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Build Back Happier

faith finding meaning happiness life purpose mental health well-being woman supporting woman Mar 19, 2022

20th of March is International Happiness Day! A day adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2012. Each year has a theme, and this year it’s ‘Build Back Happier’ - so it got me thinking!

I think the message of ‘Build Back Happier’ is a good one - in the sense that Covid-19, lockdown, climate change, and world conflicts - have given us all those moments of staring in the mirror, questioning ‘what do I actually want from life?’

Maybe you have questioned things about your life. Like your faith, relationship, friendships, career choices, how you spend your time, how you spend your money. When the status quo is disrupted, it’s painful as our worldview is forced to shift, but that painful shift often allows change to seep in through the corners and into our minds.

So, the idea of ‘build back happier’ makes sense. A refusal to go back to ways of life that zapped your happiness?

But, Happiness. It’s a tricky one isn’t it? Sometimes you have it… sometimes you don’t. It’s a fickle emotion like that!

Society, and therefore much of the ‘wellness’ industry, seems to run with this dialogue that being happy is the goal. You should have full confidence in your own abilities and then the universe will deliver - happiness will arrive! You will be version 2.0 and embrace this new life. Then, I presume, the idea is that you have made it…. ta-da!

That is a tonne of pressure!! What happens when you are trying but you don’t feel happy? What happens when you slog to reach the happiness-delivering-end and it doesn’t deliver? Does that mean you took your eye off the ball? You didn’t try hard enough? You did or didn’t follow the steps well enough?

Are we individual, isolated units that hold sole responsibility for your own experience of this world? Survival of the fittest. Look out for number one. I am not sure it’s the healthiest way to build a society that is based on compassion which might make happiness a more feasible goal…

If the last few years have taught us anything, it is our lack of control over the external world that impacts our happy-levels.

As any elderly granny worth her salt would say “this isn’t new, back in my day….. “, and the new generation rolls their eyes, and dismisses the idea that anyone else ‘had it as hard’. Sadly, history shows us the truth. Continuous periods of conflict, peace, illness, cures, community spirit, community hatred.

‘Life’ in all its glory, is both painful and euphoric. Both slow and fast. Both light and dark. Both predictable and uncertain. Both happy and sad. Even more confusing, sometimes all at the same time!!!

Psychologist, Jordan Peterson summarises this far better than me,

“It’s all very well to think the meaning of life is happiness, but what happens when you’re unhappy? Happiness is a great side effect. When it comes, accept it gratefully. But it’s fleeting and unpredictable. It’s not something to aim at – because it’s not an aim. And if happiness is the purpose of life, what happens when you’re unhappy? Then you’re a failure. And perhaps a suicidal failure. Happiness is like cotton candy. It’s just not going to do the job.”

So.. what we saying? Stop chasing happiness and embrace feeling miserable? Cheers LB Therapy for that one!

Not at all! Actually re-framing happiness as a ‘great side effect’ is pretty freeing don’t you think? We can embrace it for what it is, not chase it as another way to be more ‘successful’ in this world. Not use it as something we need to pretend we feel ALL the time. Not have to buy into the consumerism of ‘happiness for sale’… (side note…did you know Coca-Cola’s most successful advertising slogan was ‘open happiness’. Yes, happiness has been commercialised even to a fizzy drink).

If we can seek a way to find solace in the chaos of life, the shades of grey that life throws us, and that YOU don’t need to have ‘good vibes only’. Leaning into the hard times, finding community with others in the same pain. Having deeper roots and stability than a fleeting fickle emotion. Then maybe, ironically, we might be happier?

If we can re-frame happiness as just enjoying an activity, relationship, job, meal, car journey, time for what it is, in and of itself, rather than what it might achieve, then surely that is a far more authentic way to live?

Perhaps a more useful goal is to find meaning. Where do you find meaning and purpose? Now stop here a minute…. this is a question about where you really find purpose and meaning …. not what you think the answer is.

In Derren Brown’s latest book ‘A book of secrets’ . He says this,

“Sometimes becoming who you are involves getting over who you think you should be”

From the people I work with, the first things that they stop doing when life gets busy, or when they feel judged or like they aren’t meeting others expectations - are the things that give them meaning, the things they really value.

Like giving up painting, because it’s a waste of time

Like giving up running, because the house ‘is a mess’

Like giving up time alone, because the other half doesn’t know what to do with kids

Like giving up a weekly meet up with friends , because your needed for a taxi service

Like feeling guilty for spending money, time, energy on YOU because everyone else needs a piece of you, and your not sure whats left….

It chips away. Then… maybe you feel lost. Not happy. Not content. Not sure what you find meaning in.

Here is my suggestion. How about in 2022 you focus on ‘Build Back Meaning’.

I see you. Start small. Listen to the music love. Leave the house how it is. Don’t cancel the meet up with a friend. Question the popular dialogue society pushes. Maybe there is more to this that relying on yourself all the time?


I am going to make a plug here so look away now if you have no interest! ……

LB Therapy offers a range of supports to help you step out of the world for a moment and find YOUR meaning, and perhaps more importantly -how to balance that with the laundry, taxi service, housework, career that still needs to be done too! Check out the Facebook page to join our free community of women supporting each other in this - ‘Making Me Matter’ . LB Therapy offers workshops, group programs and 1:1 sessions, all online and all for different budgets. If you happen to be in Central Scotland - we also have our first in person retreat day - Respair - A Retreat With A Difference - which would give you a WHOLE day to work some of this stuff out. Please consider making yourself matter again.

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