Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Happiness Series: 1 - Introduction

Welcome to my happiness series! Seventeen blog posts on how to be happier, which will also chronicle my own journey toward not feeling so much like a human trash fire.

The series will consist of 17 posts, which will be broken down in the following format:

1 - Introduction and crisis advice (this post)
2-5 - Psychology, behavior and what makes us unhappy
6-10 - How to be happier
11-16 - Exercises to help us learn who we are and what we need
17 - Wrap up and summary

What To Do If You Are In Crisis

This blog series is not designed to treat or cure depression. It might help, but it also might have no impact at all, because depression is an illness like diabetes: a physiological imbalance of chemicals in the body. Also, if I had a genuine cure for depression, I would be a lot richer.

If at any point, now, or in the next 17 weeks, you are in crisis, these are the steps you should take. Firstly, if you are suicidal, tell someone who can help you. By that, I mean someone who has your address and phone number.

If you are in Australia, you can also call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or chat to someone on their website:

Most of you will have seen the R U OK list ( written by Sinope. Its great and I recommend everyone have a look at it.

As great as it is, it didn’t work for me personally, so I wrote my own for me to refer to when I am feeling stressed and overwhelmed. To me, it feels a bit more grounded and practical, so I am including it here in case any of you feel the same:

Steps To Take When You Are Overwhelmed:

1. Have a glass of water.
2. Have you eaten a meal in the past 4 hours? Eat.
3. Do you need medication? Take it.
4. Have you showered and cleaned your teeth today? Do it.
5. Are you wearing clean, comfortable clothes? Get changed.
6. Are your pets/children fed/watered/clean? Attend to them.
7. Are there any bad smells or loud noises near you? Remove them.
8. Are you a comfortable temperature? Address accordingly.
9. Can heat/cold packs help? Get up and fetch them.
10. Make a list of all the major things bothering you. (EG: Bills, pain, personal conflicts)
11. Add sub categories. (EG: List the bills that need paying.)
12. Under each sub category, list the steps that need to be taken to resolve that issue and any obstacles.
13. Compliment or thank someone, online or in person.
14. Exercise or stretch.
15. Put on music or white noise and sit or lie still for ten whole minutes.
16. Do one small productive thing. (EG: Put a load of dishes in.)

Definition of Happiness

However, as I have said, this series is not about treating depression, its about being happier. And in order to do that, we need to define what happiness is.

To borrow from Paul Dolan’s ‘Happiness By Design’, a good definition is: Happiness is a mixture of pleasure and purpose over time.

He says there are actions that bring us pleasure, actions that give us purpose, and actions that do both. However if we only focus on one or the other, we will not, overall, be very happy people.

Take for example, playing video games. This is generally an activity with a lot of pleasure, but very little purpose. Or perhaps, writing an assignment for our university class, not a lot of pleasure, but a lot of purpose. There may be other activities, such as playing with our children, or walking our dog, which come with a dual dose of both pleasure and purpose.

I am not suggesting we should limit ourselves to activities that give us pleasure and purpose. It would probably be impossible to live that way. I am just saying there has to be a balance of pleasure and purpose on our lives for us to experience happiness.

So moving forward in this series, that is the definition of happiness I will be using. Happiness = Pleasure + Purpose, over time. And we will assume that we need things in our life that both give us purpose and give us pleasure, in order to be happy.

Moving Forward

We will be looking at things that make us happy in weeks 6 - 10. However before that, for the next four weeks, we are going to look at the barriers we have in our lives that stop us from being happy.

So buckle up, because the next three weeks are going to be the hardest. Its time to confront the most difficult demon of all: What makes the human mind tick.

Jake, In Summary:

So, where am I in this journey? Honestly, I am not very happy these days. Financial issues mean that in the next six months I am going to have to move away from my friends, family and all the medical professionals I rely on to keep me healthy.

My writing career is struggling and the death of a very important person in my life over New Years still has been reeling. I am juggling a lot of very big complicated things in my life, including trying to get my career back on track, moving and the complications that will arise from that, trying to start a family and deciding who I want to be now I am Jake instead of Talitha.

Sometimes it seems like I can’t possibly move forward and keep all these plates spinning, so right now I feel like I am standing still, too afraid and too tired to move forward.  Its not a very nice place to be.

But there can be no going back, only forward. So take my hand, and lets go.

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