The ‘seasons’ of happiness (Podcast)

Summer, autumn, winter, spring.

They are finite and marked by predictable changes.

One of the things I’ve noticed as I’ve delved deeper into the world of happiness and what creates it is that many people think it’s about a ‘year-round summer’. Thinking this way creates massive pressure to keep the good times – the summers – going for as long as possible. It also makes the lows feel like personal failures, which increases their severity and decreases the chance of us doing something productive with those periods.

In this post – and the accompanying podcast – I’ll look at the different seasons and discuss how each one adds something the others cannot. I have realised that embracing all the seasons rather than fearing the changes makes a massive difference to my experience of each one.

Podcast Episode 26: Listen here (or Search Big Happy Life in your Podcast app, on iTunes, Spotify or Stitcher)

Happiness Summer:

The summer of happiness happens when you don’t have to work to feel happy. It is natural and effortless.

Some of the Hallmarks:

  • It is easy to think positively
  • You don’t sweat the small stuff
  • You’re calm and patient
  • You smile and laugh
  • You notice and feel grateful for the good things in your life
  • You find it easy to be generous with your time and energy

What it adds:

Joy, ease, contentment, enjoyment. These are great times. Usually you feel at peace with yourself and, even if your life circumstances aren’t perfect, your ability to look past the imperfections makes you feel even better.

Happiness Autumn:

Happiness is no longer effortless and you’re aware of its decline.

Some of the Hallmarks:

  • Little ‘niggles’ are presenting. You want to let go of them but you’re struggling to do so.
  • It takes more effort to feel genuinely connected with other people. Sometimes you manage it, sometimes you don’t.
  • Thinking positively and being grateful take more conscious effort than they used to.

What it adds:

Resilience and the ability to recognise the early manifestations of stress in your mind and body. Once we reach ‘winter’, it is more difficult to use the signs of stress and discontent effectively (though it is not impossible). During the ‘autumn’ phase, we’re still strong enough to pay attention to what’s happening and learn from it.

NEXT WEEK: “How to be positive when you don’t feel positive” explores how to make the most of these early signs of stress and dissatisfaction.

Happiness Winter:

Some of the Hallmarks:

  • Difficulty caring about things – everything feels a bit pointless
  • Rarely feel like smiling or laughing
  • Feeling lonely in the company of others
  • Feeling tired and listless
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Loss of appetite

What it adds:

A chance to draw inwards and reflect, to take stock of life and understand what is working well and what is not. A chance to rest the body and renew energy for the upcoming spring and summer phases. A chance to nurture yourself and make yourself a priority instead of living up to the demands of others. A chance to break free from the illusions of pressure we create and focus only on what truly matters.

NEXT WEEK: “How to be positive when you don’t feel positive” explores how to make the most of the dark times when things feel overwhelming and hopeless.*

Happiness Spring:

Some of the Hallmarks:

  • You’re starting to feel more energetic
  • You have nights where you sleep well and wake up refreshed – even if this feeling doesn’t last all the way through the day
  • You feel hopeful. You have a sense that things are going to be ok.
  • You feel ok about making plans and committing to things again
  • Things that previously felt pointless are beginning to take on meaning
  • Things that previously upset you feel less important
  • You sometimes surprise yourself with your ability to take things in your stride

What it adds:

The opportunity to identify the the things that make you feel better as well as the things that provide meaning and hope. A sense of renewed energy and the opportunity to trust yourself to make it through the winter and come out the other side.

Happiness isn’t meant to be permanent

A permanent ‘summer’ would leave very little chance to reflect, rejuvenate and renew. The energy of summer makes things faster and brighter. It’s more about doing than it is about being.

Winter is a time for us to simply be. It is a time where we are required to look after ourselves, rest and heal. Admittedly, it doesn’t feel great – but it feels a whole lot worse if we’re trying to force ourselves into summer.

Spring and Autumn offer the greatest opportunities for learning because they teach us about how the transitions happen from summer to winter and back again.

Releasing the pressure to be happy

When we accept each season, we take the pressure off ourselves to experience something other than what we’re experiencing. Doing so offers us the best chance of keeping meaning and overall life satisfaction alive regardless of the season.

 

*DISCLAIMER: I am not a doctor or therapist. The information shared here is based on my experience and does not constitute medical advice.

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