In the Western world, people are wealthier now than they have ever been in the past. Over the last fifty years, wages for both men and women have risen, taxes are lower, and living standards are greatly improved. So why does it seem harder than ever to achieve that most ephemeral of things: happiness?
Many different people, from psychology experts to amateur bloggers, have proffered suggestions for how to feel happier. They run the gamut, from sensible recommendations like ensuring you eat well, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep at night, to psychological insights, such as keeping a gratitude journal, smiling more often, meditating daily, and forgiving yourself. But what if you follow all that advice and still don’t feel that enviable spark of life?
Writer Alexander Heyne has an interesting suggestion. He suggests that we simply play more. By “playing”, he doesn’t necessarily mean doing things you enjoy, particularly if you’re trying to accomplish something. “Playing” is the exact opposite of accomplishment. When playing, you should have no goals, no agenda. Time should be shamelessly wasted with no effort made to “make it count”.
One big reason happiness is so elusive today may be our chronically over-booked schedules. It’s true that we have more money and more things than we ever did before, but we are severely lacking in free time. Even when we’re not working, our schedules tend to be filled with activities. These activities may enrich our lives, but they take away from the time we need to truly rest and play. The best word to describe most of us these days is “stressed”, and “stressed” is the exact opposite of “happy”.
If you’re struggling with unhappiness and wondering what you’re doing wrong, here are some simple suggestions for bringing more spontaneity and yes, some extra happiness back into your life:
First of all, give in to one of your urges. Feel like driving to the beach after work? Do it! Blow bubbles in the bathtub and watch them float on the air. Buy and then re-learn how to use a hula hoop. Buy a small gift and leave it for your friend. Sing! Especially sing when you leave phone messages. Throw a party for your dog – or yourself!
The key to improving your life should be lightheartedness and abandon. Life has made us all so serious. We fret about our progress towards our goals, and we try our best to be productive always. Perhaps it’s not surprising then that the key to happiness is to reject all of that for awhile and just do whatever we please.
About the author: Rebecca Wong has been working in the herbal business since 2000. She has received her training in acupuncture and herbalism from respected authorities Paul Des Rosiers and Vu Le at the Ontario College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Toronto, and Michael Tierra at the East West Herb School in California.