There are a lot of articles on the internet about the subjects of happiness and positive thinking. Positive affirmations crop up on Twitter on a daily basis and I have retweeted some of the better ones myself. It set me thinking about the pursuit of happiness itself, the expectations these days that we must bombard our minds with positivity daily and, if we don't, then we are somehow lacking.
The last millennium was all about perfecting the body; going to the gym, eating healthily, jogging before breakfast and lunch hour Pilates. This millennium is all about training the mind; positive thinking, the power of suggestion, expanding mental horizons, thinking ourselves to wealth and success.
For some, these new expectations add to the pressure of trying to be more than we are. We are expected to do it all; have a career, have children (educate and expand their minds with extra curriculum activities, the more the better), go to the gym three times a week, keep the home looking nice and make sure the Jones' aren't doing better, push for that promotion, network-network-network and then the hardest thing of all, think positively and present a balanced, healthy, happy, content front. All the time.
The number of people with stress and stress related illnesses has increased. This is unsurprising. It takes a rare person to be all things to all people. Then comes the guilt because of the perceived failure of suffering from stress and the thoughts of self-loathing. In the past we would share our concerns and worries with our families, who would all live in arms reach and a problem shared was a problem halved. Now, of course, families tend to be further apart geographically from each other and often we find ourselves handling everyday life alone with our thoughts. We are told we are weak minded if we can't handle life. We are told to be positive. Look at the positives. There are always people worse off. Count your blessings. In other words, put up, shut up and go and get therapy.
I do believe in meditation, the benefits of alternative therapy such as reiki and massage and the value of positive affirmations. I count my blessings and have gratitude for my life, my family and the people I love. I just can't subscribe to the theory we have failed if we aren't permanently positive, ambitious, seeking self improvement and enlightenment and are a size 6. I measure my worth through the happiness and contentment of the people I love, not my material possessions and self ambition.
I believe it is okay to take time to breathe. It is okay to have a bad day. It is okay to eat a piece of chocolate cake covered in fresh cream. It is okay to indulge in 'me' time. In short, it is okay to take the time to be yourself and to stop trying to live up to the media and others expectations.
1. Give yourself permission to be true to yourself and be kind to yourself.
2. Give yourself permission to be human with all the flaws, pleasure and gratitude that embodies.
3. Find time to meditate and relax. Quieten your mind, even if you only close your eyes in a quiet room and think of a peaceful place.
If you can do this then balance, happiness and contentment will find you eventually but don't force it, don't try and be perfect, don't try and live up to everyone else's expectations. Do something every day which makes you feel as if you have achieved something worthwhile and makes you feel good about who you are. It can be as simple as getting round to clearing out a cupboard, phoning a friend in need of an ear or taking a walk by the sea.
As the saying goes 'a cup is filled drop by drop'.