Tag: happiness

Making a Habit of Happiness

Recently, I was stuck on my latest fiction-in-progress so I was surfing the Internet and Facebook. I found this meme created by Do the Right Thing that extolled thirty habits for happiness.


I read through the list and some of the comments on the post. One person said it was too long to read through, and I thought that was a shame.
Then I decided to make my own, much shorter list.

But how do I know what should go on the list?

And who am I to say I know anything about happiness?

What is Happiness Anyway

Oh, happiness how fleeting! Here for one heart’s beating!

According to my wise friends at Dictionary.com, happiness is the quality or state of being delighted, pleased, or glad, as over a particular thing.
In short: happiness is a moment in time where something goes right and you feel a surge of success.
It’s a moment in time. It’s not meant to be a continual state of being. However, if you’re going to choose an emotion to characterize your life, wouldn’t happiness be preferable to sadness or anger?

But when the property tax bill comes and it’s a couple hundred dollars more than the previous year, no one is very pleased. (Well, Mr. Tax Man probably is.)

However, practice #2 from my top ten list below and you’ll start thinking, “Plenty of people didn’t get a tax bill because they don’t own a home. I’m blessed to have such a nice house. I’ve worked in the schools and I know education is important. I’m glad that if there’s a fire, the fire department will come and take care of it. If not for my taxes, those things wouldn’t be possible.”

I might not be happy about the bill even after all that, but now I’m feeling less disgruntled.

So while I doubt anyone will be happy all the time, having a positive outlook and practicing gratitude can alter your “state of being” from irritated and grumbling to accepting and smiling.

Narrowing Down the Choices

To narrow down this list of thirty, I did what most people in this social media dominated culture of ours do: I asked my Facebook community.

How did we cull answers from a larger population before there was Facebook and Instagram and all the others?
Most kids can’t imagine not being able to search the Internet for answers to any question. Somehow, those of us born before 1980 managed it. Go figure.

Within the first twelve hours of posting my Facebook poll, I had two clear leaders among the thirty options. And a five-way tie for third place. No surprise.

This list contains thirty good habits to form for better mental health. Because in reality, that’s what happiness brings. It can also lower blood pressure and drop adrenal levels associated with stress.

Of course, no research is “one and done.” I ended up with a four-way tie for third place. So I made this meme and let my friends help me narrow the choices down a second time.


I have an amazing tribe. Although this second request didn’t gender the same flurry of interest, enough people responded that I could determine a clear third, fourth and fifth place.
In the end, my peeps helped me build this “Top 5” list (for those of you who like it short and sweet):


My Top 10 Habits for Happiness

Of course, my personal list doesn’t coincide with the masses of public opinion. It rarely does. I’m unique that way.

Here’s how I would prioritize the habits for happiness. The first two directly coincide with recent annual themes for me. I focused attention on the area of showing gratitude (remember #365DaysofGratitude) and thinking positively.

1. Show gratitude
2. Accentuate the positive
3. Smile. Smile. Smile
4. Choose faith over fear (As one person pointed out, meditating on scripture and prayer should be on the list. I think they’re incorporated here. How can I have faith without them?)
5. Let go of the baggage (Don’t hold grudges. Don’t rehearse wrongs. Don’t look for fault everywhere. Sing with Elsa, “Let it Go.”)
6. Live truthfully and honestly (yes, I combined two because they are twins)
7. Dream big and work hard for the dream (dreaming big alone is the path to disappointment and discouragement, but if you dream it and planto achieve it and then work your plan…good times!)
8. Build a healthy body (yes, I’m a cheater because eating well, exercising, drinking plenty of water and getting enough sleep go here)
9. Listen to understand
10. No excuses or self-justification. Own it.

I’m a writer, so a few things about the original list bugged me. Some of the points meant the same thing. Or close enough. Others were tied together–inseparable to my way of thinking.

What is your top habit for happiness? If you do this ONE THING, you will have a better day.

Keeping up with The Joneses: Not worth the Price

 

American companies bombard us with messages compelling us to buy a new car, a bigger home, sparkling jewelry and fashionable clothes. Even sit-coms of “typical” families show people with incredible homes wearing designer clothing.

Capitalism has become synonymous with commercialism. So much for freedom; life in this “buy more to be better” world becomes a competition. Rather than choosing to save for a vacation or give to charity, this mental terrorism pushes us to spend and overspend.

In her blog, Karen Schelhaas noted: “The initial buzz of a new shirt or a sparkly pair of shoes is indeed that – a buzz. Like a good cocktail, it makes us feel warm and fuzzy and noticeable. But in the end, it loses its thrill and needs refilling, which can get expensive for the soul as well as the pocketbook.”

Did you notice how buying is like a drug? We get a temporary sense of fulfillment but then we see our neighbor drive up in a 2014 Lexus 400h (my dream car, insert yours to make it more meaningful) and the buzz is gone.

Image courtesy of Edmunds.com

Can we truly blame the media for our compulsion to spend money on things we don’t really need?

I try not to play the blame game. Sure, we can point our fingers at advertisements and materialistic celebrities, but the truth lies in the other direction. Self.

We must take responsibility for our own priorities in life. If money is all-important, we need to ask ourselves why. If public opinion matters more than private contentment, time for self-evaluation is long overdue.

Why do we want a new car when our friends buy one? Why does that million dollar home seem more appealing than the one we live in now? (Ever stop to think what the property tax bill would be on that home? How long would it take to clean such a monster?)

Our focus gets jaded by the constant sensory input from the world around us. We hear the wealthy man is unhappy but we’re sure if we had all that money, we would finally arrive at happiness.

The grass is always greener on the other side of the street. Of course, green grass needs to be mowed more frequently. What’s under the surface? It could be a septic drain field.

Contentment is the key to ignoring the race of one-upmanship defining so much of society. The American Dream defined by having every material possession you can imagine and plenty of money in the bank to assure the same tomorrow translates into a nightmare.

There is never enough stuff. We must seek our peace of mind and definition of success in another venue. I say look inside the house instead of at the driveway and landscaped yard.

Do we have supportive relationships in our home? Open communication and freedom to be who we are with our spouse offers more happiness than any new car we could drive.

Look to our children. Are we nurturing them or driving them to seek contentment in materialism? They see us. They hear our conversations. If renting movies and baking pizza at home on Friday night builds a tradition of togetherness, they will understand family isn’t about how much money we spend.

Life is about relationships. Money will never buy a happy, lasting relationship. What sort of family life resides in that million dollar home? We don’t need to know. What we need to do is find contentment where we live now.

If we can relish life in a cramped two-bedroom apartment with cardboard boxes for chairs while sleeping on a mattress on the floor, we can make it anywhere.

Have contentment. Will travel.

Musings on Marriage

Happily ever after?
Happily ever after?

Marriage is meant to be the joining of two individuals into “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). Unfortunately, there’s a lot of severing of body parts in the realm of marital bliss because many people don’t see it as a binding, lifetime contract.

Or maybe our society’s idea of being faithful to your word is so diminished that every contract can be negotiated or terminated at a later date. Why does it have to be binding? A lawyer somewhere should be able to get me out of it if I decide I want out later.

People are flesh and blood. Businesses might be made of brick, mortar, wood or stone. Flesh cannot be patched in the same way a building can.

When business contracts are broken, people lose jobs, money and security. On the other hand, when marriages fail, people bleed.

Contemplating causes for different outcomes keeps my mind occupied. Rather than analyzing data like a scientist, I consider people and their actions and attempt to determine motivation. In my warped way, I think this helps me create more realistic characters in the stories I write.

Two important people in my world have suffered through the agony of amputating a spouse in recent months. Sounds painful, right? Yep. If you think divorce is the easy way out, it’s time to rethink your options.

Two hearts become one. Two lives become one. Two people become one. Oh, those are just romantic words on Hallmark greeting cards which accompany wedding gifts. Those poetic souls understand marriage.

Some people don’t give their hearts fully to marriage, causing the marriage to fail. Many individuals want to keep the single life they love and that dooms a marriage. Even if you keep your heart and life, the two people are joined into one flesh. Cut your flesh. It bleeds. Cut your marriage, you bleed.

I see a few broad reasons why marriages fail. I’m musing here, not accusing. My list isn’t meant to be all encompassing or judgmental. I’m just doing my people analysis thing.

Marriage ends because:

  • People have the wrong expectations. If you think the other person will be your “everything,” you’re condemning them to fail. They will never be perfect. Newsflash: neither will you. Expect success, not perfection. Success is something you can work toward, while perfection is unattainable.
  • People lack commitment. They say the average person will change jobs every three years. Those people retiring now after spending 30 or more years with the same company are no longer the pattern for younger generations. If you’re unhappy, move along. Unfortunately, having this attitude about marriage relegates it to failure.
  • People hold onto secrets. Secrets aren’t just about infidelity or impulsive spending or gambling. Sometimes one spouse needs support, but rather than seeking it from their mate, they pretend it doesn’t exist or search for it elsewhere. The best relationships are built on the foundation of truth.
  • No one wants to be accountable. The “it’s her fault” finger of blame is as old as Adam and Eve (see Genesis 3:12-13). Unfortunately, society seems to be promoting this sort of excuse-making. If a child is substandard, look to the parents and find fault. If a marriage is unhappy, it must be the other person’s fault.
  • Everyone feels entitled to happiness. After all, the “Declaration of Independence” makes the “pursuit of happiness” a basic human right. Well, someday when people are perfect, happiness will reign. Until then, problems happen and bomb our happy lives. Rather than run away from the problem, we need to face it down. Happiness is fleeting, but the joy that comes from keeping your word can sustain you in the dark times.

Marriage binds two people. When two people commit to the contract of marriage, “they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matthew 19:6).

Can you end your marriage contract? Sure. But if you think it’s going to be painless, cut off the end of your index finger. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Why do you think so many people avoid marriage? Why isn’t marriage considered a lifetime commitment anymore?