Thursday, September 20, 2012


There's a self-help special on PBS right now talking about happiness. The speaker is running through 5 things one can do to increase baseline happiness. Number 1? The ostensible reason for this blog! I'll pre-date a post that included the things I gleaned from the show if you want the guide to do it too. I can say it unequivocally works - when you focus on the good things of your day, it becomes a lot easier to see good things and remember good things.

So here I am, telling you why I'm happy today. It's an odd day, as I will be having a medical test tomorrow which requires fasting today and I'm a bit jittery. If all goes well, I'll learn more about why my guts are balky, and it's driving me to blog, which I do actually enjoy.

The TV is on PBS because Stephen Colbert interviewed Harvard President Drew G. Faust, the author of a book on how the civil war formed some foundational notions of our nation that are prevalent today because of all the deaths that resulted from the war. And that book was summarized in a two hour show which I watched a couple nights ago - I kept thinking I'd DVR it and break away, but I was glued to it the whole two hours. I'm grateful to have watched that, and grateful to see the Happiness show now.

On the civil war show, though, there was a quote that I think applies really well to the death of our Ambassador and his detail this week: I've rearranged it somewhat, but this was written to a grieving father 150 years ago:
Your son is no more. The grim monster, Death, has ravaged him. But one consolation: he died in the full discharge of his duty in defense of his home and country.
I love this quote because it shows that people are people, and it doesn't make a soldier into a victim for coming to an undesirable early death at the hands of people he cared about, but someone who died for a purpose he believed in.

The second thing I'm grateful for today is that my car is fixed because I was persistent. My car has been making a repetitive click/tick noise that was subtle until I drove next to a wall or into a drive thru. I've had several people try to figure out what's wrong, and no one found anything. I took it back to the most honest mechanics I know. (If you drive thru Ventura County, I'll tell you who they are to share the love.) We discussed what it could be. They didn't find it in the exhaust. They found nothing wrong with my belts or tensioner. They did find a cracked motor mount. And replaced it for a nominal sum that did not obviously include the cost of all that troubleshooting. Since, after my medical test, I will be driving to San Fransisco with a book club friend tomorrow, I'm VERY happy that my motor mount is no longer cracked. But 5 different mechanics told me there was nothing really wrong, and I knew there was something wrong and I was right. Hah!

Lastly, I'm happy that I've now had a few vendors over to sell me things and two of them, one today, noticed my tiki, Rikki Tiki Tavi, on the patio and thought it was awesome. It is awesome! I pierced his tongue :) It's not for everyone, but it makes me smile every time I see it, and now it's made other people smile too!

Happiness Helpers

My quick summary of "The Happiness Advantage" which is a PBS special advertising an eCourse. You can delve into this much further, but here are some straightforward, dare I say simple, things anyone can do starting now that will help you be happier, and help you influence the people around you to be happier. If you do any or all of these things for 21 days each and and notice yourself feeling good enough to do more, go get the book, DVD, and/or eCourse. (Or, go donate to and get them that way!) He claims there are 5 things, but I think I split them up more than he did but they're all good.

Once a day for 21 days:
  1. WRITE DOWN 3 specific things that made you happy or grateful today. (Not "I'm feeling good" but "I was healthy enough to do a pushup") This gets you thinking of good things, which makes them easier to spot and remember in the future.
  2. Write down, for 2 minutes, the details of a meaningful experience. This exercise focuses on the nitty gritty of why and how an event was meaningful, beautiful, funny, or endearing. It's practice looking at details instead of the broad strokes and sound bites.
  3. Smile! Consciously add 3 smiles a day. This is one that my brother relies heavily on - when you see someone in the hall, smile and nod or say hi. When someone provides you a service, look them in the eye and smile at them. When a meeting is getting tense, just find a reason to smile. They're contagious too.
  4. Youthful thinking and words. Check your vocabulary such that when you can, think about words with youthful and positive connotations, textured instead of wrinkles, smoky instead of gray, etc... They found people who focused on how they lived and thought 20 years earlier improved their memories and attitudes and postures in the space of a week. (If you were an unrelieved bigot or bum back then, maybe you can think of it as going back while knowing better, perhaps.)
  5. Fun 15! Add a mindful, fun activity. This needs to be energetic, but you have to pick something you think is fun. It's ok to go longer than 15 minutes to keep enjoying your fun moment.
  6. Write a 2 minute note to someone in your social network to share something positive. Take a minute to look up an address and write an envelope, then write and send a note to someone.

Like any plan, overdoing it might not lead to the best results. Pick one of these things and give it a shot. Then try another one. Even if you don't keep doing these things deliberately, they will help you find and keep the more delightful things while crowding out the less delightful things. You'll see how straightforward it is to make a change in your own life and the lives of friends and family so you can live happier ever after.