Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Happy Hours

“You’re about as happy as you decide to be”. “Somebody told me if you make up your mind you won’t have a nervous breakdown, you won’t”! How many times have you heard that before? I can tell you from personal experience that when you are in the depths of depression,  well meaning statements like that makes is easy for a lot of people to feel like they are not willing themselves hard enough to be “happy”! Turned out my unhappiness was rooted in hormones, and all the deciding and self willing in the world wouldn’t have done anything but, I get the general idea if you don’t have something like mental illness or chemical imbalance. Willing yourself to look at the bright side if your having a down day, is at the other end of the spectrum of a dark, deep depression and saying things like that are detrimental to suffers.

I watched a documentary called Happy, awhile ago. I was so surprised to hear that the average guy in the slums of Calcutta are as happy as the average guy in America. Think of that…the Indian man that is slopping through the streets on a run, pulling other people more fortunate than he is no less…is as happy as someone living in the richest country in the world (at the moment anyway)! He said something like, I have a good life, my house is covered on three sides and when my baby son sees me coming… he yells “baba” and that makes me feel like the I am rich and not poor. I have friends and I like my life!

I rewound that three times! I thought wow, we need our butts kicked in this country! People are no happier now that they were fifty years ago with much less, even here in America, the Happy documentary said.

Ed Diener PHD, says we all have a happiness “set point” in our genes that accounts for 50% of our happiness. Circumstances such as our jobs, where we live etc, only account for 10% of our overall happiness. That leaves the last 40% for intentional behavior and other things that add to our happiness or detract from it.

Happiness helps us reach our other goals. Sometimes we turn that around and think reaching our goals is what brings us happiness. Sometimes we fall into thinking money, image and status is what will make us happy when it really is more about personal growth, the people we love, and a sense of community.

I ask you all, what falls in your 40% of intentional behavior that makes you happy? And more than that... what could you do about doing more of it, to make the most of your God given time here the happiest it can be?

I was blessed, truly blessed… from the torturous time I spent in the hospital with postpartum depression in 1979! It took me many years to see it that way… but not a day of my life has been wasted or taken for granted since. Backing out of the driveway and seeing my Mother’s trembling wave, standing in the doorway with my six week old baby girl in one arm and my frightened three year old son clinging to Grandmas leg is still blazoned in my mind. I wondered if I’d ever be back… I really did. I felt like I was looking at life through a long tube of some sort. I hadn’t slept for three days and this was going to be the forth!

When I was at the bottom of the dark black hole, I just didn’t crawl out of it overnight…I crawled, scratched, and prayed my way out over an eight year period! The hormones that put me there didn't last that long but the trama of panic attacks did because I was scared to ever feel that bad again! Over the eight years I felt happier at times,  slid back, creeped forward, back down again… and slowly rebuilt my confidence to go out alone, drive alone etc. Once I got up, I cherished every day that was a good one and I have never stopped.

I have always liked to do things for other people, which is why I really enjoyed being a nurses aide,  a school aide, cleaning houses, studying social work and being a wife and Mom so much. All of those are based on what you can do for others. About eight years ago however, I decided to put myself on the same page with all the people I loved taking care of. My happiness increased immensely after that, it really did. I am not selfish about it ( I don‘t think), I just deal myself in the game now, when I have the chance to be the dealer. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to do for others, but when that’s all you do…you can get angry, bitter and burned out!

I have many things I enjoy as well as my family… such as my spirituality, making gratitude lists, eating better, music, my horse, making jewelry, writing, reading, playing games, face book, TV time and time with my sisters and their kids. All of those add to my 40% intentional behavior that is adding to my own happiness. I still have things I want to do for others, but I am enjoying doing for Easton at the moment.

I challenge you…think about, pray about, adding some intentional behaviors that would add to your happiness. Our being happy one person at a time, only adds to the worlds over all happiness. And more is always better when it comes to happiness! So cheers to not one here and there, but lots of "happy hours"!