There was a title that caught my eye in The New York Times on Sunday, Oct 29, 2017: Happiness Is Other People. Being that I have studied the science of happiness and have learned that happiness is predominantly an inside job, which has nothing to do with other people, I was very curious to read this article.
Ruth Whippman, the author of this article, having spent the past few years researching and writing a book about happiness and anxiety in America, came to the following conclusion:“I’ve noticed that a particular strain of happiness advice—the kind that pitches the search for contentment as an internal, personal quest, divorced from other people—has become increasingly common…The idea that happiness should be engineered from the inside out, rather than the outside in, is slowly taking on the status of a default truism.”
The self-help journey, which many of us endorse, has been promoting a happiness that highlights emotional independence ahead of interdependence.
In her article, Whippman describes how spiritual and religious practice in general is slowly moving from being community-based to a more private experience. It seems that silent meditation retreats, mindfulness apps, and other such solitary pursuits of happiness are booming. She writes, “Self-care has become the new going out.”
In reading this article and bringing conscious awareness to this important issue, I felt as if the author was calling me out on my behavior—calling us out collectively on our new solitary habits. Upon reflection I noticed that I have focused so much on my individual wellness practices that I have neglected that critical component, the power of connection with other people.
For years now, I have been exploring myself at the expense of exploring the world—engaging with myself perhaps more than engaging with the world. And after reading this article, I get the sense that this is a bigger more universal issue than I thought.
I do see the benefit of alone time and I do honor and respect that time with self. I appreciate the gift of introspection and understand the importance of an individual “wellness practice.” But what I am realizing is the imbalance and the need for greater human connection—the yearning to be with other people.
That is why I have added and also get to enjoy a bimonthly wellness circle for seniors at VIVA Thornhill Woods as well as my 6-week wellness workshop that I am currently facilitating at The Schwartz Reisman Centre.
According to the research, neglecting your social relationships is dangerous to your health. So yes, we need to look within in order to alleviate our suffering, build emotional muscle, and take ownership of our lives. But we also need to find the joy in life that exists outside of self—with other people.
Let’s learn how to invest in both, in “going within” and in “reaching out.” Whippman’s article reinforces my newfound commitment to better balance my time and energy between the two.