Happiness & Climate Change

happiness and climate changeHappiness & climate change

Do you think you can be happy in the future? I mean really, truly happy?

And what does happy even mean?

It’s a word that gets thrown around a lot, and I think we sometimes get confused about what happiness is.

I was at a workshop on eco-anxiety recently, and I heard a woman saying that she feels we need to give up on this idea of happiness – that we need to accept we can’t have it, that we need to drastically change our lives and just get used to getting by.  Another said we need to swap our cultural obsession with happiness for contentment, which is closer to how I feel but also so…. lackluster? I mean, contentment is nice, but it does sound kind of… blah.

But what is happiness? And how do we reconcile a happy future with the climate crisis?

I don’t think of happiness as an emotion, as much as an underlying state – a result of meeting our needs and living our values.

The conditions for happiness are the same for most of us, with a few differences that are unique to us.  Needs for belonging, connection, community, purpose and fun are intrinsic to all of us – foundational needs for happiness.

And then some of us need more freedom than others, or more stability, or more passion, more creativity and the like.

The struggle arises when we confuse happiness and joy, happiness and laughter, happiness and more.  We think happiness is outside of ourselves. We look somewhere ‘out there’ for it, as if it is a place we reach or a jewel we obtain when we just do the right thing.

Happiness never comes from doing though (note: joy, anticipation, ecstasy all can).

We’ve been sold this lie about happiness most of our lives: that if we just follow the dotted line, go to college, get the right job, follow our passion, find the right person, get the promotion and so on, that we’ll be happy – as if it’s some beautiful, static experience that we get to keep if we just do things right.

But most of us know that it doesn’t work this way.

When we look at happiness as a cultivated state, it doesn’t mean you won’t feel sad, angry, grief-stricken or challenged at times – in fact, I promise you will.  These experiences can’t be avoided, and the more we try, the more we numb – the more we numb, the less happy we are.  So you will feel pain, but underneath it your foundation can still include happiness. This is true, even in the face of climate change.

The conditions for real happiness – belonging, connection, purpose, fun – are also antidotes to the culture of separation and endless growth that brought us to this point in time.

Pursuing happiness also isn’t selfish – aren’t we our most generous, our most loving, our most creative when we’re feeling good?  Aren’t we our most resilient?  I am certain that our happiest lives and our most impactful work are linked.

Why do we think we can change the world by struggling more?

How do we expect liberation when we’re shackled to fear or struggle?

How can we pursue social healing without seeing happiness as at least a possibility?

What do you think? Share your thoughts below or read more on happiness here.

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