'Happiness levels of girls and young women have dropped drastically in a decade, new research reveals' is the headline of an article by Sabrina Barr, published by the Independent last week. Sabrina refers to research recently published by GirlGuiding, The Girls Attitude Survey 2018
Girls tell us they are less happy than a decade ago and that this is negatively impacting their lives. It’s positive to see girls are talking about mental health more freely and have their own ideas about what needs to be done. But the survey shows there’s still a long way to go until all girls feel positive and happy.
Pressures of exams and social media are named as two main culprits for increasing stress. Should we be alarmed that more girls and young women (or any other group of people for that matter), are less likely to describe themselves as 'very happy' compared to 9 years ago?
I'm 57, so a long way from the age group surveyed. I recognise the pressure though, to be happy. The pressure comes from myself and from society. Happiness seems to have become a hot topic. There's even a World Happiness Report.
What is 'very happy' ? I don't like to think of anyone being unhappy. But I have found myself wondering, is not being 'very happy' a bad thing?
In my own experience, its only when I have been unhappy in my life that I have been motivated to make changes. Unhappiness has led me to come out of my comfort zone and do something about it. Which has ultimately made me experience more of life. Like making myself come out of my cosy cocoon and blog daily for 30 days!
Each time I am pushed I learn about myself. Take learning to nurture myself. Sounds easy, if not a little self-centred. But before I could learn to do that I had to learn to notice when I was unhappy. Sounds ridiculous, surely everyone knows when they're unhappy, right? I don't think so. Certainly for a long time I wasn't noticing. It's a bit like that rather gruesome metaphor of 'boiling a frog'.
You don't notice conditions getting uncomfortable if they happen gradually and if you don't pay attention to your feelings
Over the years, I have learnt to notice and accept my feelings of unhappiness as they arise. Once I start to do that I have choices. When I recognise I feel unhappy, I can choose to accept that fact or do something to change it. This has led me to have much more control over my 'happiness'.
The Girls Attitude study is looking at a lot of different aspects and makes for interesting reading. The 'happiness' aspect is just one of seven criteria measured. But, if, as the research suggested; 9 years down the line girls and young women are finding that they aren't as happy as they think they should be; or that they used to be; could that be a cause for celebration? It might be fuelling a motivation for change. It could even be showing an increase in self-awareness, and a better understanding by young people of how they really DO feel. Maybe we are getting more in tune with our feelings, good and bad, and not making ourselves say we're happy, when we're not?
Its just a thought. And in my book, that would be described as progress!