Times are hard. Can we really afford to focus on happiness during a recession? Shouldn’t we be knuckling down and tightening our belts, putting on a brave face until things get better?
To think this way is to equate happiness with comfort and prosperity, a common mistake in our capitalist culture. For decades advertisements have bombarded us with images of smiling, popular people whose happiness was associated with commercial products.
Now that we can’t afford to buy so much, it’s time to look for fulfilment in other areas. Noticing the beauty in nature; appreciating the goodness in one another; enjoying helping and being helped by others.
As an affluent society, we became increasingly individualistic. We could pay strangers to take care of a multitude of tasks for us, giving the illusion that we were independent – that we didn’t need each other. In poorer societies, people have to rely on their families and communities to get things done. You’re less likely to ignore your neighbours if you never know when you might need their help.
It feels good to be independent and for many of us it brings a sense of achievement. Having to turn to turn to friends or family for help can feel demeaning and shameful. But the downside of independence is isolation; and the upside of asking for help is a stronger sense of connection and belonging.
I believe one of the benefits of the recession will be that communities, families and friendships will be strengthened through doing things for one another. Life may be less comfortable, but it’s a chance to strengthen social bonds, value more important things and become happier at a more meaningful level.