of happiness increases. This is the opposite to what we’re told everywhere – feeling stressed?  Have a treat, a decadent dessert or a bubble bath.  Focus on your own wishes and desires and indulge them. But a very big study demonstrated that people who spoiled themselves, actually ended up doing exactly that – spoiling their own chances of feeling good.

Others before self

Those who practised random acts of kindness, and acts of kindness not so random to other people, ended up feeling happier in themselves. So maybe our parents all those years ago were right in the end – don’t be selfish, be kind, think of others and somehow, look what happens, you feel happy!  Magic!

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