H is for  – A to Z of Emotional Health and Well-being
Last week, we looked at an introduction into what happiness is. This week, we are looking at the different ways we can get more happiness into our, often chaotic, lives.
Happiness – The Theory
So how do we measure happiness or can we measure it?
Abraham Maslow, An American psychologist developed a theory on people ‘self actualising’ or becoming yourself, reaching the peak of your human existence and his theory, widely used today, is still an important tool in teaching trainee therapists and psychologists.
I believe that if you can at least reach the majority of these goals or accept the ones you can reach and the ones that aren’t accessible it can start to pave the way to reaching ‘happiness’
So what is this theory and what does it look like?
Well this is what it looks like but what does it mean?
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
All of the five parts demonstrate the needs we have as humans, according to Maslow – Although for some people some of these needs will be more important than others and some of them will be irrelevant. It might perhaps imply to some of you that you can’t grow to the next stage until you have met all of the criteria of the stage below but this isn’t true.
This is however only a guide for anyone to look at and look at their life and think perhaps – ‘Am I missing something’ If the answer is no then perhaps you can stop trying to find it. It’s also an opportunity to look at your life and ask yourself am I striving for things I don’t need, can I slow down a bit?
But this still hasn’t addressed what happiness is and I think this is because of the complexities of discovering what happiness means.
What does happiness mean?
Many of us might say that going on holiday or buying a new car or getting married is what makes them happy and I have no doubt that whilst these thing are happening you will probably be wearing a great big smile, You are enjoying the experience, getting pleasure out of your day and feel confident and alive in what you are about to embark on which are all contributors to happiness but at the same time not happiness itself!
What I feel is the core of happiness is contentment and self-acceptance. If you can accept you for who you are and can be content with what you have then I feel the goal is very much part way to being met – To stop striving for things or life to be better, to be different, to live elsewhere, to have a bigger car, to expect more from other people, to resent the inequality and unfairness of other people lives, to feel you are owed by someone or something and many many more such like things then it is possible that you begin to appreciate and understand what you have and what you need to work with.
When my son was first diagnosed with autism and learning difficulties I fought against the diagnosis, refused to accept what this meant, cried and retreated into myself – In some ways a natural reaction to grieving – However I realised at some point that I still had my little boy and he still needed me and that diagnosis or not I still loved him – I realised that resisting his diagnosis was not going to help any of us, but that accepting him for who he was, unconditionally, was going to be the way forward – I could have resented our situation, been angry at the loss of my job, the lack of sleep (I could still do with some more!) the division of our family (and I still get days where the condition upsets me because of the changes we have had to make) the opinions of others and the fight for services or I could accept that our life experience was going to be different from others, not better, not worse, but different – And by accepting it I have been able to learn much more about myself, my family, I have been on courses, I have massively extended my education and am continuing to do so and I help many other people who are finding themselves in similar situations. This reminds me of the Serenity Prayer
Please grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.
Of course there are always challenges and barriers to every situation and I appreciate that there are people who will be experiencing some of the biggest challenges ever faced such as those with loved ones in ATU’s and similar or those who are recently bereaved and it is through these that strength and hope will be there to support your journey at this time, those that are struggling financially or with difficult relationships might find they need to seek practical support as well as emotional support.
Contentment and happiness during these times might feel a long way off or even unachievable, however it doesn’t mean it won’t ever happen and drawing on support from friends and/or family and support groups both in person or on-line might be what gets you through. Seek counselling – Many Organisations and GPs offer a free counselling service and there are many local and national organisations and charities that can help with debt problems, domestic and relationship problems, or organisations such as Citizens advice that can signpost you to places that offer such support.
I have listed some organisations below as a guide. Rememebr if you are affected by having a loved one in an ATU that Bringing us Together can be an invaluable source of support.