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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Keeping A Happiness Journal

You've probably noticed: interest in living a happier life—at home and at work—is on the rise.

In 1999, the Dalai Lama published the best-selling The Art of Happiness. In 2004, Greg Hicks and Rick Foster published How We Choose to Be Happy , and Dan Baker and Cameron Stauth wrote about how the "new science of happiness" could change lives for the better.

Then this year, emotional intelligence expert Dan Goleman co-authored Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life's Most Important Skill, and Daniel Gilbert weighed in on the human condition by writing a Stumbling on Happiness, which says that though we may think we know what makes us happy, we are often flat-out wrong.

So if it's a happy life you're after, how do you know what to pursue? Or is it true that happiness is the journey, not the destination?

As the oldest child in a family of five, with a heavy emphasis on responsibility -- you know, paying attention to "shoulds" and "oughts" instead of to the little voice that said "I want to" or "I don't want to"— I find that question intriguing.

Imagine: "being happy" (instead of "making a difference" or "being responsible" or "living up to your potential") can be enough reason for living. The question has even more weight, now that I have just returned from my mother's funeral.

Last summer and fall, I started keeping a "happiness journal" (true to form, this is in the back of the spiral notebook that lists ideas for an upcoming writing project!). I decided to simply observe when I was feeling happy, and to record the circumstances. I guess I'm collecting data—seeing in black and white what makes me happy, so that I can build more of it into my life.

On my list:
  • attending theater (I loved Nine Parts of Desire at DC's Arena Stage)
  • watching my nieces and nephews play Marco Polo in the swimming pool
  • keeping Sunday morning "quiet"—reading the paper and eating a bagel
  • pink
  • creating a writing retreat, knowing what a gift it is to have time to get away and write
  • being silly, like wearing my earrings backwards, that is to say, putting my CZ studs in the bottom hole and my hoops in the top
  • creating a blog entry or fixing a broken blind
  • knowing when I've worked long/hard enough on a project, and doing something fun without guilt
What's on your list? And how do you weigh in on the "happiness as journey vs. happiness as destination" question?