|My daughter Irene, and I. Note one source of I’s happiness in her paw|
I am flicking through Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project, her quest for happiness through a life makeover with many small changes like going to sleep earlier, and diminishing clutter.
I used to regard things like Oxford’s Happiness research with some scepticism, perhaps dogmatically believing that happiness has spiritual roots, comes from harmony with God.
But that’s too dogmatic. Small steps like diminishing clutter, improving organization, avoiding negative thinking and exercising—open to both Christian and non-Christian—definitely do improve one’s happiness. Getting an extra hour of sleep it is claimed makes you 25% happier!!
So, flicking through Gretchen’s book got me wondering. What makes me happiest?
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I was rattled yesterday and busy, packing for our holiday, and so just had a brief 20 minute quiet time after going to small group. Just lay, face down, in soaking prayer, which helps me enter the presence of God most rapidly. And soon felt happier and calmer.
I don’t want to sound goody-goody, but that is what restores my happiness most rapidly: Prayer. Sometimes I might feel snubbed, or treated unfairly or rudely. When I am wise, I let the fountain of God’s love wash away the hurt before it festers and turns cancerous. Sometimes, I am angry. Again, when I am wise, I seek, in prayer, to let the waterfall of God’s love pour onto the anger before it turns malignant.
Prayer, positioning myself in the force field, in the waterfall of God’s love, helps worries, fear, and insecurity dissolve. I feel a bit unanchored and directionless until I have prayed, and then a whole lot happier after I have prayed.
Reading Scripture for me is another source of wisdom, sanity, and happiness—besides being a stabilizer!
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My second greatest source of joy is my garden. I love being alone in it, working, while the sun shines and birds sing. It’s the most sublime relaxation.
I love museums and art galleries, losing myself in paintings. I have taught myself quite a lot about art over the last quarter century or so, but am self-taught, and almost wonder if a naïve appreciation heightens my pleasure. Perhaps not. However, if I overhear the experts talk about my favourite paintings in museums I often wander away—I prefer letting paintings speak to me in their own language, rather than analysing them in a left-brain way.
I love movies, and enjoy them thoroughly while I watch them. Movies, though, hold you enthralled, and you can’t really analyse them in medias res as you can’t gauge the plot twists. If they are disappointing, I am left with a de-energized, dissatisfied emptiness, a sense I have wasted time. But Roy loves movies, and so many are magical, so yes, they are on my happy list.
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Somehow, over two decades of being married to a man who does not love reading, and amid the hurly-burly of parenting, running a business, and blogging, I suddenly found that reading, one of the greatest sources of happiness from my single days is slowly slipping off my radar.
I have instead got into the habit of tearing the heart out of books—skim reading. I am, however, slowly recovering the habit, through a reading project in which I read a book in 30 days in January, 29 days in Feb., and so on. By the end of next year, I will be back to reading a book a week. I used to read more than that as a single woman, but just returning there will make me happy— besides, of course, the pleasure of the good books.
Travel! I love it. A great source of pleasure, joy and happiness for me. It’s partly the perfect moments—sitting out in a garden in Europe, sipping tea, looking at the layered Romanesque and Gothic architecture around you, while the birds sing, and you are perfectly at peace. Sitting out on a beach, watching herons, cormorants, and the blood-red sun sink.
I love the change, the relaxation, the narrow winding cobbled streets in Europe, the past so present, the unforced living history, the experience of new foods, new shops, new customs. And the sheer beauty of nature, as in Ireland or New Zealand.
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When my kids were young, say under 5, watching them, watching their joy was perfect happiness. Teenagers are, well, teenagerish, but the sudden moments of perfect harmony in family life are happiness. As is perfect rapport with a friend. Conversations which stretch your horizons, and make you feel as if sparklers are exploding in your brain. Books, lectures or sermons which do the same.
I am, sadly, not particularly physically fit, but sometimes when I walk, it’s as if my whole body comes to life and pulses with vibrancy and energy. And then I am so happy to be alive, to feel the joy of movement, to be high on endorphins, to feel the sun, soak in the green fields, and hear the birds.
And one of the things which makes me the happiest of all is writing. I love the first draft, and I love editing—though the multiple edits necessary for a polished piece of work can bore me!!
Writing out what makes me happy makes me happy to realize how simple and inexpensive and available most of them are.
How about you? What makes you happy?