In the years since I’ve retired, there have been a number of days when I have struggled to feel happy. Without my career, I pondered my sense of purpose. Questioned what I was supposed to be doing all day everyday. Not that I didn’t have lots of things to do. But I have lost my routine. Every day of retirement feels kind of haphazard despite my efforts to establish a schedule. As a result I flounder around from one activity to the next, feeling kind of lost and lonely many days.
Early last month the title of an article on the cover of July’s “O: the Oprah Magazine” caught my eye in the checkout lane. “What would make you happy?” written by “O” staffer Molly Simms. The magazine wound up in my cart and found its way home with me. Then laid on my craft table for a month. Wonder how many other women shoppers were enticed to buy the magazine by the title of that same piece?
I didn’t read the article until today because I was ‘saving’ it for this Glossies Made Me Do It post. Linking up, a little late, with Lauren at Shooting Stars Mag for this series.
Which now, in retrospect, feels a little like I put off finding out what makes me happy and how to become happier. Wonder how many others put off reading the article or never actually read it at all. Which speaks to one of the key points of Simms’ article; more about that later.
Of 86 total “O” magazine staffers, only 32 volunteered to participate in a month-long course, created by Yale psychology professor Laurie Santos, that promised to make participants happier people. Less than half the magazine’s staff. (Was that because the other 54 folks were already ecstatic with their lives?) The author of the article was puzzled by this, too, but she embraced the program and jumped into it with both feet.
Finding Happiness: The “O” Happiness Project
I read the article anxious to learn some new things I could try to improve my overall happiness. The course was divided into assignments and areas of focus over four weeks. Although until now I hadn’t heard of this proposed “O” road to happiness, I have been doing many of the activities on my own for some time. *See the comments followed by an asterisk for those things I’ve been doing.
The first weeks involved taking these happiness assessments to determine the staffers’ current levels of happiness. Then they were asked to make lists of things their were thankful for, to savor special moments as they experienced them throughout the month. To be more in the moment. *Took a survey I found online as I began writing this post. I regularly list things for which I am thankful in my gratitude journal, thank you, Carrie. Leaving my phone out of sight with notifications off, and volume down when I am away from home. And often forgetting to turn them back on when I am home.
In addition, they were asked to practice random acts of kindness, keeping track of those efforts with daily tally marks. And to increase social connections by interacting with strangers and distant relatives. Which has been found to extend life-span and fight disease. *I have included doing random acts of kindness in my seasonal bucket list activities. Forgot to put them on summer’s list, though, which you can see here. I do try to be friendly and approachable to strangers, especially little ones. As in kids, not referring to the stature of the strangers. Doing so does make me feel warm and fuzzy. Need to do more of it.
Exercise and Sleep
During week 3, the staffers were encouraged to build an exercise regimen into their daily routine and to increase the amount of sleep they were getting each night. At this point, Simms’ reports that a number of participants began hemming and hawing with excuses for skipping this part of the course. Even though they all acknowledged the benefits of both. *As you know from my Wellness Wednesday posts, we have increased the amount we exercise since early spring. I have struggled with sleeping well but began using this Melatonin, 2 gummies before bed, and I am sleeping better. My dreams are crazier, though.
In the final week of the happiness course, those still participating were doing so begrudgingly. They were asked to meditate for 10 minutes a day. Something that almost everyone found undoable. Ten minutes!! One editor who began the program dropped out early on saying she was “almost too unhappy to try to be happy”. How sad is that? But I can relate. I bought this magazine in particular for the article about happiness but failed to open the magazine and read the article for over a month. *The Miracle Morning routine I was doing early in the year has a meditation component built into it. I purchased a subscription to Calm.com but haven’t used it in several months. So I can’t say much about the staffers balking at meditating, can I? You can bet tomorrow morning, I will be picking it up again.
Thank You Letter
The culminating activity was writing a thank you letter to someone they had never had an opportunity to thank. And then to read that letter to it’s addressee, preferably in person. The author chose to write her former high school drama teacher and then to read the letter to her using Facetime. When Simms had finished reading her thank you and the teacher was in tears, they both experienced real happiness. *This is something I would like to do. Need to think on it a bit to decide to whom I will write. Reading my letter out loud would be scary, no matter who I thank.
The Happiness Project Outcome
Guess what? By the end of the course, 53% of participants had dropped out. Seeking happiness was too much work. Or perhaps the outlined activities weren’t working to make the staffers happier. Professor Santos explained that 50% of happiness (or conversely, unhappiness) is genetic. Some people come by being unhappy naturally. *I would argue that I probably come by depression or unhappiness naturally. Neither of my parents seemed like especially happy people.
Santos went on to explain that 10% of our mood is determined by what happens to us. *This is where I struggle. People who know me in real life would agree that I have some of the craziest things happen to me. And PC has said more than once, “If it weren’t for bad luck, you’d have no luck at all”. That about sums it up.
That leaves 40% unaccounted for. And that’s good news. Because 40% of our happiness is under our conscious control. That’s where these activities come in. And the happiness surveys. However, it seems our brains have a hard time determining what really does make us happy. We get caught up in thinking a beach vacation, a new car, a pair of designer shoes will make us happier. But that happiness is fleeting and not what matters in overall life satisfaction. *They, whoever they are, say money can’t buy happiness. I get that, kinda. But money sure can make life easier which can make living life happier. I am happier when I don’t have to worry how to buy my girls’ birthday presents or when I can afford to treat PC to a special surprise like a trip to Reds fantasy camp. Having money allows me to make the lives easier of people I know.
What is your feeling about that old adage?
Wellness Wednesday, 08.2018
This coming Wednesday it will be time for another wellness post. We will be talking about the progress we’ve made on our wellness goals, and sharing some healthy eating tips. I also plan to share a few activities I have just begun using toward finding happiness in this chapter of my life. Hope you will come back then.
Maybe in the meantime, you can check your happiness score by taking this survey. It will only take a minute and results are emailed to you. On Wednesday, I’ll share my score. The photo below is one of Oprah in her happy place. What does your happy place look like?
Thank you for spending some time with me today. Hope this post gave you something to think about. Knowing you come by makes me happy! Would invite you to come back on Monday for TBB Asks, Tuesday for a Book by Book review, Wellness Wednesday, and Little Letters on Friday. If I can get all of that written this week!!
Make it a good week at your house.
Hugs and kisses,