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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

What Makes You Happy? (Part I)

For the most part, feelings of happiness mostly lie in our memories of past events.  Are you happy right this moment?  That’s a really good question.  You could be happy because you just finished a project and have time to do some blogging, or happy about the fact that your boss just left for the day so you have a chance to catch up on work / emails – but that happiness is related to past events -  the project being completed or your boss leaving.  In these two examples it probably isn’t the emails / work or blogging that is currently making you happy.  In general, most of our happiness is from memories of people and experiences we have had.
What makes you happy?  If you Google that exact phrase the results page will kick back “about 4,720,000 results (0.13 seconds)”.  WOW – that’s a ton of results!  The normal answers to the question of “what makes you happy”, for the most part, lead to very generic and mostly meaningless answers.  People will say things like my kids, my family, my friends, my pet(s), my recreational vehicle(s), vacations, retirement, or my home.  These are answers, but they are generic answers that don’t look at the heart of “being happy”.  These are automatic answers and the answers we think people want to hear.  These are the answers that take the shortest amount of time to convey in our busy world.  These answers are too generic and because of that we may miss other moments of happiness because we haven’t critically looked at the things that have made us happy.
Critically looking at the things that make us happy?  Isn’t that an oxymoron?  Nope.  In the works by Richard Paul, critically thinking about something isn’t about “being critical”.  Critical thinking is about taking the time to actually ponder what it was you were thinking about (or in this case feeling and thinking about).  Critically thinking about happiness involves asking, “Why does/did that make me happy?” 

"Thinking" about “feeling” happy – isn’t that kind of stupid?  Nope.  Knowing why something made you happy could help you to recreate more moments of happiness in your life.  Wouldn’t you agree that the key is to finding ways to make happy experiences and good times happen again, and again – throughout our life and across various life situations?
You are a key to what makes you happy (not 100% responsible – but you are a major factor).  The "clues to happiness" may lie in the happiness you remember.  Take a moment to think about happiness – and what made / makes you happy.  Take a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle of it.  On the left side of the paper write 5 – 10 things that have made you happy.  Set it aside, walk away from the list – that list is the “CliffsNotes” of “being happy”.  Later on, come back to your list and look at one item, ponder that one item carefully and then on the right side of the paper write down why it made you happy and what did that happiness feel like.  Be specific!  Do that over and over again until you have completed each item and are done (for now) “thinking about your happiness”.  It’s in knowing why something made you happy, that you will be able to recognize similar (but different) happiness in the future and recreate more moments of happiness in your life.  It is in remembering what happiness felt like that will make you smile even on a gloomy day.
It’s could be surprising to some people that research states that when you remember happy moments you reactivate the same hormones and endorphins related to experiencing happiness.  Try it now (if you aren’t driving or operating heavy machinery).  Close your eyes and concentrate for a moment on a time you were happy.  Feel that barely recognizable feeling building in your chest – that’s remembered happiness.  There’s a sense of peacefulness in that feeling, isn’t there?
You don’t always have to be in the midst of a “giddy happiness” to be happy.  Do any of you remember Borden’s cow, Elsie?  She was contented cow.  I get that feeling of “being content”.  At that moment I know I am happy.  I’m not giddy happy, but I am at peace and the world is good.  When I am content that is good moment in my life – ‘cause I know I’m happy.
The surprising thing is that everyday menial things can make you feel happy - if you take the time to experience what is happening.  Society and the media tend to lead us to believe that we have to experience extraordinary things, big moments of happiness– but that’s not true.  You don’t have to wait for those “big moments of happiness”.  For some people (like me) watching your garage door close can bring about a tremendous sense of happiness (more on that tomorrow).
What makes you happy?  There are so many articles about people trying to be happy, trying to find happiness.  There are so many articles – responding to so many people looking for happiness.  But regardless of what has happened in your life – most of you have had happy moments, but they’ve been lost in the mess of everyday life. 
Stealing a phrase from a book I read – “Remember to Remember”.
Bring back your happy moments
Write your list of happy moments
Include the everyday, menial things that make / made you happy
Really think about your happy moments; what made those moments “happy”?
Take the time to “feel” what happiness feels like
Be ready and open to more moments of happiness
Be content and be at peace

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