Hi. We’re Pete and Marie, co-hosts of the Happiness for Cynics podcast, and firm believers that you only get one life, so you’d better make it a good one. For us, that means being happy and getting the most out of life.
If you’ve stumbled across this book, you’re looking for more… more time, more satisfaction or more contentment. Or maybe you’re looking for less... less stress, less pressure, less noise, less anxiety.
You see, the world is changing. Everything seems to be moving faster and many of us are struggling to keep up. Around the world, more people are struggling with anxiety, burnout and depression, while others are looking around and just wondering, “Is this it? Is this all there is to life?” Trust us, we’ve been there too! Here’s where the problem lies...
Conundrum #1 – We’re not going to church
OK, OK. This might seem really strange, but hear us out. Our societies are evolving, quickly, and many of us are becoming more reliant on and devoted to the pursuit of truth through science and technology. So, it makes sense that many of us have also stopped believing in God.
For instance, did you know?
• In the U.S., the percentage of Americans who believe in God, attend religious services and pray daily has declined significantly during the last eight years.1
• In the latest Australian census, about 30 per cent of Australians selected no religion, and that’s more than 7 per cent higher than the previous census.2
• In Europe, as of 2010, almost one-in-five people do not identify with any religion (18 per cent).3
But, if people no longer believe in God, we’re going to make a leap and assume they stop going to church… and that’s a shame. In fact, it’s a problem, and the reason this book exists.
Don’t get us wrong, in this book, we’re not arguing for religion – in fact, we’re decidedly staying away from that, please do not write, email or call about religion. We’re not going there. What we are saying is that because many people in today’s society don’t believe in God, they have lost the benefits of regular church attendance.
You see, whether you believe in God or not, the simple act of attending church on a regular basis provides so many benefits. You get regular social interaction. You learn and put into practice kindness, gratitude, service to others, mindfulness and forgiveness, among others. And, somewhat ironically, the science says these activities have tangible research backed benefits for our happiness levels. So, by not going to church, and by replacing that time every week with activities such as commuting, or mindlessly watching TV and scrolling through social media, we’re negatively impacting our happiness levels.
Conundrum #2 – Self-care is seen as indulgent
So, what are we talking about? Being social and community-minded, experiencing awe, service to others, and practicing kindness, gratitude, mindfulness and forgiveness. For the sake of this book, we’re going to label the group of activities and habits as ‘self-care’ … which brings us to our next conundrum.
When these self-care activities are practiced at church, they are good, moral activities. However, these self-care activities and habits also happen to be the cornerstones of the field of positive psychology – the study of happiness. There are now decades of empirical, peer reviewed research in this field, but in our scientifically minded society, “self-care” is often seen as a dirty word. It is labelled by people who don’t understand the science as a self-indulgent pastime of spoiled millennials, or a collection of new-age catchphrases.
We’re here to say that this couldn’t be further from the truth. What many don’t understand is that there is science behind the t-shirt that says, “I choose happiness.” We live in a world where success is defined by achievement and the accumulation of wealth. Again, ironically, it turns out the science says that the happiest people are the most successful, they’re richer, healthier, have better jobs, more friends and live longer.
Yet many people have let their skepticism guide them. They don’t buy-in, and as a result they haven’t taken the time to investigate a field that might hold all the science-backed answers to how to succeed at life that they’ve been looking for. So, this book is for you, the cynic, the sceptic, and the science-believer.
Just because you’re not religious, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t live a happy and successful life. In fact, we’re here to tell you it’s OK, because self-care is not only church for non-believers, it’s also science, and it’s what has been missing in your life. You just didn’t know it until now.