The other month I went to my first ever Indytute event. Based in London, their tagline is “Brilliantly inspired lessons”, from poker to ping pong, baking to biking! On a mission to do more things i’d been wanting to attend more things like this.
Hosted by London journalist and writer Ruth Whippman, she spoke about her new book titled “The Pursuit of happiness (and why it’s making us anxious.)” The title really resonated with me, and with the promise of a free book and glass of wine it was a bit of no brainer. The talk was at The Hoxton in Holborn and having never been there before either it seemed like the perfect excuse to cure a case of Monday blues and do something a little different.
Speaking about her new book, Ruth shared thoughts and findings on her American adventure and the nations obsession with finding happiness. The multi-billion dollar self-help industry is big, everything from apps and books to meditation and holistic practices. And women make up 80% of those sales, are we really that unhappy?!
She noticed that the one key thing all these self-help and positive thinking things do is emphasise that YOU are the key to your own happiness. And if you aren’t happy, you only really have yourself to blame…
It got me thinking about my own happiness and how I value and measure this subjective ideology. Life is quite hectic, albeit I love it that way, I do find I’m on a never ending road to be more happy. There’s always greater things to achieve, ways to push yourself further or opportunities to challenge yourself, there’s places to go, people to see. I’m totally guilty of always talking about the future… dreaming of happier and more prosperous times, rather than stepping back and enjoying the ‘now’ moment. And when I do get to whatever that personal goal is, it’s always “what’s next?” rather than rewarding myself. Does the cycle ever end I wonder?!
Perhaps I’m quite hard on myself, but in the world of social media it’s quite hard not to compare your success to others’ in the industry, or to get a little jel of your Instagram friends on their jollies. Perhaps social media is the reason why more people are searching for happiness… maybe we’re all just a bit too hard on ourselves?!
The idea around ‘mindfulness’ seems to on trend right now. I’ve bought books on how to be mindful, in hope to de-stress my tiny brain and to learn how to be in a state of constant peace with myself. I even visited the ‘Tibet’s Secret Temple’ exhibition at the Wellcome Gallery last year that explored Tibetan Buddhist yogic and meditational practice and their connections to physical and mental wellbeing. I loved it and agreed with so much of what they said I was determined to make it relevant in my day-to-day life.
That said, I don’t think I’m very good at the traditional practice of mindfulness! I’ve tried numerous iphone apps and guides but I just can’t focus enough to sit down and do them. I understand meditating can improve focus, creativity and memory — but my mind is a wandering one and I to be honest I quite enjoy my daydreaming. It’s my vivid imagination 😉
So, I can’t meditate, and I actually quite like social media… where does that leave me on the ultimate happiness scale?!
During Ruths’s talk she shared findings from her pursuit of happiness and found a study that proved the main contributor to happiness is social contact and the strength of our relationships with people. “Which, when you break it down, basically means that we would probably gain more net happiness from sitting in the pub with our friends bitching about meditation than by actually practising it.” So why are we spending so much money on self-help guides and apps to learn to be happy on our own when the key could actually be our relationships with people?
I love my own space (in moderation), but when I think about it I love spending time with my friends and family so much more. A quick catch up call, a coffee or even a 250 mile round trip to the Midlands to visit my mum. In fact, my mum is the happiest person I know and she doesn’t do any of the above!
I’m learning it’s all about creating a balance that works for you, there’s no right or wrong and if meditation or self-help practices work for you, that really is amazing! For me, I’ll stick to some upbeat cardio classes, continue to fulfil my wanderlust for travel and surrounding myself with good friends. I do believe that people are the key to happiness! It’s all about surrounding yourself with the right people, of course.
My friends and family inspire me. Conversations with them stimulate me. Exploring new places with my loved one excites me… we moved to London for that very reason. I’m so much happier working in a shared studio space than I was ever working at home. Being surrounded by talented folk pushes me to do better, but by also splitting my work and home spaces I’m striving for a better work-life balance to have more time to spend with my friends and family. That’s a recipe for ultimate happiness, right?!