Is a Relationship the Key to Happiness?
By Laura Smith Biswas
I started getting the New York Times on Sunday – delivered in old school newsprint for the first time in a long time. It is a lovely pleasure I wanted to work back into my life. And one of the things that grabbed my attention was an article Happiness is Other People. I couldn’t resist reading it.
The author spends a lot of time going over how the self-help community points us to our inner world to cultivate happiness and has gone awry, pointing us in the wrong direction. She then lists the research as to how profoundly our happiness is affected by community and social interaction. She has good data to point out a core truth, but I think she may have missed the contribution of the inside job. You really can’t escape either one. It’s one of those riddles in life – that essentially leaves you with the realization that both matter. I and We are both important.
No one can make us happy, but yes it’s a lonely journey without sharing our lives with others. It turns out it is an inside job to cultivate happiness, because no one can do it for you. And it’s also true that meditating yourself into inner bliss may not be enough alone to create a full and happy life either. We need people and community. If nothing else, our pain is better endured with loved ones by our side and our joys expanded in sharing them.
We are interdependent beings and we are individuals. No getting around that. In addition, if we are aware of the fact that relationships reflect back to us our own brilliance and areas of development, we can derive great insights from observing what shows up for us in others that both triggers us and inspires us. Relationships are our greatest teachers.
So what does it look like to live with the dichotomy?
- Do take time for yourself, to find a still point inside - in a way that works for you. It might be spending time in gratitude upon waking, a daily walk, a meditation practice or journaling.
- Take responsibility for knowing what brings you joy and make it a priority to cultivate those aspects in your life. Use curiosity and playfulness to see what mix of time alone, time with others, daily self-care habits and even what people in your life bring you the greatest joy.
- Make time to engage socially with those you love and really be present with them. Learn to set your phone down and relax, cultivate habits of sharing that encourage intimacy at the level you want.
- Allow yourself to lean on others, share and engage honestly with others. It’s a vulnerable act to give and receive through relationship, but in fact that vulnerability is key to authentic interactions and deeper connection.
- Don’t expect one person to carry the weight of being everything for you. Let the big wide world bring you a variety of people to meet your needs and allow you to experience love in many facets of your life.
And last of all, remember you are a unique being worthy of love. Cherish yourself… and those around you.