1.27.2010

Some Thoughts on Happy

Image via the most excellent at home at home...

“It is by studying little things,” wrote Samuel Johnson, “that we attain the great art of having as little misery, and as much happiness as possible.”
via The Happiness Project

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about happiness.

I generally consider myself a naturally happy person -- optimistic, positive…I go into most situations with a sense that things will turn out OK, and if they don’t, all will still (somehow) be right with the world. Despite this, for the last few months of 2009, I found myself, well…not so happy.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say I was “unhappy” during that period, as that seems a bit too drastic, but I was definitely in a funk, a bit bluesy, uninspired, irritable.

I’d like to say I know why, that there’s some perfect explanation for my less than stellar months, but other than a series of minor inconveniences (i.e. a house full of swine flu, botched travel) there really was no smoking gun.

So I spent some time on a long post-holiday car ride thinking (and scheming) about what I would like to do, experience, change in 2010 to get the happy back. Then as if by fate, the entire month of January has been peppered with all sorts of thoughts on happy (apparently “happy” is all the rage.) First there was public television's three part series on happiness, "This Emotional Life", then I got a note in my inbox about Gretchen Rubin’s new book “The Happiness Project”, not long after, I read Abbey’s fantastic post and started immediately thinking about “absolute and perfect happiness— the ten to twelve events that comprise a whole life.”

Not wanting to over-think things (while I believe happiness is often complicated, it's usually staggeringly, strikingly simple, no?), I decided to just sit down and make a list of the things that make me the happiest, and then commit to doing those things (far) more often in 2010.

So after much musing, here are a few things* that make me happiest (in no particular order)…

*I should note that my hubby and girlies make me incredibly happy, but for the purposes of this exercise, “spending time with them” is a given.

  • Cooking a great meal (ideally with a kitchen full of collaborators)
  • Riding my bike (simple but immensely pleasurable)
  • Listening to music
  • Road trips (ideally spontaneous... Bryan always drives and I do tons of reading, which leads me too)
  • Reading (I'm never happier than when I'm reading)
  • Seeing art
  • Spending time with inspiring women (the time at Alt cemented this for me)
  • Making things with my hands
  • Being fully unplugged...

Strikingly simple. Maybe even pat and boring, but in reviewing the list, I realize I spent far too little time doing these things during my funk. There was far too much time spent online instead of lost in a book, in the mall instead of making something, eating out instead of cooking, over planning instead of embracing spontaneity... all with the TV on and the music off.

What are the things that make you happiest? What will you do more of this year?

49 comments:

Julia, the Thanksgiving Girl said...

I definately agree with this quote - “It is by studying little things that we attain the great art of having as little misery, and as much happiness as possible”. It proves my own theory too and is oen of teh reasons I started my thankful project. I believe that by being appreciative of what we already have we open our eyes for other things that can add to our happiness... When we are not aware of the things that already make us happy we're blind to new ones, thus stagnating our happiness long term. Hope this makes sense? :)

shayna said...

is it wrong to say "ditto" to everything on your list? (except maybe the reading in the car...that makes me sick). i would also add gardening, exploring our city/neighborhood and visiting with friends.

Amanda {Mocking Bird} said...

I definitely think the simple things are the best...they are often the free things too. Funny how that works.

Watching the ocean, taking photographs, spending time with family and friends, reading and discovering.

Jackie said...

What an inspiring list. Isn't it funny how nowadays, when we have everything at our fingertips, we yearn for simplicity? Who knew? I feel like we could all benefit from your list, or at least something like it! Thanks so much for sharing your ideas!!

handmade charlotte said...

hey! i want the happiest book in the world! yellow just makes me happy! GREAT BLOG!

Rachel said...

I definitely think we have to make a commitment to happiness. Maybe some people are just naturally bubbly, but I find I need to occasionally re-align myself so I'm paying attention to the beautiful little moments in life and letting the annoying ones pass by without too much comment.

Virginia @ Where You Hang Your Hat said...

Your blog makes me happy, my dear! I am having the same kind of month, recommitting to things that bring me joy. I think during the whirlwind of the holidays, we get sidetracked.

Kelly said...

i'm so happy to hear things have turned around! january is normally my least happy month, all the coldness and short days really do a number on me. but this year has been a total 180º. it's been amazing and i hope it's only a prelude to what's to come throughout 2010!

xo
Kelly

ps: ditto on Alt. :)

loupita said...

This is a lovely list. And I, too, believe that it is the simple things that make a life worth living. Have you read 'Simple Abundance' by Sarah Ban Breathnach?

Caroline said...

All those things make me happy as well.. Except perhaps reading in the car (*barf*.. carsickness). And like you, spending too much time on the Internet definitely makes me unhappy. Being disconnected completely is a pretty calming experience because you can focus on just one thing for once. I also like: playing a game of chess or watching a movie at home with my boyfriend, trying a new restaurant or bar in town, trying a *new* activity (this weekend I'm going dog sledding and ice fishing!), and cultivating new hobbies (knitting, skiing and blogging are my three right now). You don't know me - Hi, I'm Caroline! - but your blog post made me think, so thanks!! :)

Caroline of Red Glasses

Design Mom said...

Joslyn, I love everything about this post. You have me thinking hard and feeling inspired. Thank you.

Mary said...

Wonderful post. I agree with Rachel. Some people are naturally positive and happy, and some of us need to work at it a bit more. Refocus or readjust our lives occasionally to make sure we're doing the things that make us the happiest. Your list is great - mine would look very similar - and it's inspiring. Good luck!

paula said...

LOVE this post. I was in a bit of a funk too, started with the swine and ended with surgery gone wrong. This year it's been so much better. Being outside makes me happy and having an organized house for starters. Both I couldn't do for months.

Elsa May said...

Great post! I read somewhere once that each night before you go to sleep you should think of five things that day that made you happy or grateful. Big, small, whatever... When I'm low and feeling over (or under) whelmed I use this five things idea. And at times I'm like "five!?!? ... no way!". But it's a great way to remind you of the good, happy things in your life, and it does help cheer you up.
ps: wow I'd love to be able to read in cars!

nicole said...

this topic of happiness has weighed heavily on me lately too...i am reading" the geography of bliss", just watched the pbs documentary "on this emotional life". i am currently obsessed with living an extraordinary life whatever that looks like. happiness is elusive in some ways....for me my happiness ties into my spiritual state of being as well. thank you for the food for thought...i think i am going expand more on it and my list of happy on my blog later this week. thanks for the kick in the pants. o happy day.

Anonymous said...

I must say the last two months of the year are a trying time for me every year. I am not sure what sets it off for me, but I really have to work at being of good cheer.

Your blog makes me happy every day! It is like sitting with a friend having tea. The simplicity thing is key for me as well. I love technology, but I think it can really leave us feeling grumpy at times. Take Care!

Amanda D.

monique said...

i just came across your blog and i must say, how refreshing!! i think this post was wonderful and enjoyed looking at your previous posts...as a fellow teaxn {fort worth} i wanted to let you know i am thankful for it!

naturally nina said...

love this post and your list. i feel the same way sometimes... the simple things are right there within reach; we just have to prioritize them. thank you so much for the reminder. :)

hugs,
nina

Jane Flanagan said...

I love this post and have been thinking about happiness a lot too (and reading Gretchen's book also).

For me, the happiest time is in a book too and typically on my own, but out in the world.

It makes me unhappy when I'm wasting time doing things that seem at odds with my being. I know that's vague, but I also have concrete examples: Putting myself in social situations where I don't feel at ease, spending too much time with people who are motivated by ambition more than integrity.

Some of this is par for the course, in both my personal and professional life. But the happier I am the rest of the time, the more gracefully I can handle those other moments.

I can't wait to hear your progress a few months from now and other insights along the way!

liz stanley said...

wow, i was totally going to post about this too! i'm in the middle of reading the happiness project book and am so incredibly inspired. i feel like i've been in a funk too ever since i turned 30 a couple months ago. what a great project, love your ideas.

Kathryn said...

What a great list! I'd also add writing and receiving real letters, and fresh cut flowers. Such simple things that feel like total luxuries.

Estelle said...

Abby's post has had my head spinning for days. Find myself thinking of my blissful moments at random points during the day. Now I think I'll come up with my own little list. I would also put making things with my hands on my list too.

stephanie said...

The things that make me the happiest usually have to do with me calming down. I tend to get wound up and aggravated if I don't remind myself that world isn't going to stop if I don't do all the laundry or cook some killer meal for dinner every night. Reading, music, art and creating; all those things are things that I am committed to doing more of and getting into the habit of doing them regularly.

Thanks for sharing your list!

Kate said...

Been thinking so much about it myself this year. Resolved: Be Happier. Love your list...

la la Lovely said...

It's the simple things that make us most happy. It seems to be those added extra unnecessary things that complicate and make unhappy. Oh the reading, I need to get off the computer and do more of that.
Writing and walking me me really happy!
Love your blog!
x Trina

Carpet Repair said...

Maybe I really need this book for a personality change? Seriously can a person really change?

Anonymous said...

I LOVE this post. Thanks for sharing. It reminds me that it all goes back to the simple things.

Anonymous said...

Joslyn, I love your blog. It is always chock full of style and enthusiasm and it is contagious! so thank you! in reading this last post of yours i hope its okay to offer a perspective? i think it all comes down to accepting that "happiness" is elusive - its an intimidating word- and i don't think its something we can capture by doing this or doing that-i think contentment is at least for me a better word- and maybe for you too- and then happiness is free to arrive on its own. with love, d.

Joslyn said...

d -- oooh i love your perspective and i agree. it is for sure elusive…and definitely intimidating.

I also think *not* feeling happy at times is a good thing. it provides balance and makes me appreciate “the happy” more.

I think my list is really more a reminder to spend more time doing the things that help contribute to my overall happiness…every little bit helps, no?

Thanks for your insight!
xo

stacy said...

great post!

over here in our home we measure our success on how happy we are. i've been blogging about this topic for almost 3 years now as a daily reminder of what's important to me.

Anonymous said...

joslyn, yes! i meant to also say that i really appreciate making a list as well--it streamlines the focus. For me cooking is always a happy place. Feeding the ducks at a local pond, watching 30Rock, putting on the beegees and dancing only like i would when no one's watching...all on my list.
xo, d.

Joslyn said...

d -

oooh watching 30Rock...instant happy maker!

Melissa de la Fuente said...

I am so sorry you were blue and I completely understand that feeling. Your happy things are not pat or boring,they are the little things that make this life so sweet. What is that quote? "life is what happens while we are making other plans" or something like that....if this very moment is all we have then whatever small or rich thing we do in that moment is all that matters. I love your happy things and glad you have a plan. I hope these next few months are so much brighter for you my dear!
xo
Melis

Melissa de la Fuente said...

ooh, and I forgot to say what things make me happy...
~ the beach on a sunny & warm day
~ reading a really great book
~ my girls giggles
~ tea
~ snuggling
~ my friends
~ laughter
~ decorating
~ holding hands with my hubby
~ dogs
xoxo
Melis

Sam said...

Lovely post; this is exactly the reason I started my new blog this year. I wanted to create a place that reminds people to enjoy the simple pleasures of life. I love this quote: "Three hundred small pleasures make people happier than one magnificent one." Daniel Gilbert

Shinwha said...

Then you might like this:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gretchen-rubin/balanced-life----twelve-t_b_439411.html

Anne Zimmerman said...

I loved this post and the concept. I will be spending some time with it over the net few weeks & months -- what a lovely idea to have your best moments on paper.

Susan Petersen said...

What a great post joslyn...love your list, mine looks alot like it.

alex t said...

What makes me happy..a sleeping baby on a Friday night and extra time for me to catch up on blog reading. This quiet, this alonetime, this makes me happy.
Thank you for asking...being a new mom, I sometimes forget to ask myself.

Sandy said...

Reading this post just made me happy! =) My list of things that make me happy are:

1) finding beautiful blogs online like yours =)
2) cooking & eating
3) taking pictures
4) having girl nights
5) sitting on the couch with my husband

amy williams said...

Love this post. Love the simplicity of your list, and the honesty about the latest few months of 2009.

Sometimes the things that most nurture us and allow us to be our best selves ( for those we love as well ) get forgotten. Thanks for the reminder.

laure said...

Love this post!

AmberLee said...

you channeled my thoughts exactly.

i started keeping a rewarding/not rewarding list after a really frustrating week a few years back. need to get back to that list.

nichole said...

Our lists are very similar. And I'll add to those our intention to continue to travel to and live in Paris, because we're giddy and inspired when we are there.

We make some sacrifices to be able to afford the travel, but for us, there is no other way.

Mrs.French said...

that's it hon...you are destined to be happy. i needed this post more than you know at this very moment...my cloudy disposition, seems only partly so thanks to you...xo t

shelteredbythesky said...

Your list is a Massive Bonk On The Head for me. Thank you....

Maria Helena said...

Hi!
Loved this post, cause lately i've been thinking a a lot about 'happiness' and 'Time'. I belive both concepts are strongly connected. In order to do what we enjoy in life, we must have or make time to do it.
It´s time to slow down and fully enjoy life without feeling any regrets, time is precious, having time makes me happy :)

Kristin @ Contented Me said...

I loved this, J. (do you mind that I called you J?) This was incredibly insightful and has certainly set the gears turning for me. Thanks for all the links, too.

Joslyn said...

Kristin -- you can absolutely call me J. ;-)