Submitted by Allison Allen
Happiness is a funny thing. We have that saying “money can’t buy you happiness” and, turns out that once your basic needs are met, that is pretty much true. Folks who win the lottery, after a burst of happiness generally revert back to however happy they were before winning big. The good news is, the same is true with losses; when asked, many of us think we would rather die than survive an accident paralyzed, for instance. However, it turns out that once we have gotten through the initial shock, grief and loss, the same thing happens; we revert back to however happy or unhappy we were before the accident.
I think there are (at least) two great implications here, as we deal with this schlocky pandemic and all the unpleasant ripples it throws off. One is that what actually makes us happy in life is connection to others and to our own values; this, not most circumstances, is what makes our lives satisfying. The other is that although this pandemic is one of those situations a person would not choose to go through, we can notice that our happiness does not actually depend on it all turning out just the way we want it to. This is great news, because while we have minimal control over things like pandemics, or really over much at all, we DO have control over how connected we stay to others and to our own values. Meaning, we can have a deeply satisfying and even happy life in dang near any circumstances.
How can we optimize this fascinating information? If you haven’t already, maybe give some real thought to what matters to you. Maybe make a list of the things you hope others would say about you during a celebration of your 90th birthday and then think about how to go about living those values. Think too about how connected you feel, or don’t, to others. If your social network is a little thin, consider ways of building it up. TONS of research tells us that our wellbeing is greatly enhanced when the social fabric of our life is strong. And maybe consider giving a little less energy to the ups and downs of the circumstances of life. Turns out they are not as important to our wellbeing as we tend to think.
Allison Allen is NorthLakes Chief Behavioral Health Officer