I have found the secret to happiness and it’s not what I expected.
We think we’ll be happy when we find the perfect partner, have lots of money, secure a job that pays well and uses our gifts and talents, when we buy a bigger home, have children, when we’re thin and in shape and look fabulous in our small-size clothes… The list goes on and on.
Yes, these experiences do bring us happiness but this type of happiness can be fleeting. It’s challenging to remain happy when we lose a relationship or a job, when our child is struggling, or when we can’t seem to stop eating the things that make us feel good. It’s challenging to have these criteria for happiness as we grow older and our bodies don’t cooperate with these standards. There are days when things go awry–when we are ill or when we haven’t had a good night’s rest. How can we be happy amidst these experiences?
I believe it’s time to look at happiness through a different lens.
Happiness is an inside job. True and lasting happiness comes from taking care of oneself. Not just when we have some free time or when we are on vacation. No. Every day. Self-care is especially important when we lose a relationship or a job or experience health struggles. It’s especially important then.
Why is taking care of oneself the secret to happiness? When we take care of ourselves, we feel valued and loved. We experience a special sense of inner peace and happiness knowing we are there for ourselves–that we listen to ourselves and tend to our bodies, needs, and concerns. It’s very similar to tending to a child. When a parent takes care of a child, the child feels loved and secure. The child learns to trust. When we take care of ourselves, we feel loved and secure. We trust ourselves. We feel happy and content.
At first, it may be difficult to know how to take care of oneself. We’re like new parents–we’re learning and we make mistakes and that’s okay. Keep going.
I have found the daily practice of self-inquiry to be helpful and effective in cultivating self-care. Self- inquiry is the process of checking within and asking some simple questions:
What am I feeling and why?
What do I need?
How can I fulfill these needs?
What is best for me now?
Where am I struggling and how can I help?
We know ourselves best. We know what we need, what brings us joy, what’s important to us, and what we suffer over. As we begin to consciously nurture ourselves every day, over time we will experience true and lasting happiness.
No one, no thing or no experience can bring us lasting happiness. Happiness is an inside job. If we aren’t taking care of ourselves, it’s virtually impossible to be truly happy.
You might think it’s selfish, egocentric, and narcissistic to practice self-care. I have found the opposite to be true. Practicing self-care and self-nurturing are beautiful acts of kindness towards ourselves. It says we are important and valuable…that we matter. It is the highest expression of healthy self-love.