Some days it feels like you’re all alone. Some days it feels like you versus the world and the world is kicking your ass.
Today is a day like that for me. Today I’m struggling to face myself and my life when all I really feel like doing is crawling under the covers, ordering a huge pizza, and bingeing on some crappy mind numbing Netflix show that is of no redeeming social value whatsoever.
And then I don’t. I don’t hide, I don’t quit, and I don’t succumb to my dark desires for digital televised self loathing. And it’s not because I have an endless supply of happiness, or gratitude, or Zen-like calmness. I wish I had those things, but I don’t.
Instead I avoid falling in a pit of despair because of one very simple and important thing: Other people.
When I’m feeling down, I reach out. I tell my closest friends that I’m having a bad day, I talk to my partner about my confusion and the deep desires in my heart. I sit with my Buddhist sangha, and I pet my cat (if she let’s me). I bitch, moan, and cry but I don’t do it to an empty room. I do it to someone, anyone who will listen.
The Biology of Loneliness
As humans it’s our biological nature to fear solitude. Back in the jungle book days of our species being alone meant death. We developed a need for other humans that was deep and lasting. And this deep need served us well for centuries as we lived in tight knit communities, huddled around fires, praying that we would be safe from the beasts hiding in the shadows.
The problem is that in the modern world our tribes have become fragmented. We no longer see the tight bonds we share. And we’re too willing to accept a televised approximation of a relationship instead of investing our time and energy into the real people all around us. And why not? Televised relationships are so predictable, the story archs so archetypal, and the drama so engaging.
Real people are boring, have problems, aren’t air brushed, and get sick and die at unexpected times.
But if you’re going to create lasting happiness in your life you have to learn to pay attention and appreciate all those pink little bags of blood that make up your life. Yes it will mean you have to learn to be patient, listen, and compromise some level of control and preferences.
But I assure you that it’s totally worth it. When you take the time to be aware of, thank, and love the people around you for who they are, you’ll find they hold and cheer you up when you need it most. People are amazing and it’s about time you started treating them that way.
Happiness Challenge #6
1. Practice: Make a list of 5 people who’ve had a positive impact on your life recently. Make sure to include at least 2 people you know well and 2 people who you may not normally thank or express kindness to.
- Think about how these people have helped you and the support they offer you.
- Close your eyes and feel their support as it holds you up.
- Then write out an email, letter, or note to each of them telling them thank you. You can either do one a day for five days or do them all at once, it’s up to you.
- Then send the emails, mail the letters, and drop off the notes.
- Once you’ve done this let go of any expectations of the replies you hope to get.
- Let these thank yous be like ships of love you send out without hope they will return. Feel what it’s like to appreciate those around you without expecting anything back.
2. Reflect: After you’ve written or sent your messages, pause and notice how it feels.
- What questions pop into your mind?
- Did you feel shy about saying thanks?
- How does saying thank you make you feel about your own life?
- What does it make you feel about how you support others?
3.Share: As always share one or all of the ways below.
- Write a Blog Post: Share one of your letters openly or what your experience was as you wrote them or after you sent them. Make sure to post a link in the comments or on Facebook.
- Share on Social Media: Share your list of amazing people and why they rock, share something this challenge helped you see, or share why saying thanks was hard for you. Remember to share with the tag #30dayhappy and in our facebook group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/30dayhappy)
- Share in the comments: If you do nothing else please share in the comments. Share a question you had or the people you wrote to, or something you liked or struggled with during the challenge.