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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?


Anonymous CarynW said...

I think that if happiness is the destination, you're too likely to give in to greed, or living in the future, or rushing through things. You may think that what you need in order to be happy is a well-paying job, or a big house, or whatever, but when you get there, find that that wasn't it (as you said, you may think you know what you need in order to be happy, but you may be wrong). I think it's better to find happiness as you go along in the journey, like watching the kids playing Marco Polo. If you were totally focused on getting a promotion or a degree, you wouldn't be "wasting" your time watching kids - you'd be at work or the library, or at least concentrating on your laptop, and you'd miss that little piece of happiness. I've always loved "journey literature" (like The Lord of the Rings, the movie Joe vs. the Volcano, and many others), because to a large extent, the journey is the destination.

4:46 PM

Blogger Joanne said...

Well said, Caryn. It IS about noticing the moments on the journey! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

10:16 AM

Anonymous AgentSully said...

Great post and great blog.

Congrats on your SOB award!

8:34 PM


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