In an age when we cannot blink without being besieged by imagery prescribing services or products or even whole lifestyles which urge us towards the attainment of a perfect life, there seems to be a general consensus that while the image we project to the outside world is one of a serene life, the reality is far from this.
Over time, the rough and tumble of balancing our life commitments seems to inevitably take its toll. On paper, most of us seem to tick all the boxes for a happy and fulfilled life; decent job, good salary, nice home, not too unruly children, a holiday or two a year, but ask anyone who seems to be living the good life, whether they’re actually happy with their lot and there would be very few who would be unhesitant to come forward with a fully positive answer. How is it that despite a façade of privilege and success, a good number of people still claim a low level of personal wellbeing, an extreme level of stress and anxiety and low levels of happiness and satisfaction?
In this fast-paced world, when everything and everyone has a limited shelf life, how is it possible to attain all the above, within the shortest time frame possible and remain unfazed by the stumbling blocks of a high-octane lifestyle? Can we strive to better our quality of life and that of our families, strive to be upwardly mobile all the time, without paying a price with our emotional wellbeing? Simply put, can we juggle all aspects of modern life and still be happy? Then again, what exactly is happiness? It is a question which has eluded mankind for millennia, because at the end of the day we all just want ‘to be happy’ whatever it takes. But being happy or at least achieving a happy state of mind is not as simple as the world around us would like us to believe.
If we had to stop right now and think of how we’re faring on the happiness spectrum at this very moment we’d probably find ourselves middling right at its centre. If you had to ask just anyone what would make them happy, their immediate reply would probably be something that they can only dream about, something which is beyond their immediate reach – owning a luxury sports car, a round the world cruise, but which in reality they have never experienced and therefore cannot know for sure whether this ‘dream’ will bring happiness or not.
To complicate even further our quest for happiness, we are pressured by a constant feeling of inadequacy which is continually reinforced by aggressive marketing and an ‘Insta’ world where everything and everyone is perfect; from breakfast cereal to bone structure, a toxic environment which is not very conducive to a happy state of mind. In our modern world, our serenity is seemingly solely dependent on our ability to be beautiful, our earning potential, our curated homes or ultra-talented children.
But the feel-good factor is an elusive butterfly of a feeling which touches us fleetingly through unexpected and at times even silly ways. Happiness, if such a thing exists, is in finding satisfaction and joy in the everyday, mundane things as well as life-altering milestones. We all probably have a top list of events that put a smile on our faces. It could be as momentous as the birth of child or as mundane as the feeling of clean, crispy sheets after a long hard day’s slog, a warm shower after spending too long outside in the cold or finding the right change for the bus fare home at the bottom of a wardrobe sized handbag when the smallest note in your purse is a 10Euro one. As the old proverb goes, ‘One man’s meat is another man’s poison’ and happiness is obviously more than subjective.
We are richer, healthier and with a longer life span than any other generation which has inhabited this planet so far and yet the realisation that happiness is not equated nor related to anything we can purchase, gain or achieve still eludes most of us… It might sound like a well-used cliché, but we must stop and evaluate what’s important to us and reconnect with what and who is meaningful for our wellbeing. A happy life can only be achieved when our priorities are in the right order and our expectations are realistic and not directly correspondent to the attainment of the picture-perfect depictions of life which bombard us at every opportunity. So, next time you’re staring at an image on a screen in inevitable awe, relax and breathe because things may not necessarily be what they seem…