Befuddled Brains

Did you know that, in the UK, antidepressant use is higher in 40-54 year olds than any other age group*? Or that some researchers have concluded that we are less happy in mid-life than at other times in our life**?

None of this is rocket science though because in mid-life our brains are much more likely to be befuddled by the conflict between “happiness” and “responsibilities”.

The responsibilities of adulthood can stack up in mid-life, you can still feel ‘responsible’ for your children even if they are grown and have flown the nest, there could be the responsibility of caring for elderly parents.

Unless you are one of the very lucky people who can earn a living doing what you love, work responsibilities often impact on our happiness, this in turn, relates to the financial responsibilities we have e.g. the responsibility of having to work in order to maintain your home and even paying for activities that you hope will make you feel happier.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Not that happiness and responsibilities are mutually exclusive, for example looking after grandchildren is a responsibility that can bring happiness, but there are, obviously, times when we would rather be doing things that make us happy than doing those things that we feel we have to be doing as responsible adults.

The problems occur when we find the responsibilities overwhelming and we sacrifice happiness because we feel we have to do the ‘responsible’ thing.

We may find ourselves with feelings of guilt (as I am writing this, which I enjoy, there is a sense of guilt because I know there is a stack of clothes upstairs that need ironing!). Guilt at feeling or doing something that makes us happy can soon make the feeling of happiness evaporate as our sense of responsibility makes us chastises us for not doing what it considers the important things in life.

We can easily find ourselves caught in a responsibility trap where we only do those ‘responsible’ things and forget that we need time to relax and do things to offset those things we feel we have to do. Think of times when you have put off doing something pleasurable in order to do the responsible thing.

Are there times you can think of when those responsibilities that just continued to stack up and you never seemed to be able to do what you want?

Without those times when we can truly relax and do things that make us feel happy, our stress levels grow, our happiness levels drop and we can find ourselves in a downward spiral.

We need to STOP and remember that our own emotional well-being and happiness is probably one of the most important responsibilities we have.

If we feel good about ourselves and feel happy about our lives we can undertake those responsibilities much more efficiently.

Make certain that you make time every week (at least) to do something that makes you feel good and don’t feel guilty about it! It does not matter what other responsibilities you have in your life or how many people you feel responsible for, without making time for yourself you will never be able to be fully discharge those responsibilities. Think about a time when felt you had failed in a responsibility because you were tired or felt overwhelmed, then just imagine how much better it would have been if you had been more refreshed and happy before starting that task.

Our brains become befuddled by the conflict that often occurs between our responsibilities and our happiness, it is up to us to ensure that we look after ourselves by making time for those things that make us happy because our emotional well-being is a responsibility we must put at the top of the list.

 

*Eurobarometer SP345 2010

**https://www.economist.com/christmas-specials/2010/12/16/the-u-bend-of-life

Nurture Your Nature

Today, modern society seems to demand everything instantly.

People want everything right now, they want their food fast, they want to get rich quick, they want their deliveries the next day or they want their fat to be burnt by magic pills!

Yet it is the nature of Nature that things do not happen instantly.

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Growth and change of any kind take time and we instinctively know that. We would not expect a new born child to walk and talk immediately, we know that takes time and nurturing to help the child grow. We know that flowers and plants do not grow immediately, it takes time, care and nurturing to make your garden grow year after year.

We know these things yet, often, we forget to apply the idea to ourselves. If we want to live a full and fulfilling life we need to nurture ourselves in a vast range of ways to help ourselves to continue to grow year after year.

None of us is wholly identical to anyone else and this applies equally to what we need to nurture our nature and how we grow in the way we want too.

Take a moment to think of the plant world and the flowers planted in gardens. Some like direct sunlight, some like shade, some like a little bit of both. Similarly some flower and wilt away for the winter, others stay evergreen throughout the year.

Obviously we humans are considerably more complex than plants (although we do, apparently, share 60% of the same DNA as bananas!) and our needs change as we progress through life, those things that gave us satisfaction and helped our growth in our teenage years change as we age. For example, on a basic level, where we were once ‘night owls’ we may have changed to being up with the larks, or where working was once about earning enough to have a good time, it has become about earning enough to meet financial obligations.

So the process of nurturing your nature has to start with a bit of introspection.

Ask yourself, what gives you the greatest satisfaction now? What is it the makes you feel content with life? What is it that excites you and makes you desire more of the same?

It is important here to be honest with yourself, you may be tempted to get nostalgic and think of those things that exited and inspired you twenty years ago yet think about how those things are really relevant to you right now! It may be that reigniting a passion from the past will help you grow now or it may be that being stuck in the past stunts that growth as you try to reclaim something that just isn’t there anymore.

Anything that makes you happy today is worth exploring and expanding. What is it about that thing that makes you happy and how can you to more of that and are there different ways you can achieve that happiness. For example, if gardening brings you happiness and satisfaction what could you do to broaden that experience? Maybe learn more about it or perhaps volunteer with a local gardening group or maybe just spend time sharing your passion with younger family members.

Remember that nurturing your nature means considering all aspects of your life so it is not just about those things that you are passionate about.

Just like caring for plants our lives also need pruning a little from time to time. Is there anything you are clinging onto in your life that is really truly unnecessary? We sometimes cling onto memories and ideas that no longer have any place in our lives, just like sorting through your house and finding things that you no idea why you kept them in the first place! So if you do come up with those nostalgic thoughts ask yourself, how relevant is that to me now? It may be a cherished memory worth keeping but it is just a happy memory rather than a glorious past to be recovered. Likewise a bad memory of the past is just that and not something that should be affecting how you act now because you have grown and changed since that time.

There are endless possibilities to explore in nurturing your nature and we will return to some. The important thing for now is understanding that nurturing and growth take time and we must actively take the time to nurture ourselves in order to lead a more content and happy life.