Making May Meaningful

Today, I am going to take time to remember what really matters to me and why.

Tomorrow, I’ll do something meaningful for someone I care about.

Each day I will do something intentionally meaningful.

I received the Meaningful May calendar below from Action for Happiness last week. Action for Happiness are a non- secular UK based organisation that promote happiness throughout our societies. Each month they create a calendar, which is available in many different languages, to encourage people to do specific things for their happiness.may_2020Last month the theme was Active Coping, and the month before Mindfulness. The idea is to create happy habits in our daily lives. The daily suggestions are backed up by research and have been shown to raise levels of happiness.

I’ve long been a member of Action for Happiness and I have received these calendars for a while. I’ve not engaged. I’ve been sceptical. Yet, there is much about the focus on meaning this month, and the situation we are now collectively facing, that compels me to take part.

The importance of meaning

“Our main concern is not to gain pleasure or to avoid pain but rather to see a meaning in life.” Viktor Frankl

Happiness is not the best word for happiness. It has different senses. There is the pleasurable moment-to-moment type of happiness. That kind of happiness comes and goes. And, it always will. It is important to experience this kind of happiness. Pleasure has its role in our lives, however, we all know continual pursuit of it has its limits.

Then there is the happiness that is grounded in purpose and meaning. It is a kind of happiness that brings deeper fulfilment, doesn’t involve grasping and avoiding, and tends to stick around for quite a while. Experiencing this type of happiness involves directing our actions toward what is most important to us, rather than solely pursuing activities only because they bring pleasure.

*** for more on what happiness is read this.

Time for something different

“When we celebrate resilience, we focus the spotlight on the people who got screwed over. The institutions that did the screwing over take the opportunity to slink off into the shadows.” Kung Li, Catfish for lunch

We can all take actions that improve our happiness. And there are many things we know we ought to be doing. Yet, we don’t. Why? There can be limitations, pressures, and plain coercion that make it difficult for us to take these actions.

By making happiness only about individual choices ignores the setting in which our choices have to be made. Some might find happiness within that setting, perhaps because they have certain advantages, be it circumstantial or biological, but those that don’t find much happiness, often get blamed for their predicament.

Living meaningful, even though it is essential for a deeper sense of happiness, is not encouraged or supported by our institutions. Instead, we overindulge in short-term pleasures – in keeping with growing our economies rather than finding meaningful happiness. It is our institutions where the most action is needed.

Perhaps now, with much of the world under lockdown, there could be space for something different. Sure, there is struggle, and for some it is really terrible right now, yet collectively we also have a little more time on our hands than before. There isn’t quite the pressure to consume, nor the opportunity. We must come together. We must look for different sources of fulfilment. We must find our local joys.

Perhaps we’ll end up stumbling on a life that is more meaningful for more of us. Not just for May, through this lockdown, but far beyond that. . .

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