Category Archives: happy life

looking forward

 

berries in Florence

berries in Florence

I was outside early one morning last week, a morning before the rains came when late spring and hints of summer were intermingling. I was in my garden picking strawberries I had planted in November – trying to beat the birds, breaking the fast of the night – it was wonderful, pure, whole food from my backyard. I have to say, growing your own food is fulfilling. I suppose the cultivation deed is somewhere in our DNA – a survival tool that we are hard wired for. I heard yesterday that one component of well-being and good health is to have something to look forward to – growing your food gives that to you along with whole food that is free from chemicals and filled with nutrients. Just a small patch of land can do big things for your health. Just saying…

Later, while in the woods, I was dazzled once again by the cobwebs that extended over the paths – masterpieces in the early mornings with dew outlining their shapes and emphasizing their details – little Rembrandts of the night reminding me of chalk artist in today’s cities – working so hard to create, only to be dissolved by an inevitable looming force of nature.

The day rolls out like a tapestry rug – each hour offering something different than the one before, like the chapters of our lives, unfolding and delivering little pieces of art that delight us and then disappear into the morning light of the next day where, if we look ahead, we will see yet another masterpiece beginning.

Anyway…this is my little post of the week. I hope you can find something worthwhile within this pile of thoughts that became words and perhaps push you to make certain you have something to look forward to, whether it is a child coming home for a visit (that’s it for me) or a trip you may take or a ripe strawberry in your backyard.

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a little list

Here is an abbreviated version of something I read this morning on Yahoo about activities that can maybe make us happier. The big picture/message works for me…if you care to, read and discover your thoughts…

1. Committing to goals

Like chocolate and peanut butter, goals and happiness are mutually reinforcing. The process is simple enough: Happy people have lots of energy, and that energy can be put toward pursuing their latest quest.

 

Psychologists say that the more we see a goal as a part of ourselves, the more it’s self-concordant — meaning we’ll bring more energy toward tackling it. University of Zurich psychologist Bettina Wiese says that “empirical research has repeatedly shown that striving toward self-concordant goals strengthens the link between goal progress and well-being.”

2. Finding meaning in your work

In 1997, Yale organizational psychologist Amy Wrzesniewski and her colleagues published an oft-cited paper about how people relate to their work. There were three ways of thinking about your work:

 

• A job: “Focus on financial rewards and necessity rather than pleasure or fulfillment; not a major positive part of life”

 

• A career: “Focus on advancement”

 

• A calling: “Focus on enjoyment of fulfilling, socially useful work”

 

Their finding: The people who found meaning in their work were happiest.

3. Spending time with people you care about

While it may sound like a Hallmark card, the research confirms that spending time with the people you love (or can at least tolerate) will make you happier. Interestingly, being at the “center” of a social network is a good predictor of well-being.

4. Cultivating a long-term relationship

The New York Times recently reported that “being married makes people happier and more satisfied with their lives than those who remain single — particularly during the most stressful periods, like midlife crises.”

 

The reason? Two people are more resilient than one.

5. Eating the fresh stuff

A 2013 study titled “Many apples a day keep the blues away” found that eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables had a positive correlation with happiness.

 

Specifically, the young people who ate seven to eight servings of fruits or vegetables reported higher happiness levels than their less-nourished peers.

6. Getting in exercise

An 8,000-person Dutch study of people between 16 and 65 years old made some very strong claims about the virtues of exercise. “Exercisers were more satisfied with their life and happier than non-exercisers at all ages,” the authors concluded. If you’re trying to work out more but can’t quite find the time, legendary psychologist Walter Mischel recommends “if-then” planning.

7. Buying experiences

According to Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert, if money doesn’t buy happiness, then you’re not spending it right. Chief among his spending principles is the insight that you should buy experiences instead of things.

 

In a survey of over 1,000 Americans, 57% of respondents said that they derived greater happiness from an experiential purchase, like a trip, concert, or other life event, over a material purchase, like a car, appliance, or other object. We like experiences more because we get to anticipate and remember them, the research says, and we appreciate them longer.

 

“After devoting days to selecting the perfect hardwood floor to install in a new condo, homebuyers find their once beloved Brazilian cherry floors quickly become nothing more than the unnoticed ground beneath their feet,” Gilbert and his colleagues say. “In contrast, their memory of seeing a baby cheetah at dawn on an African safari continues to provide delight.”

Let me note, I am not an advocate of an African Safari…just watching Nature in her peaceful existence would be enough for me to trump the insignificance of floors (#7).

I do wish more people could find more meaning and fulfilment in their jobs (#2) instead of dread of each work day – living for the week end is a tough way to live. I do understand firsthand the realities of life, however – just wishing.

I am totally on board with the fresh food suggestion (#5). How can packaged chemicals make anyone feel happy?

Anyway, just a few words for us to ponder. Nearly everything generated by the media has some angle and is pumped with a bit of propaganda but this was an appealing little list for me and I wanted to share – just in case it stirred you or possibly even nudged you in the direction of your dreams/purpose. Except for the African Safari, it seemed harmless and positive.

chicks

living the life…

 

 

for real

It was a picture taken in 1962 that prompted this post. There was a Christmas tree in the background with a little girl in front. The tree was so real – the icicles were thick and sparkly and had been put on by a child, the lights were big and the branches were random on this ordinary Douglas Fir. A special time had been created there with magic and tiny hands – nothing was perfect except the moment and the baby doll she was holding was one like I remember,  the eyes sort of clicked and rolled, the hair was etched  and she was wearing a long gown with tiny buttons – so real and pure. I felt that Christmas morning, that place before now when the emphasis was not on materialism and the world was still so big and “virtual” was not something I spoke of.

Anyway, it was just a snapshot of “then” that made me look at “now” and while some things are much better, I do miss the purity of life that was “then”– the wholeness and the understanding that the things that matter have nothing to do with marketing and consumerism, it was the solid structure of family that was just assumed, and the glory in the everyday things that made us happy. I choose to remain there in that place where Christmas trees had big colored lights and imperfect branches and happiness was  warm socks and hot soup in winter and dragonflies on  clotheslines in summer.

dad and I

 a snapshot of real happiness – balloons and a dad

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grabbing the brass ring

This is something to think about. There is a part of me that thinks, no, you must insist on happiness; it is an internal illusive feature that you must be constantly aware of and “put” yourself there. And then…being a huge and eternal fan of Thoreau, I agree with this quote and think of happiness as the byproduct of a good and productive life – no need to focus on it, it will manifest when you are doing something good and worthwhile. Wow – I am confused.

Or maybe both things are truisms – you live a productive, good life and continually remind yourself of your happiness, acknowledge the good feelings you have when you focus on others – you are spending your time here in service and therefore you are happy???

It is a universal response – “I just want to be happy” or if you are a parent, you say, “I just want my child to be happy”. OK, but define it.

I do know that external “things” only cause a temporary little rush of sorts, something I can’t even think of as pure happiness – new cars, clothes, “stuff”. I can see things around this house that I wanted so badly years ago, things I thought would make me happy and there they sit offering me no solace at all now, some of them actually cause me unhappiness; their “positive” effect is so fleeting and shallow.

And then the next level to achieve happiness, one that lasts a bit longer and goes underneath the surface, is the self-satisfaction of accomplishing, of reaching a goal that may have seemed “impossible”. That feeling of completion does, I think, make you happy for a good bit of time, it actually defines you. It does something else too, it makes you want to continually set the bar higher for yourself – I can do it! And “it” feels good. Like a child riding a bike without dad holding him up – we feel so good when we can function on our own, when we can push ourselves to do things that are challenging – that’s a big rush. That’s becoming the best person you can be.

And then the third and “deepest” level is reached when you have helped someone else – when you have not focused on yourself, when you have not chased the butterfly, but instead busied yourself, distracted yourself, with helping another, that’s the level that takes you there – that’s my humble opinion.

Buddha: “Happiness comes when your work and words are of benefit to yourself and others.”

Just something to think about on this Friday the 13th because we all just want to
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changes

Staying flexible in life is definitely a survival skill we should all acquire. Especially if you are a parent and double that if you are a parent of 5. Just saying. There is some analogy about trees that don’t bend won’t last the storm – I find this to be so true. My life is changing just as the season is. Soon things will be different here and I hope the course that has been chosen will be a good one – as we all know, the answers are not in the back of the book, they are at the end of the journey.
Speaking of trees, they are turning here – ever so slightly, but they are. I can’t seem to be outside enough. Everything is changing, even the sounds, especially the birds. I am so satisfied with myself when I can be still enough to notice some of what this planet is doing to prepare for winter – it is a symphony that is lost to many. In the country it is still apparent and it truly sustains me.
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a paradox

A paradox exists in my life – I am so grateful that all of my family is well – I do not take this for granted for one second and I place it in the highest regard – nothing is valued more than the wellbeing of my family but I fall short on the day to day, the anticipation of the new day and the small delights that can but won’t be discovered. A little bird outside of my window wakes me up nearly every morning and reminds me that I won’t be in touch with nature this day. I thought last night how I don’t even know what phase the moon is currently in. I will walk past my easel again this morning and the canvas there will remain blank and these few words I type now will be the extent of my musings for the day. And the garden will not be tended and the pages of a book will not be turned. As I said, it is all paradoxical – working for money or insurance to maintain a lifestyle that takes me away from my life?
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treats

one of the secrets to a happy life is continuous small treats
iris murdoch
here’s my list:
  • i woke up
  • “good morning mom” elizabeth
  • my favorite coffee cup
  • 25 lbs of potatoes to plant
  • dark chocolate
  •  organic apples
  • fresh lemon with my tea
  • end of school bell on friday
  • holding ringo, our cat
  • feeding my chickens
  • making a fire
  • writing this entry