welcome. thanks for visiting. i love sharing my stories, so regardless of who you are, feel free to look around. this blog is about my adventures and living on purpose. i hope it provides you with some entertainment... even if it's at my expense!


Sunday, January 23, 2011

Happiness Examined

Since you get more joy out of giving joy to others, you should put a good deal of thought into the happiness that you are able to give.
- Eleanor Roosevelt

Joy can be real only if people look upon their life as a service, and have a definite object in life outside themselves and their personal happiness.
- Leo Tolstoy

Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.
- Buddha

Sounds pretty selfish to dedicate a year to happiness, doesn't it? All the talking I've been doing about feeling fulfilled, following my passions, and living with no regrets has got me to thinking that I need to provide a little bit of explanation and background. Anyone who reads Gretchen Rubin's book The Happiness Project would understand, but I know that most of you won't get around to it, and that's okay. My happiness project is not just about me. It's about me feeling good about being me - about feeling right about the person I am in the big picture, my contribution to society as a whole, and the impression my life makes on the people around me every day. I can't live a life of selfishness and only living for myself and today. I won't be happy. And if I am not happy, I am less able to be the person I want to be for the people around me. I like Buddha's quote about about the candle. Love given away is increased, not decreased.

I was really unhappy for a few months last year. I was moody, bitter, and self-centered. All I thought about was myself! I was constantly anxious. When I woke up in the morning, I had a few moments of solitude before my anxiety would crash down on me like a ton of bricks. When I tried to sleep, I couldn't get unhappy thoughts out of my mind long enough to drift off. That's no way to live. I made up my mind last year to be happy, no matter what. It's too important! Now that I give time and concentration to my own happiness, I am sweeter to my loved ones. I have a longer temper. When it does flare up, it's not long before I stop and think - who am I hurting here? Me! No one else is suffering, besides possibly my friends when I go on a tirade. The person who wronged me is not punished by my anger and bitterness.

I no longer enjoy gossip. After 26 years, I am finally working at employing "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all" (Disney wisdom!). Sociology taught me that gossip is a way of connecting. Once you see it for what it really is, the easier it is to think, aren't there better, less harmful ways to connect with people? Won't a friendship be stronger if it is built upon a foundation of loving kindness rather than superiority and hatefulness? We all know that if someone gossips to you, they're probably gossiping about you.

Gretchen Rubin wrote that happiness is about feeling bad, feeling good, and feeling right. What makes you feel bad? I feel bad when I see a dirty house. Cleaning may not make me happy, but the end result does. I feel good when I do something nice for someone else. I feel good when I am able to accomplish my goals. When I get a good grade on a paper. Did I enjoy writing the paper? Not always. But the end result is worth it. Feeling right is about being where you should be in your life. What kind of life did you always want to pursue? Are you on your way toward it? Or are you doing what came most easily?

We as human have a constant stuggle between our rational minds and our emotions. My examples may seem trivial, but I know that eating cereal for breakfast (even a healthy kind) makes me feel bad because I'm hypoglycemic. I love cereal! I eat it on the weekends, because I have time to sit down and have a bowl. During the week I make a protein shake every morning. Which one makes me feel better? The shake. But I choose the cereal most times, when I have a choice. Our emotions think that one thing looks more attractive and will make us happier, even though our rational minds would tell us differently. The same goes for many decisions in our lives - food, working out, how we spend our time. Does television make most of us happier? Then why does the average American watch over four hours per day? Surely this is because it makes us smarter? Nope. Then why? Because it's easy, and our emotional side wins out over our rational side.

Emotions make us human. They are of value, to be sure. But there are ways to combat the negative effects of the strong emotional pull certain things and activities can have on you. If you take away the negative options, you can be more of the person you want to be. For example, school or work. How many of us have purposely taken away entertainment options to lessen distractions and keep ourselves on point? You can disconnect your internet, or use a computer with no games installed. Put your cell phone in another room. Who among us has gone on a rampage and thrown away all the junk food in their house? There is no sense in relying on will-power alone. That is why people with a support group do so much better in realizing goals. They have someone to be accountable to.

I don't have cable TV because I know that it is an easy and powerful distraction from other things I need to spend my time on. Sometimes I want to flick on the TV and veg out, but I can't. I have to purposefully select a movie if that's what I want to do. But that involves making a choice. This makes it more of a process and less of a possibility. I have to rationally decide that I want to spend time on that instead of something else.

I hope I don't sound like I'm trying to be a saint, because I'm not. But I have made some discoveries that have made a huge positive difference in my life. I can't help but want to share them! Everyone is different, and I know that what works for me may not work for everyone. But I think that everyone can benefit from living their lives "on purpose", finding their passions, not feeling bad, feeling good, and feeling right.

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