A Happy Community Starts with a Happy Self

We’ve all experienced this: you bump into a friend who’s in a great space in their life and their positivity and happiness is literally infectious! We feel happier for having seen them and say something like, “Let’s hang out soon. I miss you so much!”
.
Or the opposite experience happens: you get together with a friend who seems snappier and grouchier than you remember and find yourself becoming frustrated and think, “Hmm, maybe I need to take a break from this person for a little awhile.”
.
Your happiness affects others. Who we are, who our friends are, who we’re socializing it up with online, the voice behind the websites we read, the comments we leave- their moods, our moods- we all have an affect on each other.
.
In studies it’s been shown that the happiness of a person can affect up to three degrees of separation. So, if you become happier, your friends are going to be happier, and their friends will get happier, and so will their friends- seriously!
.
It’s kind of stunning when you realize that we can actually better our relationships and thereby better the community as a whole, just by being happier ourselves.
.
Pretty frickin’ cool.
.
The first time we learned this we felt a personal responsibility to work on our own happiness levels because it has such far reaching effects to those around us.
.
Creating a happy community starts with creating a happy self.
How do you get happier?
.
Our happiness formula is pretty simple= give yourself the things that you want and need.
.
We’re not talking possessions- we mean those childhood dreams, unfulfilled hopes and natural talents that are patiently waiting on the sidelines.
.
Make a list of the things that you’ve wanted in your life but have given up on because they aren’t practical, or easy. For instance, if you wanted to be an actress as a kid, it doesn’t mean you should quit your job and move to Hollywood, but you’d probably have fun taking an acting class or trying out for a part with a community theater.
.
The more we can give ourselves both the things we want and need– regular meals, regular sleep, exercise and the pursuit of higher dreams- the more we can feel good in our bodies and minds, and happier overall.
.
Think about a child who needs a nap, hasn’t eaten or who feels compelled to sing, twirl, or jump, but is told no- it often ends up in a temper tantrum. As adults we pretend that we aren’t as connected to our needs, but that’s a fallacy. We all need to take care of both our basic and higher needs or else we’ll have internal temper tantrums, which can manifest as anxiety or depression.
.
Don’t hide the negative.
.
One of the best ways to build community and friendship is to be honest about your good days and your bad ones. People are much more likely to share honest dialogue with you if you’re speaking the truth about your own life.
.
Talk about awesome things- yes! But don’t gloss over the not so awesome stuff because when you have the courage to be vulnerable with others, they will trust you and give you the same in return.
.
You know those people who always seem to have the backstory on everyone? They are more than likely a person who is sharing more and thus receiving more honest, open information from others.
.
Try to withhold judgement
.
.
We’ve all been cut-off by an angry driver, or gotten a look or comment from a someone that seemed critical, snappy or harsh. It’s our first instinct to think “What did that mean? Why did they do that? What the heck is wrong with them?” If we feel slighted, or judged, it’s all to easy to judge right back.
.
But we never know what another person is going through internally. Maybe the driver that cut you off just received devastating news and is trying to get home. Maybe your friend that was short with you had a terrible day, or is worried about something and isn’t ready to talk about it.
.
The more we can remember this quote by Plato: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle,” the more we can give people the benefit of the doubt. This serves two purposes: it allows us to withhold judgement and it helps prevent us from taking on other people’s negative emotions.
.
Take responsibility.
.
When a situation happens that you don’t like, rather than blaming someone for what they did to you, try asking yourself “What can I do differently to prevent myself from being in this situation again?”
.
Unfortunately, we can’t change anyone but ourselves, no matter how hard we may try. So if you’re dwelling on what others did, you’re basically spinning your wheels in vain and your lack of being able to control this, or them, will only make you feel sad, frustrated and angry.
.
If you can take responsibility for your own actions/re-actions in the situation, and see how you can avoid this in the future, you are learning how to shield yourself from future frustrations and no longer holding onto things you can’t change- ah, what a relief!
When we gain control in managing our own happiness, taking responsibility, speaking the truth of our lives and withholding judgement- we are living our own personal power and can better share our cooperation and friendship with others.
.
When we take the time to nurture our biggest responsibility in the world- ourselves- we show others how to grow in this direction, and the positive feelings radiate from us so much others can literally feel it!
.
Imagine a world where everyone was taking care of their needs and pursuing their passions…  It’d be pretty darn joyful most days, we can guess that much. Don’t we all want to live in that world?
.
It starts with you.
.
We only have the power to change ourselves, so let’s make the choice to make our own personal happiness a priority in our lives! To take care of ourselves, push ourselves and go after what we really want in this world in order to make our communities (large and small, online and off) even richer, more vibrant and more connected.
.
Who’s in? Who’s ready to be part of the better world waiting for each of us? Let’s make this giant rock we’re floating around on a better place to be, one person at a time!
.
How are you cultivating your personal happiness? How you doin’ at taking care of your own needs, too? What dream is in you that you know would be deeply fulfilling if you were to pursue it- and what the heck’s stoppin’ ya?
.
Please share, we’d love to hear your thoughts and stories!
.
{photos are found vintage, from the personal collection of Jena Coray}
.
*Be sure to come visit with us tomorrow for an #OMHG chat from 1-2EST with Jena & Jen of The Maven Circle on building happy communities starting with ourselves!*

15 comments

  1. Clare says:

    I think you’re onto something here! Being around positive, happy people is infectious, and surely that is a community building thing. That is not to make light of those who suffer with very real and very painful sadness and depression. It’s often not as simple as fulfilling our wants and needs, although I’m certain that’s part of it.

    Anyway, I feel motivated to spread the positivity! Thank you for a very interesting post.

    • Jessika says:

      Thanks for your comment Clare! From my own experience of depression & sadness + working with vulnerable people being surrounded by happy, compassionate communities (not just shiny happy people-there is a big difference!) who are not afraid of sitting with suffering can be more powerful than any clinical treatment. One of the biggest reasons for escalation of depression or sadness is feeling alone and alienated. When your community is filled with people who are truly happy-secure in themselves, their wants/needs, able to set clear boundaries & make time for deep relationship building there is less room for depression to thrive & more space for finding support systems to help in the hard times. True happiness for me is one where we have company to navigate the darkness of our lives and help shine the light when we forget that it is everywhere:)

  2. Hi Clare! Thanks so much for your comment! To add to what Jessika said, I’m a person who suffers from anxiety and bouts of depression, who’s hereditarily prone to those things. The shift that has helped me most in my life has been a recent one of taking care of my needs in a really dedicated way- making sure I eat lots of fruits and veggies and energy giving foods, exercising regularly, meditating/doing breathing exercises regularly (having a way to release stress, re-direct the mind…) And creating time in my schedule to do those things everyday! It’s hard, it’s a change of life, I still have my bad days of course. But I used to wake up and think of my responsibilities to everyone else before I ever thought of my responsibilities to myself, and I think a lot of us do that (responsibility to work, kids, partners, house, social stuff- where do WE fit in?) Since I’ve been taking the time to take care of myself in a different way, I haven’t woken up with that cringe of nauseous anxiousness since, and my depressed days are fewer and farther in between. There are certainly lots of other factors and experiences to consider, but like you said- fulfilling our needs in such a way is most definitely part of the way out of all that. 🙂 -jena

  3. This is amazing! It totally sums up my big WHY behind my mission to help mama’s tap into their own bliss. You can’t serve others unless you nurture yourself on all levels. There can be a well-intentioned mama martyrdom that can be passed on to generations. Thank you so much for this ~ and the photos are so powerful!

  4. Clare says:

    Guys, I loved your comments! That’s what is so great about this blog. Such wonderful conversations open up!
    I think it’s true that a happy you develops a happy community, and a happy community develops a happy you!
    Jena, I find your experience really amazing actually – fighting a hereditary tendency towards depression by looking after your health is so great! And I’m sure it is encouraging to those who are trying to fight it right now.

  5. Clare says:

    I love this post. I love that you’re talking about deep, steady, happy-in-your-soul happiness, not the sparkly, synthetic version we’re supposed to aspire to. And I love what you say about kindness. I think a happy self is founded in your ability to be kind to yourself – especially when you feel awful and the temptation to think hurtful stuff about yourself is almost irresistible. Being kind to yourself at those times is really hard but I think it’s a life skill we could all do with learning. It’s certainly something I’m working on. This is such an emotionally intelligent post stuffed with big, important ideas and I think it’s going to inspire lots of people. Thanks Jen and Jena 🙂

  6. Kerry says:

    What a beautiful take on creating a happy community! You ladies really have a knack for breaking things down and making them seem more accessible. I just love how you show all of the benefits you and others receive when you stop and take care of yourself. I am trying to cultivate happiness by saying yes to the ideas in my head and finding out what I need to do make them happen!

    Also, this sentence really means a lot to me “True happiness for me is one where we have company to navigate the darkness of our lives and help shine the light when we forget that it is everywhere:)” Thanks!

  7. Brooke says:

    Wow. Yes, this was a great post! I’m in the “club” of people who suffers from anxiety/depression, I was raised in a way that makes me feel guilty and selfish for wanting to take care of ME, and lately I’ve been struggling with a deep desire to have a more creative-type career…so it really hit home! I would love to say that now I feel that the world is a better, less complicated place now, but I don’t. HOWEVER, I don’t feel quite as alone, or quite as selfish for wanting to take care of ME, and now I have something I can hold in my hands, read time-and-again, and be genuinely encouraged by. THANK YOU FOR THAT.

  8. Thank you for this post! I’m new at blogging and hoping to put my true self out there and surround myself with a positive community of other bloggers. I struggle with making my online world a priority as opposed to my ‘real’ world, but maybe I shouldn’t think of the two as being so seperate?

    Take care of your needs and pursue your passions. What great words:) I’ll remember those all day long today:)

    Jessie Lynn @Bloominthedetails

  9. Rae Hoekstra says:

    I couldn’t agree more — thanks for a great article!!

    I’ve learned the importance of being positive mostly through interactions with customers (I sell PDF sewing patterns) where someone is obviously frustrated with something (usually their printer or computer, hah)…if I get snappy and terse, it just makes the situation worse. But if I can kill the negativity with cheerfulness, it’s amazing how I can see their tone turn around with just one interaction.

    🙂

  10. julie says:

    What a wonderful post. Had time this morning to really read through it, as well as the comments. Great discussion, too. It really is a great post and is setting me on a perfect path as my week begins. Thanks for reminding me that I can make a difference by starting with myself.

  11. Totally agree with this post!

    This is one of the things that we already know but must always be reminded. “Choosing” to be happy attracts positivity. Even at times when things in life seem depressing, a positive energy make us feel a bit lighter! Being a source of joy is the kind of inspiration that people around us need.

  12. Rajaiah, R says:

    Good and happy thoughts do make us smile. And a mere attempt to smile makes us happy.
    And whatever be the circumstances and whatever be the experiences, we can and must choose to be positive, proactive and happy. When our attitude is blessed with gratitude, we are blessed with beatitude. When our eye is sound, we see the good: the cup is half full. We are always in the plus and happy. Everyone of us can be happy and can become happier with good practice. Thank you for being happy.

Leave a Reply