Wednesday, September 26, 2012

How to stay happy


I recently had a happy day.  A really happy day.  A zip-a-de-doo-da day.  It was so great I wouldn’t have blinked if a cartoon rabbit went hopping by and Uncle Remus himself was sitting on my front porch with a bluebird on his shoulder.
There wasn’t anything super special about the day.  Nothing really monumental had taken place and I didn’t have any huge upcoming plans.  Part of me wondered if somewhere in the great galaxy, the fourth moon of Jupiter had aligned with the magnetic pole at noon in China, causing this elated mood.  Another part of me wondered what I had eaten to change the chemicals in my brain—those levels of dopamine and serotonin and adrenaline and other things I can barely pronounce.  But the rest of me didn’t care because, hey, I was having a good day!  Life is good, the world is good, and I was floating on top of it all.
But as sadly expected, that fourth moon must have shifted or something and two days later I lost that feeling of shivery warmth that was the joy coming from deep within, for no good reason.  And I, the newly grumpified person, was bummed about it.  So like so many people with a mild ailment, I turned to the Internet to figure out how to regain that jubilant euphoria that I had, or at least to discover what the cause of this bliss really was.
Oh, the great wealth of knowledge that lies waiting for us to stumble upon…
Of all of the articles I came across, one of my favorites listed ten things that, according to “science,” make us happy.  
Science?  Happiness?  Being a girl with a heart of faith and a brain of reason, I had to read on and learn something new.
The article’s first tip was to savor everyday moments, doing more that just stopping to smell the roses.  It urges one to pause and enjoy the smallest of things, even mentioning watching children play.  (The author probably never had to clean a playroom, but that’s beside the point.)
The second suggestion was to avoid comparisons and focus on our own personal achievements, which sounds clear and fair to our own selves.
It also urges to put money low on the priority list and to seek less satisfaction in material goods.  Most practical people may disagree, but I know I fall into a category that puts money on a shelf, in an old mason jar.  The money I speak of comes directly out of the dryer.
Have meaningful goals, take initiative at work.  Smile even when you don’t feel like it.  (I’m assuming this does not mean gritting your teeth and saying even things without moving your smiling lips.)  Give it away and be charitable, say thank you like you mean it.  Get out and exercise.
And finally, make friends and treasure family.  Happier people have supportive, involved, happy families and friends, and I bet that those families are generally happy people.  Happy people that smile a lot, say thank you, play outside and get exercise and do all of those other things.  
Suddenly I realized my happiness was only partly my own—that the happiness I felt was coming from my family, friends, and my entire world.  It came from a coffee date with a cousin, the excitement of a new school year, even the sound of the cicadas singing all night long.  Happiness then becomes the most beautiful viscous cycle I’ve ever seen.  If mama ain’t happy, no one happy, and vice versa.
So, here’s an assignment for readers of this column.  Make a list of all of the things that make you happy.  Use nice paper and hang it on the refrigerator when you’re finished.  Write as many things as you can with as many pages as you wish.  I’ll share my list, and joy, with you next week.






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