I am a passionate and optimistic person by nature. Ready with a smile and always up for a laugh, I appear “happy” most of the time. But true happiness is much more than laughs and smiles, and I have many dark moments, too. We all do.
Last year was a doozy. I lost my job of 10 years, followed by much deeper losses that rocked me to my core. Facing the death of a loved one brings so much pain and uncertainty to the surface it can be hard to bear. Experiencing 4 deaths in a matter of months, all of them incredibly unfair and shocking, drives home the old cliche that life is short.
To honor my beloved aunt who was taken far too young by breast cancer, and to help find acceptance and navigate through the darker moments of life that are inevitable, I’ve decided to begin working on nurturing my happiness once again.
I picked up professor Sonja Lyubomirsky’s book, The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want when it came out about 10 years ago. We had just bought our house and life was a little crazy. I had seen the book featured on a morning show and I thought, this one looks different… Based on years of research into how to actually cultivate more happiness, the book’s premise is that we can control about 40% of our own happiness. I immediately loved that the author wasn’t trying to sell me on rainbows and sunshine. Here’s someone who was willing to be upfront about the fact that we can only directly influence a portion of our happiness. According to Lyubomirsky, the other 60% of our happiness comes from circumstances (only 10%) and a “set point” of happiness which is genetic (50%). The surprising research results about our circumstances only affecting 10% of our happiness really gave me hope about achieving a higher level of happiness in spite of major stress or a chronic illness.
As I began reading her stories of the participants in her studies and the overall research she conducted, I was incredibly intrigued! I decided to give her “Happiness Activities” a try. Just being mindful and intentional about my own happiness bolstered me immediately and brought more peace and joy to my daily life.
And so, ten years later, even though I practice some of these activities by second nature now, I am going to step into them once again with intention and focus. I’d love to invite you to follow along as I practice each activity through my two favorite mediums: journaling and photography.
I’d like to blog about them in the order in which they are presented in the book, but before I do, a small disclaimer: These are my own interpretations of the book’s activities. I highly recommend you read the book to get the full context of the activity. The book has much more insight around both the activities and how to practice them, so I really recommend picking it up if you want to learn more.
#1 Expressing Gratitude
#2 Cultivating Optimism
#3 Avoiding Overthinking and Social Comparison
#4 Practicing Acts of Kindness
#5 Nurturing Social Relationships
#6 Developing Strategies for Coping
#7 Learning to Forgive
#8 Increasing Flow Activities
#9 Savoring Life’s Joys
#10 Committing to Your Goals
#11 Practicing Religion and Spirituality
#12 Taking Care of Your Body – Meditation, Physical Activity, and Acting Like a Happy Person
I already know that some of these activities are going to come easily to me while others are extremely difficult. When I first started with the book, my life was incredibly different. My family was younger and we had a completely different lifestyle (much busier!). I was overworking and trying to fit too much into my day. Most of all, I hadn’t been diagnosed with Lupus yet.
I’m excited to understand and practice these activities during such a different phase of my life! Thanks for following along, and I’d love to hear more from you on how you practice happiness! Leave a comment below or reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Disclaimer: I use Amazon affiliate links throughout my blog, so if you shop through one of my links, I get a small commission at no additional cost to you. I only link to products and books I truly love and have used myself! See full disclaimers here.
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