Happiness – be a good friend to yourself first

Last published 3 March 2021

This article was written by Caroline Lambie, a humanist celebrant with Humanists UK and the London coordinator of the Non-Religious Pastoral Support Network.

I was having a walk with a friend today. You know, those Covid walks where you can meet up with one person and have a chat. This new way of socialising – one that encourages you out of your home into the cold, wintery weather to converse and connect and pontificate about the meaning of life. We’re all at it – if we are able, if we are well.

With everyone’s mental health teetering on the edge, in a forced oppressive situation, this act of conversation and interaction helps keep us mentally well. Yet when we get back home, if we are not dealing with illness or death, we are proclaiming: “it could be worse”. And we push down our feelings of suffocation and try to forget that so much is out of our control.

My friend, on this C19 walk, brought Aristotle’s notion into our conversation about our current state of being: “happiness is based on friendship, but you need to be a friend to yourself first.”

Aristotle’s theory includes: “Happiness is the ultimate end and purpose of human existence. Happiness depends on acquiring a moral character, where one displays the virtues of courage, generosity, justice, friendship, and citizenship in one's life.”

What can we take from this?

  • First, be a friend to yourself and acknowledge that this situation is not good or natural. It is awful, especially if you are separated from those you love, you have experienced illness or death or your domestic situation is lonely or too full of people.
  • As far as you can, do what you think is right. Get involved in a community online or get someone to help you to. Help others in your society – give your time if you are idle just now and get to know new people.
  • Experience some culture – there are lots of free events online.
  • Get yourself into a routine – get outside once a day and speak with someone once a day (someone you don’t live with). Have a zoom chat; if you hate groups, try a one to one – it is lovely. Enjoy your pets too.
  • If you are in a busy house, don’t be totally dependent on those you live with. If you live on your own, don’t be independent from those you know.
  • Whatever your situation is, be interdependent and work with others to create a civic society. Make an effort to speak and be intimate with others – help them to have some healthy interaction. Be brave, be generous – help others and then you will help yourself.

You will be happy if you have good friendships and are good to others, but only if you are also a good friend to yourself.

Find out more about Caroline on her website or on the Humanist Ceremonies website

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Five ways to good mental wellbeing (article)

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