Woman meditating at sunset.
Photo by Jared Rice on Unsplash

Family, Friends, and Community Matter—But They Can’t Come First

Some people believe that their job or friends are their most important priority. Others focus on family, business, or their studies.

I know people who strive to have it all or do it all, they appear happiest when they complete the activities that they believe are best for them, their families, and their reputations. But sustaining this type of activity over time can be challenging, particularly if it’s used as a predominate means for assessing happiness.

What should be your top priority? We all have reasons for how we prioritize our time, but the most important aspect of your life involves taking care of yourself first. This may be a very hard idea to accept, especially if you are the caregiver for a loved one or if you have significant obligations to others.

Most of us are familiar with the comments made prior to taking off for a flight. During the safety announcement we are reminded that in the event of an emergency, we should secure our own oxygen mask prior to helping others. You cannot adequately help others, without first ensuring your own safety. The same holds true with your happiness.

Family, Friends, and Community Matter—But They Can’t Come First

We all have opinions about what matters most to us, but these three aspects are foundational for understanding how to approach being your happiest.

What is Happiness?

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary’s definition for happiness is, “a state of well-being and contentment.” From this definition, we know that happiness isn’t necessarily long-lasting, although it can be. Nor is it equal to extreme pleasure. Several definitions of happiness exist and an agreed upon definition has yet to evolve. We can conclude that happiness can be shown or felt and being happy means something unique to each of us.

Why is Happiness Important?

Individuals who are happy tend to experience more meaningful relationships, greater success, and improved mental health. They also become ill less often, tend to have strong support systems, and navigate through life with optimism. Happy people also experience greater levels of creativity and they frequently enjoy volunteering and charity work. They are healthier overall and tend to enjoy their lives.

How to Be Happier

We live in a society that is predominately a consumer culture. We are told that we need this and that to be happy when actually we are in control of our own happiness and we don’t need materials items to be happy. Yes, conveniences and toys that we buy, may help us experience happiness but you can be happy without them.

Acting in alignment with your value system helps. You will be happier when you understand what you value and you live in accordance with the values that are important to you. For example, you will be unhappy if you are in a work-related situation that forces you to compromise your values. Happiness can occur when you spend your time and energy doing work that you enjoy that also aligns with what you value. Your values might include aspects such as honesty, consistency, or reliability.

Using your strengths, recognizing your accomplishments, and expressing gratitude are also ways to be happier.

Commit to exercising and resting regularly and focus on nutrition as well. Respect your mind and body, and hold yourself accountable.

Be social, spend time with family or friends, and volunteer when possible. Spend time in nature, meditate, and use quiet time for reflection.

Know that you have the power to change your life, be openminded, and when possible, limit the amount of negativity in your life.   

What Matters in Life

When we think of what really matters in life, the truth is that your happiness is really important. Why do I say that? Because in the end, your happiness is the result of how you’ve lived your life and how you’ve contributed to the world. That’s why it’s so important to take care of yourself, your happiness included. And that’s why it’s critically important that you prioritize your health and happiness.

If you are fortunate enough to have family and friends that support you, you can make the effort it takes to be healthy and happy. If you lack a support system, you can create one by engaging with like-minded people who also commit to activities that support a healthier and happier lifestyle.

This means that you must take responsibility for your happiness and know that when you take care of yourself, you will be better prepared to take care of others.