If you listen to the news or you read the paper or even if you talk to your friends and neighbors everyone is talking about depression.
Depression is in actuality a medical condition but we tend to use the word to describe any sort of unhappiness. Much of the problem is the fact that so many people define happiness as a feeling of intense joy. If happiness is only felt as intense joy then using that intensity as a measure of our happiness almost always will ensure that we are “depressed”.
The media places a huge role in telling us we should be happy. Look at ads for nearly any product, from cosmetics to gyms to universities to jobs we are told that we should choose the correct one to receive optimal happiness. Is choosing a good lipstick going to make me a happier person? Maybe, when I put it on the first five or six times but after that it becomes a routine.
We hear of marriages breaking up because one partner or the other says the these dreaded words: ” I am not happy anymore.” But what is really meant by that statement? More often than not what the speaker is saying is that there is no feeling of intense joy or excitement anymore.
Let’s face it, life is boring. Routine is boring but without routine I would daresay that most of us would be overwhelmed. We go to work every day knowing basically what to expect when we get there. I was hired as a teacher so although many different problems arise during the day I know that having to cook lunch for 300 children will not be one of them.
Routine does not mean doing exactly the same thing day in and day out it means knowing basically, within reason, what to expect. As parents we are told to give our children a routine to make them feel secure. Routines reduce stress and anxiety. We need the security of a routine to tell us that all is right with the world. Do routines produce happiness as defined as intense joy? Absolutely not. But do routines produce contentment? In most cases the answer is yes.
As a society you rarely hear the word contentment used anymore. Contentment is the feeling of satisfaction with one’s life. Perhaps we need to take a look at how we really feel about our lives. Perhaps we are asking the wrong question. Perhaps our lives would be radically different if we stopped pursuing happiness as our ultimate measure of success and instead began accepting contentment as the ultimate measure of success. After all if happiness is intense joy then that feeling must be fleeting otherwise we would be overwhelmed. Contentment is the longer lasting feeling that all is right with our world. There is a prolific FB post going around stating, “I wish you enough.” This is contentment.
We need to stop asking ourselves, our children and others if they are happy and start asking them if they have enough.