Monday, November 21, 2011

Happy people find joy

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.


I'm very tempted to make a joke about my mom today. Her name is Joye. And it will bring her joy that I mentioned her and remembered that my dad always says she "is the joy of" his life.

Yet, this is a much debated topic. How the heck, exactly, does one procure this joy? Not my mom, Joye, but like happy, feel good, pleasant to be existing right now joy?

"Doing something you hate is possible, for a little while, but you’ll never sustain it. If you hate running, you’ll never keep up the habit for long. You need to find the joy in doing the activity, and when you do, you’re golden. So either choose an activity that you love, or find something to love in the activity, and grab on to that." - stephthinksalot at Femme Scientifique

Let me brainstorm some things that work for me:

Keep it small or short. Break a big task down. Refocus your brain from focusing on the whole hour or the whole day or week ... and focus on the next five minutes.

If making a change to something could bring you more joy, make only tiny changes - one at a time. Let that change settle in. Let it feel more like a habit. Then make another tiny change.

Imagine the results you are expecting from a task or relationship or interaction. Then imagine throwing those results or expectations into the wind. Take a deep breath and be present in that moment. Look for joy in that very moment. Be present. Discover the joy. Dare to let yourself enjoy it, no matter how small.

Be grateful for these little moments. Do not let them pass you by. They are the things that make life spectacular.

MOVE! When you are feeling completely depleted of joy you may also find yourself in a bubbly bath of depression. The last thing you want to do is put one foot in front of the other, breathe fresh air or even put away a dish. Set a timer for five minutes and do something that requires progress and movement. Later, when you sink again ... set another timer!

I do most of my work online. My brain flows in sync with my fingers like lightening. I LOVE technology and all that is the internet. Yet, when I'm really at a low, I do better when I unplug. I go outside and hold my head up. I smell. I listen. I walk. I sit down and watch ants. I pay attention to nature. Maybe then, I call a friend and talk.

When things are rough, it does not come naturally. You have to fight for it. You have to make a choice to do these things. They are not magic pills, but they are steps toward joy. They can help you pull out of that "stuck" place where the pain and sadness swirl.

You are totally worth giving it a try.


Liz said...

Thanks honey. Just what I needed to hear.
Enjoy Thanksgiving!

Kris and Robert Are Adopting said...

I've always felt the same way. I take the position that things happen for a reason - and every unhappy is a learning experience so it really is a happy.