Saturday, February 16, 2013

Happiness and Individual Needs

There's a lot of generic advice about being happy: exercise more, go for walks outdoors, do yoga, meditate. While these things may work for a lot of people, it's really important to keep the individual's needs in mind. When I was feeling depressed in college, I got the standard advice, and I tried it. I went to the gym. I went walking in the woods. I went to meditation class. And you know how I felt? Worse. Worse because I was already unable to do what I wanted to do at college, what I knew made me happy, and all those other things I did just added to my schedule of things I didn't want to do and took away from the little bit of time I had to myself.

It's really important to listen to why a person feels bad before prescribing them standard advice. I can't tell you how many people told me to get out more at college, even when I told them I felt like I was "out" all the time, which was a problem because I wanted to be alone.

I once recommended exercising to a  friend who was depressed and was lacking energy, but that was because I already knew that working out made that person feel good. When someone I don't know as well is depressed or lacking energy, I ask them what things normally make them feel happy or energized. I know studies will tell you that nature and exercise and mediation make people feel better, and they're probably right, but that doesn't mean those things are the solution to every problem, or that every individual enjoys them. Most people have some knowledge of what makes them happy, even if it's been a long time. Try to find that out before giving a standard recommendation.

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