Is independence vital for happiness?

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Photo - Simon Webster

It is usually seen that we become so busy in achieving our life’s aims that our daily routine starts becoming monotonous for us. In order to beat the gruelling routine, we feel the need to be with someone special, to spend some time and share our lives with him/her. And then after entering into a relationship, our responsibilities escalate and we find ourselves to be so tied up and dependant on our companions, that we lose our sense of contentment, start dropping our individuality and feel the urge of freedom as well as independence once again.

Let’s go through a related story by Mauricio Alejo in brief:

When Mauricio Alejo met John in 1998, she was a student while he was a well-established businessman, 12 years her senior. One day she was sitting on the patio of one of the restaurants John owned, and he bought her a drink. Right away she was drawn to his confidence and charm. But as they built a life together, her sense of self slipped away so gradually, she barely noticed. Being busy in making home and upbringing of their son, and not looking into the financial matters, she realised that how dependant she has become on her husband for everything.

The day John moved out, she curled up with her laptop and searched the internet for a psychology study on autonomy that she had browsed weeks before while reporting an article for the local paper. The next day, she reached out to Diana Boer, PhD, a researcher in Bremen, Germany, who had analysed data from 420,599 subjects and found that having choices and control over your life is a better predictor of well-being than having money. Boer pointed to research that showed that lack of autonomy leads to greater stress and even poor health.

But Boer said something that stuck in her mind: “The way to independence is with little moves.” She liked the notion that she could start small, so one morning, she woke up from a rare good night’s sleep and decided to throw a dinner party.

It was fabulous – like her old times, but without any gibes from John about how messy she looks when she cooks. She was starting to see that independence is more basic than she’d ever imagined.

It is clear that suppression and dependence snatches our own identity, thoughts, dignity and, of course, happiness. We need to learn to be independent in order to survive, but this does not mean that we have to live our lives alone by creating distances from our loved ones or the society. Independence means having the drive to tackle our goals on our own, but also having the wisdom to ask for help when we need it. Independence is an important ingredient for developing good self-esteem and therefore vital for happiness. It is not a good idea to be so dependent on somebody that we lose our confidence and self-esteem.

Following are the five key steps to understand autonomy and bring positive changes in your life:

1. Do not struggle to explain yourself – people around you may or may not support your ideas. They may object to changes you have made. Express yourself with phrases like: “I want to do this because this makes me happy,” or “I like doing it my way,” and so on.

2. Spend some time with the person who sees the world differently. This may prove to be a very effective way to improve your approach to life. Your own ideas or perspectives may not work all the time, and by spending time with a person having different methodology may provide you with some fresh perspectives. This may change your way of thinking and help in re-evaluating goals.

3. Take control of your own destiny. When you’re just by yourself and can make your own rules, it’s both an introspective and empowering moment because you are the sole controller of what happens. This might sound a bit anti-social, but does it not feel good to be your own leader? You’re independent – you can do it!

4. Gain perspective on your life. Sometimes you don’t notice certain things when you’re in a big group, but once in a while, you should go through your lives like a movie. Sit on a bench in a park and listen to the music in your head. Relax and take everything in. Be comfortable with the silence. Sometimes, it is good to just be by yourselves and meditate on new ideas.

5. It’s always good to take some time to relax and enjoy your time alone. If you can be self-reliant and do things on your own, figuratively and metaphorically, then you’re in charge of your destiny and are a stronger person as a result. You should make sure you trust yourself to take control – get out there and be a strong, independent and happy person.

“If you’re able to think original thoughts, make decisions for yourself, and just being yourself in general, then you have independent traits.” ~Anonymous

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