Self Caring

The Other Side of Happiness

Last updated: Jul 21, 2010

Smiley Egg Head

Not to go all happy-go-lucky on you by repeating the topic of happiness (believe me, I'm no natural optimist!), but I've been mulling a related issue this past week: How responsible are we for other people's happiness? Last week, I wrote about [the happy test] ( of gauging whether you're happy yourself. But it occurs to me that, especially for caregivers, part of the block on personal happiness is the amount of effort we expend working to ensure others' happiness.

Caregiving, after all, isn't solely about keeping another person well fed, warm, dry, and safe. We want the person to be * happy,* too.

Except when they aren't.

You can bend over backward doing nice things for others, cheering them up with flowers and pep talks, helping them see friends and find meaning in life. Often, it works! But (but, but, but, but!) you can't control how much happiness comes out of your efforts. Each person is ultimately responsible for his or her own happiness.

Said another way: You aren't a failure if you fail to make someone else happy.

This is true for moms as well as caregiving daughters, dads as well as caregiving sons, and spouses of every age and stage (and state of health).

It's a thought worth keeping in mind the next time you face:

"¢ Criticism about something you did

"¢ Criticism about something you neglected to do

"¢ Complaints of boredom

"¢ Complaints of disappointment

"¢ Someone who looks sad

"¢ Someone who looks mad

"¢ Someone who's ungrateful

"¢ Someone who's depressed.

(And gee, you don't come across too many of those scenarios in your everyday life, do you?!)

What you can do: Point out what would help. Make suggestions. Issue an apology or a pat-on-the-back. Crack a joke. Change the scenery. Help obtain professional help. Do something that cheers you both up.

What you can't do: *Make * others happy. (Only they can do that.)

What you mustn't do: Feel responsible. Right?

Feeling a tiny bit happier already?