Dorothy Rowe, well known for her books on depression, says ‘If you make happiness your goal, then you’re not going to get to it. Philosophers have been saying it for thousands of years. The goal should be an interesting life.”
As many of us know, the quest can lead to anything but, and happiness can be felt at unexpected times. The challenge here is to interpret what we mean by an interesting life. We know that many well-known people with enviably interesting lives suffer from depression, and we may know people whose lives are quite ordinary but who enjoy happiness.
There is much to be said for rhythms in life, and indeed many CBT self help books will advocate the establishment of a daily routine: a time to get up; three meals a day; a bit of exercise; something that connects us with others; perhaps something put off; and a sensible bedtime routine would not be untypical for someone who is not working, for example. Rhythms and patterns bring stability and comfort, and provide an excellent template so that we do not have to think about everything, we just do it.
Rhythms can be beautiful – I love to watch the short lived rhythm of a tennis ball being hit back and forth over the net, and I dislike tennis games that have too many aces. But imagine a game of tennis which only consisted of the ball being passed from one side to the other in this rhythmic way. Oh dear, stop watching now, we are bored. But no, things pick up, someone hits the ball at an interesting angle, or perhaps more powerfully, and the game takes on a new tone. The same game, the same players, everything the same except the way in which it is being played.
An interesting life does not have to be extra-ordinary. In fact I have spoken to several people this year who were really looking forward to their holiday, something special, something extra-ordinary perhaps, but for various reasons the fantasy did not live up to the reality. Rain, a family fall-out and illness were some of the culprits. Equally I have spoken with people who have stayed at home during the holiday time but who have chosen to do the usual things differently, and who had a great time. The reasons for choosing to stay at home were not to have a great time, but rather to save money. These people did things like turning the phones off, doing no cleaning other than washing up, behaving like a tourist in their home town, even swapping bedrooms.
In our day to day lives there are so many small ways in which we can do things differently in order to keep ourselves stimulated and interested. Here are a few ideas which have come from some of my clients, with their permission, but why not talk to those around you and generate a few ideas for yourself:-
1.Walk down a new street instead of the usual well trodden path.
2.Find new recipes using the food you love, or even try new food.
3.Use a different form of transport – take the bus, walk or get the bike out.
4.Sort out those photos and stick them in an album.
5.Have your own earth hour, and join in the next one in March 2015.
6.Go to your local library instead of buying your next book.
7.Take a walk round the block and look at people’s front gardens to unwind after work, perhaps avoiding that glass of wine.
8.Talk to someone you don’t usually talk to.
9.Spend a few moments considering the journey of the things around you.
10.Watch a TV documentary on a subject which would not normally interest you.
Enjoy trying new things……….well, you might….