Rediscovering happiness

A few days ago, I was reminded of a sad, yet eye opening truth: our brain is not designed to make us happy, it is designed to keep us safe. And by that, I don’t mean that it doesn’t have the capacity to build neural pathways that are involved in the state of happiness, but that its first and primary function is our safety.

For a few months now I have been telling my friends that I find myself in an interesting state: I dream about being able to travel in safe conditions and meet my friends in person, but when it comes to actually doing it, I find I don’t have the energy for it. It’s been almost two years since I returned to my family home because of the pandemic and I continued to stay to help out with the upbringing of my two year old nephew. But while being at home, pausing for a while, and witnessing the miracle of a baby growing had undeniable inner rewards, after 10 years of a very active, independent, far from home life, it felt like living in survival mode. And it has become so automatic that I’m starting to wonder how my life will unfold once I leave home (which will definitely happen in the next couple of months).

There is no doubt that my life priorities have changed. I love my nephew enormously, I love being an aunt (probably more than I would being a mother) and I also love freedom and diversity (I am – or used to be – a person with many hobbies). But the pandemic situation has made it difficult to combine them. I had to adapt and find new engaging activities at home that were fun for both of us. And I did it by sacrificing some of the ones that made me happy in the past (long walks, reading or watching movies for hours, travelling, making 500 pieces puzzles in a single day). My old sources of happiness (mainly routed in solitary activities) have been replaced with new ones (dependent on family proximity) and my brain has been rewired to the extent that I feel like I have been domesticated (I literally told that to a friend!). The result: I am not that outgoing anymore, I am consumed by what is very close to me (job and family) and I barely have any energy left for my friends and other learning activities (which have been the core of my existence for a very very long time).

I am aware that parents might find this very familiar. And, unlike many of the parents out there, I do have the luxury of returning to my old sources of happiness without loosing the present ones. The question is: will I actually do it once my context changes? Will I return to my old ways of finding happiness, will I keep the newly discovered ones, or will I find a way to integrate both? Will I be able to unlearn and then relearn again?

I am excited and somewhat anxious about the future, but really curious to rediscover what still makes me happy and what adventures are still worth embarking on.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s