My sister-in-law gave me a book called The Happiness Project for Christmas and although I've only read a couple chapters so far, it's really got me thinking.
Am I happy?
I haven't had a chance to think a whole lot about whether or not I was happy in the past dozen years or so. I remember contemplating happiness back when I was single and had plenty of quiet moments. But since having kids, I've been so busy doing everything that comes along with dealing with the needs of small children while trying to juggle a couple websites and involvement in my kids' school and in the community that I never got around to thinking about happiness much. There were times when life was really hard and I did some thinking about how to pull myself out of a slump. But mostly, when I've had time to think in the past dozen years, I've thought about goals and to-do lists and plans for helping the kids and myself and everyone around me become all that they can and should be. And I do think happiness is quite interconnected with progress and growth and helping others - all of which I've experienced in great abundance especially since launching into my motherhood career.
But now that all the kids are in school and I have a few more quiet moments to myself each day as I chip away at my endless to-do lists, I'm feeling the need to figure some things out. Am I happy? Am I as happy as I ought to be? Should happiness be a pursuit or a goal? Or is it silly and selfish to devote much time to thinking about my own happiness?
I experience lovely fleeting moments of happiness every day. Joy jumps up in my heart when I see fresh snow or a brilliant blue sky, hear a sweet comment from one of my kids, feel little arms around my waist, see my child be kind or accomplish something he or she is proud of, watch my kids run up to me with huge smiles when I pick them up from school, snuggle with my little ones as we read together. I feel a satisfaction kind of happiness whenever I accomplish something or complete a task. So I'm experiencing happy moments a lot and I'm so grateful for each of them.
But do I feel happy in general? Not so much.
I feel worried and stressed and overwhelmed much more often than I feel happy. And I think this is partially because I think about what I need to DO much more than I think about who I need to BE or what I NEED. I think about accomplishments far more than optimism and gratitude. I think about good works far more than faith, hope and charity. And while I do believe happiness relies quite a bit on progression and helping others, I don't think I've thought enough about the other things happiness relies upon.
So this week I'm going to focus on figuring out what makes me happy - other than getting things done (I've got that one down pretty well). Then I'm going to figure out how to bring more of this happiness-inducing stuff into my life more regularly. I've realized that in order to be the mom and wife and person I need to be, I've got to figure out how to be a happier person. And it's not just going to happen by itself.
Here's my first step - making a quick list of what I love to do off the top of my head:
1. Cook tasty food that's quite simple but has great spices and flavors and that my whole family loves (I made thai food on Sunday and it was a pleasure to cook and a pleasure to eat)
2. Read beautifully-written novels with great characters and a story that sucks you in and makes you think (really enjoying Minding Frankie by Mave Binchy right now).
3. Exercise (actually I really don't like exercising much but I love the feeling I get AFTER exercising)
4. Read with my kids (we all snuggled on my bed Sunday night and read out own books together and it was so cozy and made me so happy).
5. Travel. Visiting a new place - be it a new part of town or a new country - always gives me a rush. I love meeting new people, seeing new sites, figuring out new favorites, and seeing my kids get excited about it all.
6. Go on a hike or walk. Moving my body while enjoying fresh air and nature always offers elevates my mood and gives me sparks of joy and renews me. I need to be outside every day - at least for a few minutes. But I don't make time for that every day.
7. Hear great music. I need to have music playing more regularly. I need to crank up the music and dance more. I miss singing. I miss playing the violin. I need to make as well as enjoy listening to music more.
8. Have a good conversation. I'm not getting nearly enough of this. I'm alone too much. I email all day with people but I'm not with other adults enough.
9. Finish something. I'm getting quite a bit of this one - at the expense of the others.
10. Laugh. I don't laugh nearly enough. I'm way too serious. Anyone got any really funny YouTube videos or TV shows are articles you'd recommend?
So there's my quick list to get me started. I'll work on what to DO about these needs soon.
And I'd love any tips or ideas anyone else out there has!