Sonja Lyubomirsky is a psychology professor at the University of California, as well as a research psychologist. In her studies, she has discovered 12 things that happy people have in common.
I am happy. Even when I'm feeling crappy, I am a happy person. People are forever asking me how I reached this place. It wasn't because I prayed enough, or took a magic pill, or held my mouth just right while dancing on one foot, or was just born happy (um ... NO ... you can ask my mom about that first year). Yet, I have discovered that self disciplines, even the ones which result in fun, have radically changed my life. These are things I learned through my own therapy and medicinal treatment for depression and anxiety. If you realize the concepts in this series are simply not enough, seek help. Insist on it. Find your own personal level of healing, which is different for everyone. Sometimes I speak "happy" with an accent, because I still dance with depression and anxiety - and that is okay.
I thought I'd focus my Mondays on each of the 12 common factors. It makes sense, because Mondays can totally slurp on the happiness meter.
Read the title of this post again.
And then again.
Now note: it does not say "Happy people OVER commit."
No, really. Read it again! It's not there!
I am very committed to things in my life. Very few things. I was once a very miserable person who was committed to lots and lots of things where lots and lots of people could see just how committed I was. And then slowly, I started to go completely miserable bonkers and was on my way to being committed.
Cause that makes sense.
As I became a parent, I began practicing something knew. I quit things. I declined invitations to add more commitments.
I said, "No."
It was difficult. I have had some really harsh things said about me as I did. There were people who attempted to guilt me back into what I had left behind. I had to grow some very thick skin. It has not been easy.
Yet, my life changed.
Something magical began to take place. I had time. Actual time. I was able to commit to my children in ways that they needed me. But by eliminating unnecessary stress I became happier, more patient and well ... more patient! That was enough right there to keep it up.
We were spending time hanging out, taking meals more slowly, looking at one another, saying things like, "What should we do?" The time I had with my children was making a greater impact on our relationships. That change then provided me more time to commit to my marriage. Again, I was more patient, more thoughtful and dangit - I had more time and more desire to play! Go out! Have fun!
Speaking of going out: I became a better friend. I could have people over on a whim. If someone had a random Tuesday night off and wanted to get together, it was very probable we could make that work. Our extended circles began to strengthen. It brought even more happiness to our lives.
For the first time we could truly commit to people, projects and things. By keeping this list short and simple, we occasionally found ourselves with a crazy thing called a FREE SATURDAY! On those days we might do very little besides sitting on our duffs and watching bad B movies, or we might finally try something new. We had the time. It was a perfect fit.
So, commitment is important and does bring happiness. True commitment. The kind you can carry out and enjoy, even when it requires work.
Over commitment will make you miserable. It will make your family miserable. It will set up unrealistic expectations and many times perpetuate failures and mediocrity. It will rob you of relationship.
It will rob you of happiness.