With the holidays upon us, the idea of happiness tends to bubble up quickly. Perhaps the question has been under your skin for some time, “Am I happy?” But with the stress and pressure of family in town, stretching your budget for holiday meals and gifts, and attending or hosting parties, the question of happiness can become unbearable. We often feel guilty thinking of our own happiness during the holiday season. We view it as our duty to look after others. To feed them, entertain them, love them, and to show them how much we care by buying unique gifts in the hopes of making them happy. But in so doing we forget to focus on our own happiness.
Because we view happiness as a duty we find ourselves trapped between loyalty and sacrifice. The duty to make others happy means we live in fear of sacrificing our own happiness. We give and give and yet fear we will get nothing in return. Too quickly, our noble sacrifice becomes self-serving and works to create the opposite of happiness. Now, if we choose to view happiness as a utility rather than the duty we are freed from the trap of loyalty. John Stuart Mill tells us that utility is a measure of happiness as value. Thus as our actions promote happiness they will create utility and value. The focus is no longer on our happiness nor the sacrifice of our happiness for others. It is focused on the increase of utility, of actions that promote happiness.
Our friends at headspace have a great video to help your actions focus on the happiness of others. Enjoy the video and think about how your actions can promote the most happiness this holiday season. Let yourself go from the trap of loyalty and responsibility and be freed to find the most happiness possible.