Today is International Day of Happiness and it's making me wonder: Is there too much pressure on us to be happy?
The prior generations worked hard at home, in manufacturing plants, in offices. They found happiness in small moments when family or friends were gathered around the dinner table or sitting out on the porch. Today, we're so busy. There is so much pressure on us to make money, eat healthy, exercise, respond to what's on our smartphones. We're supposed to do everything on our to-do lists, help solve world problems, raise super-motivated kids and be super happy.
Have we set ourselves up to fall short?
I just read an article in the New York Times about a new play on Broadway, a revival of Wendy Wasserstein's The Heidi Chronicles. The headline of the article read: A Debate of the '80s, Motherhood vs. Career, Still Resonates. Even as more women work than stay at home, we still are debating whether we can have it all. We have put tremendous pressure on ourselves to have amazing work lives and happy home lives.
And, on top of that, we can't even manage to allow ourselves time off to take real vacations.
“Americans are among the world’s worst vacationers,” said John de Graaf, President of Take Back Your Time. “According to U.S. Travel Association, some 40 percent of Americans leave an average of seven or more days of paid vacation on the table every year."
Why can't we slow down and allow ourselves to be happy?
We need to ask ourselves "what's standing in the way of our happiness at work and in in our personal lives?" That's not a simple question with a simple answer. But it starts with introspection.
Experts tell us the obstacle could be ourselves and someone else. In the workplace, we tend to be unhappy when we clash with our boss or co-worker. At home we tend to be unhappy when our expectations from our friends, relatives or children aren't met.
Regardless, we have the power to improve the lines of communication, lower our expectations, and tell others what we need from them.
Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, believes we can tinker with our small habits to create more happiness in our lives. I think we can all be happier if we stop putting pressure on ourselves to be perfect, happy people who are happy at every moment of every day.
On this International Day of Happiness, I'm issuing all of you a challenge: Come up with one small change you can make that will increase your level of happiness. Take a vacation day, refuse to let a co-worker ruin your work experience, ask your spouse for help with chores, take up a new hobby. Notice when you are happy and recreate that experience as often as possible.
What are your thoughts on happiness?
Are too many of us just getting through our lives without examining whether we are happy? If you've made a change that has increased your happiness level, please share!