Happiness. A word that encompasses so much, is yearned for by many, but even it’s definition is elusive.
What does it mean to be happy? And I am not talking about a few moments a day, I am talking about sustained happiness here. Happiness and its accompanying pursuit is such a desired state that it was even written into our Declaration of Independence.
Everyone, or just about everyone, wants to be happy. And the pursuits we take to become happy are protected. But again, what does happiness mean? For a topic that’s discussed so often, it’s meaning is amorphous at best.
Happiness to me means feeling joy, mirth, beaming, radiance, light, confident, positive, uplifted, grateful, hopeful and engaged, maybe not all at the same time, but in some combination. The things that make us happy, that’s our pursuit of happiness, the things we do each and every day which add to our level of overall happiness.
For many of us, life gets in the way of thinking about bigger topics like happiness. As a mom, there is so much to do every single day, that I don’t often have the privilege of time to think, to ponder and reflect. I look back at all of those hours spent casually reading, thinking, and just being before children and wish I could have enjoyed them more with the benefit of foresight.
But sometimes, you can actually appreciate things MORE when you have LESS of it. Think about it, does anything ever taste as good as that first bite of a donut, ice cream, an expensive wine or steak? We chase down the memory of that first bite, but nothing is as good as the first time. So often, we mistakenly think that doing something MORE will make us MORE happy. If we only had more money, more vacations, more clothes, more this or that, we will be more happy.
But happiness doesn’t work that way. As I already mentioned, happiness is such an elusive state, that just adding more doesn’t produce the desired result. Think about it, is eating a donut a day as satisfying as eating them once a week? Or even once a month? You look forward to that first bite for days, think about it, anticipate it, and that all goes into what makes eating the donut so enjoyable. (I seriously need to find a new sweet to fantasize over that is gluten free, because now I am craving a donut 🙂
To be more happy, there has to be something else. While money helps ease worries and make life easier, money does not equal happiness (and extreme amounts of money often results in the destruction of it). So what other ingredients are missing in the happiness equation?
Every person has a baseline level of happiness, and they generally go up and down a little bit each day, each week and each month. I view happiness as a sort of wave, we move up and down. Sometimes we stay up longer, but there is a general baseline that is our general level of being.
I feel like I am pretty happy. Most people would describe me as happy, energetic, upbeat. I’ve always preferred the term vivacious. But as life has gotten busier, as I have less time to myself, I feel like my overall level of happiness was slipping. My baseline seemed to move down the needle a bit, as I have two little people and a husband, house, businesses and family to take care of every day.
My own personal needs often fall far down my daily to-do list, and sneaking out for an occasional manicure and pedicure weren’t doing the trick. I wanted more, or rather, I craved more. In the midst of my parents getting divorced and selling my childhood home, it feels like a good time to really explore the subject of happiness. And find out how I can seek out more happiness every day.
When my son started kindergarten, it really hit me how true the saying that the days are long, but the years are short truly is. I don’t want to spend another day, much less a year, being less than happy and just continuing to do things, simply because that’s how I have been doing them in the past.
So this year, I am setting off on a quest to find happiness. My friend Ravayna let me borrow a book called The Happiness Project, about how one woman spent one year on a mission to increase her overall state of happiness by focusing on a different challenge each month.
The first month focuses on increasing your overall level of energy so you can feel fueled on your happiness trek. She recommends doing two things, working out and de-cluttering your home. Working out for 20 minutes or more gets the krebs cycle going in your body, which in turn kicks up your level of endorphins. Since endorphins equal immediate feeling of euphoria, working out is key to feeling happy.
I studied nutrition in college in a few courses, and have always been a workout addict. But again as a mom, sometimes it is not my top priority. I often go in waves, working out several times a week, maybe for a few weeks straight, and then my activity level plummets. It’s hard to keep focused on working out with the never-ending cycle of sickness, errands, kids to pick up and drop off while squeezing in time to get to the store or post office, but you can and SHOULD do it.
Why? You will feel better. You will have more energy. And you will feel happier, waiting in line at the grocery store while the very slow clerk spends one minute scanning each item while your kids practice terrorizing each other and all you want to do is open the package of turkey because you are starving. Oh wait, have you never gone grocery shopping with two kids? Well I will get to that later, but as a general rule, I try never to do that anymore!
What I find gets me working out best is scheduling classes once a week and adding them to my phone. It creates a commitment and just becomes a part of my day. I know I am going to drop off and then the gym, and I just do it on auto pilot. Try to work out in the morning, when your energy is often high, and you will carry those endorphins around with you all day!
The other challenge this month is clearing out things you no longer use, like or want. Purging feels SO good! Again on my list of priorities, organizing my pantry and bathroom closets is often low on the list. But when you declitter you feel so much lighter and more free, and you can start in small batches. Just open up a drawer, grab a bag and start throwing!
For me, my journey of happiness actually started a bit earlier this year, when I really worked on what I should and should not be eating and consequently removed gluten from my diet, and made a change to spend more time with my kids by letting our nanny go. As I write this, my daughter is jumping on the bed to It’s A Small World and spilling water all over the carpet having a tea party, but that’s okay. It’s part of mom life, and I love it.
By making small changes, you can increase your level of happiness, so join me for this journey and see where it takes you!