Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Use a strategy for happiness

I'm only on the second habit of happy people, and already it feels like he has copped out on me.  His suggestion is that I use a strategy for happiness; figure out what makes me happy and make it happen.

The research he has based it on, though, says that good and bad things happen in the same proportion to happy and unhappy people.  The difference is that happy people spend about 2/3 of their time thinking about the happy things, and the unhappy people spend 2/3 of their time thinking about the unhappy things.  So that suggests to me that what I should actually be doing is monitoring my thoughts and gently guiding them back into happy paths.

It turns out that's actually much easier to do than emptying my mind, so I've been fairly successful at it.  I even find that I've associated thoughts, so that common negative thoughts are closely followed by their corresponding positives, with very little effort on my part.  My daily emails have been going well, and I've gotten some nice responses.  I'm not running out of people to send to yet, so I'll keep it up for a little longer while I explore the next "secret".

Friday, January 4, 2013

My life has purpose and meaning

I've been re-reading David Niven's The 100 Simple Secrets of Happy People, which my husband bought me years ago, knowing that I'd be interested in a review of research rather than a self-help book.  Rather than resolutions this year I'm trying to meditate on the 100 principles he identifies.

So, for the past week or so I've been constantly turning over in my mind his first point, that my life has purpose and meaning.  My very existence has touched the lives of many people and enriched some of them.  (I had to stop myself from insert "hopefully" there.)

My perfectionism wants to blow this out of proportion, and as I've been thinking I've found I have to constantly remind myself that this doesn't mean:
  • that every day, hour, or minute of my life has to have purpose or meaning
  • that I don't need to do some grand, amazing thing with my life to create that purpose or meaning
  • that it's perfectly okay if the bulk of what I did in my life is behind me, and I lead a quiet existence taking care of myself for a while, or even the rest of my life if I'm so inclined
Strangely, I also find that I'm constantly reminding myself that the foster parenting we are doing right now is purposeful, meaningful, and also highly visible and earning us the respect of many people.  Because it has just become what life is for us, I can go for days without thinking of it as "special" in any way.  I'm making more of an effort to be gentle with myself about the stress I feel, but also give myself credit for what I'm doing.

It would be helpful if I can make a habit or routine out of each point so that I can integrate the principles of happiness into my life.  For this one I've settled on a habit that I will try at least for a week, and see how it goes; I will email one person each day that I haven't communicated with in a while.  I'll pick people whose lives I think I've enriched; I do a good job already of remembering to send emails at intervals to people who have been important to me, but I don't look the other direction.  To help it become a habit I've picked a time to do it - right after the baby goes down for his first nap of the day, because it's quiet then - and I've got a box on my Unschedule for the week so I can see my line of unbroken Xs.

So... baby's down for his nap... someone will be getting an email from me within minutes!