Finding Happy

What makes you happy?  What is it that makes your heart sing? Simple questions, right?  Well, maybe not for everyone.  If you don’t believe me, find a teenager or perpetual teenager (you know, the brooding adult who still blames everyone else for their problems), and ask them “what makes you truly happy?”  It makes sense; it’s harder to think about what makes us happy if we are too busy feeling stressed out or angry.  By the way, I’m not suggesting that all teenagers are disgruntled and angry, I’m just suggesting they have a harder time to identify things that make them truly happy.

I am a happiness junkie.  I’ve probably read a half-dozen books that talk about the science of happiness. I love to watch movies like “Happy” and “Finding Joe” and others that talk about finding your bliss.  I enjoy listening to motivational speakers who remind me that we have a genetic set point which only makes up about 40%-50% of our total happiness potential.  And it’s awesome to review evidence that income or socioeconomic status have very little to do with our sense of life satisfaction.  Even with all of this; it is difficult to embrace this concept sometimes.  Let’s face it, our culture supports a relentless stream of messages that tell us we need to upgrade, update, buy bigger, buy more, and max out credit cards to earn more rewards.

I am not going to act like I don’t get caught up in this cycle and spend money on things with the idea that it is going to make me happy.  The reality, however, is that a trip to the local mall has never provided me with lasting happiness.  Taking my dog to the park or going for a 3 mile run has given me the kind of satisfaction that lasts through the next day though.  And I have found that random (or even planned) acts of kindness send my general sense of peace and contentment through the roof.

So what makes me happy?  I guess I would start with the basics.  Watching the sun come up, having great conversations with my friends and family, learning something new, completing goals (sometimes just writing out goals), doing something nice for someone, enjoying nature, becoming inspired by someone’s story, and catching myself in a moment of total bliss….yes, those are a few things that make my heart sing.

Most of this didn’t come as a surprise to me, but the one thing that I continue to explore is how powerful kindness can be in the equation of happy.  More and more evidence seems to support that acts of kindness increase our brain plasticity and our sense of well-being.  The more I practice this, the more I believe it.  No, I’m not turning into a genius or anything (insert laugh here), but I am noticing a shift in my sense of contentment and a lowered height of anxiety during certain interactions.  I am also noticing that the more I practice kindness, the easier I am recognizing when I receive kindness.  I am amazed how powerful the words ‘thank you’ can be to people who are not used to hearing them.   See, kindness doesn’t have to be grand gestures or extensive acts….sometimes it is a matter of exercising patience as someone figures out a new job, smiling at people as you pass by them and telling them “good morning”, or maybe it’s a matter of simply admitting when you are wrong.  And of course, the thing that my mother taught me still holds true….”Please and thank you goes a long way”!

Funny how I started out writing about happiness and ended up with a reminder to express gratitude.  Ha, this is the kind of stuff that makes my heart sing.  Sigh.  My thought for today?  Take a few minutes to think about what brings that lasting happy and go get it.  It’s not that I think we have to fight for happiness, but I do believe we have to pause long enough to be able to see it where it already exists and nurture it within ourselves which ultimately helps promote happiness all around!

Vocabulary of Love

One of the exercises for my Anthropedia training included developing a list all of feelings that I  link to the expression of love and kindness.  It seemed like such an easy task, and who doesn’t love to make out lists?  Ha!  But when I sat down to write the list, I realized a sudden limitation of my own vocabulary.  What feelings do I think about when I feel love or kindness towards someone?  I mean, it seems so obvious, you love someone so you feel love, right?  I mean, I guess “warm and fuzzy” don’t really qualify as formal definitions.  Needless to say, I had some work to do in this area.

I finally came up with this list, and no…it’s not my exhaustive list.  But it’s a start.  I associate all of these things, in various forms, to the idea of love and kindness:  Gratitude, kindness, compassion, joy, warmth, forgiveness, generosity, understanding, patience, thoughtfulness, happiness, adoration, helpfulness, meaningful, a sense of belonging, frankness, tolerance, comfortable, trusting, acceptance, modesty, and inspiration.

The second part of this exercise was to spontaneously define each of those words and then compare it to the formal definition in a dictionary and decide which definition I wanted to go with.  Then I needed to think of a specific time when I experienced that particular word.  My initial thought was ‘holy cow, that’s going to take some time’.  But I knew that it would be worth it to complete this exercise and see how evident love and kindness are in my life.  So I did it, and going through each word, figuring out what I thought it meant and comparing to a formal definition really helped me understand how I use the words in my daily life. The best part was writing one sentence about a time I experienced each of the words in an interaction with someone.  Boy, talk about a fun task….yes, it took me a little longer than I would like to admit when it came to some of the words, such as ‘tolerance’!  I tend to be pretty passionate about my views so it was a good practice to think about the last time I truly experienced tolerance with someone.  It also made me super aware of how many opportunities I miss to experience more love and kindness through some of these actions.

Overall, I realized that I can easily identify moments when I feel love or kindness from a family member or close friend but I often overlook those times when every day people opt to show kindness or spread love and I am the lucky recipient. Whether it’s experiencing gratitude from the lady at the DMV who helped me clear up a mistake on a traffic ticket, or understanding from a coworker who simply lets me vent about a crappy day, or the unknown driver who patiently let me merge on the highway instead of speeding to pass me up (and therefore is practicing tolerance)!   All of the opportunities are times when I can choose to experience love and kindness exactly as they are and store the goodness to help me through those days when it may not be so abundant. My hope is that after reviewing my sharpened vocabulary related to expression of love and kindness; it makes me more aware of how I can promote it within my own interactions each day as well.

Being versus becoming

Goodbye comfort zone and hello brand new territory….yep, that’s me; a complete novice writing a first blog.  I have no idea how much I am supposed or expected to share in a blog, so I will keep it short and to the point for now. I have been thinking about using this venue for some time and tonight I finally sat down and started this process.  Hence the title “being versus becoming”.  See, I am often thinking about what I can become, what I can learn, or what I need to do on some task list that exists either on a piece of paper somewhere or on a fragmented thought that I had earlier in the day.  And recently I have realized that I am so busy creating these lists, figuring out how to improve myself, and thinking about ways to get ahead that I have essentially become stuck in an inner state of chaos and criticism that bogs me down and keeps me from fulfilling my own potential.  So today, I am practicing ‘being’.  My goal is to continue  to practice each day and use this blog as my platform.

Intentional Luck” stands for living my life of intentional Love, Understanding, Compassion, and Kindness. I want to be so many things, but the most important thing for me is to be true to myself.  And being true includes loving myself, understanding myself and the world I live in,  as well as practicing compassion and kindness for both myself and those around me.    I came up with this idea one day as I was talking with friends and realized that we were all going through challenges and all of us were being pretty hard on ourselves.  I sat down and thought, what is going on with me right now?  Why am I being so critical? Then I started asking myself, what is it that I need right now?  I came up with four things I needed….love, understanding, compassion, and kindness.  As I looked down at those four things, I laughed out loud because they all spelled LUCK.  Lucky was the last thing I was feeling at that moment.  But I had to ask myself whose was responsible for that feeling?  I mean, if I wasn’t feeling lucky, why not?  Now, when I catch my inner critic being a little too loud I try to pause and think which part of my luck is not active?  And how can I change that?  Don’t get me wrong, this is a work in progress.  But it sure is nice to have such an easy way to remember the most important things I need in my life and a quick method to take inventory of what’s lacking that may be creating an inner agitation or feeling of tension.

I know there is much for me to learn about loving and understanding myself as well as practicing self compassion and kindness. Some day when I am much older (and wiser) I will think back and smile with gratitude for all the experiences that have helped me learn how to live intentional luck with minimal effort.  Until then, I will document my ideas through this venue and simply enjoy being here today.