Why We Need To Rethink Self-Care, Joy, And Happiness
Let’s talk about self-care.
When I say self-care, you probably had a few things pop into your mind. Maybe you thought of a luxurious bubble bath, or getting a massage, or having a glass of wine while you sit down to read your favorite trashy romance novel. These are all great and I’m not trying to say you shouldn’t do all of those things that bring you enjoyment, peace, and relaxation. What I want to clarify in this post is that self-care is much more than that. One fabulous definition of self-care that I love says something along the lines of ‘self-care is not about escaping from your everyday life.’ Instead, it is the process of creating a life that you love so much that you no longer feel the need to escape.
The Need for Regular Self-Care
Thinking about self-care in the typical western view of medicine would see it as a way to treat the symptoms. There won’t be much lasting improvement in your life if you’re just trying to pick up the pieces after everything falls apart. Instead, we need to adopt a view of self-care as ‘preventative medicine’, which is more in line with eastern philosophies such as Ayurveda. We need to use self-care as a tool to create daily rituals that help us enjoy life and be ready for the times when the sh*t hits the fan.
When we use self-care as a way to create a life that we don’t feel the need to escape from, then we can become more present in the moment. Instead of thinking, “I can’t wait to get out of this situation and get home to soak all my troubles away in the bathtub”, we build a foundation of caring rituals that helps us prepare for the unknown.
Yeah, I know that’s kind of an impossible task. How do you prepare for the unknown when you have no idea what the unknown is? Well, you do the best that you can. Similarly, many people see self-care as a one-off solution that helps them to recover from a stressful event or escape from a hectic situation.
Another mindset shift that we need to embrace to make self-care more effective, is seeing it as a regular practice. Creating a routine or schedule of caring for your soul helps ground you in the present moment and transforms your life from one you want to escape from into a life you want to be fully present in.
Joy vs. Happiness
A webinar I listened to recently in the “Mindful Living Week” series discussed the art of finding happiness within. The speaker made an interesting distinction between joy and happiness. How would you define each of these concepts? Before I share his wisdom, let’s look at what the dictionary has to say about these two feelings.
Dictionary.com says that joy is, “the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying.” Well, that’s not very helpful because the definition of joy contains happiness. Let’s see what Dictionary.com says about happiness: “the quality or state of being happy…good fortune; pleasure; contentment; joy.” Again, we can see the very close relationship between these two words. So what makes them different?
Chade Men Tang defined happiness as “a deep sense of flourishing that arises from an exceptionally healthy mind”, and he defined joy as “moment to moment positive pleasant emotion.”
So what is a deep sense of flourishing? And what counts as an exceptionally healthy mind? From what I gathered, the main difference between these two is that happiness is a lasting, ongoing state of being, whereas joy is a temporary emotion that is experienced intermittently. Contrary to the old adage “happiness is fleeting,” Tang makes the case that happiness is really the overall feeling that comes from experiencing joy on a regular basis. Joy is the building block of happiness. There cannot be happiness without joy, but there can be joy without happiness.
Does Self-Care Bring Joy or Happiness?
So how do the concepts of joy and happiness relate to self-care?
Here’s the way I see it: What most people think of today as self-care is more in line with Tang’s definition of joy. Self-care is seen as a moment to moment ritual that we try to fit in our busy schedules so that we can escape from our lives. We need to shift our perspective and start to see self-care as more of a long-term, regular commitment. Self-care should be an ongoing, lasting practice that we start to incorporate into our lives so that we can cultivate a “deep sense of flourishing” that leads us to a life we no longer need to escape from.
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