My Happiness Challenge–Part II

In Part I, I covered five happiness boosters: exercise, sleep, reducing your daily commute, spending time with friends and family, and smiling. I’m feeling happier already, but the article I read about happiness,  10 Simple Things You Can Do Today That Will Make You Happier, Backed By Science, obviously has five more ideas to try. Some of these are more involved and will take more time and effort to achieve.

Next up is getting outside. The American Meteorological Society found that 13.9 degrees Celsius is perfect. Being an engineer, I had to convert that to Fahrenheit…exactly 57 degrees, which makes me wonder if they didn’t measure in Fahrenheit and then convert to Celsius! I’m not sure I agree that 57 degrees is ideal, but it sure is a nice temperature for running. Aside from the recent Polar Vortex driving the temperature below zero (way below zero in Celsius), I live in a four season climate…maybe the average year round temperature is near 57, but it swings much colder in winter and much warmer in summer.  So, while I’ll enjoy my outdoor experiences more some times during the year than others, I need to get out more. 20 minutes a day is enough to improve happiness. I am certainly happier when I run or walk outside, even in bad weather, than I am when I use my treadmill. I’ve gotten in the bad habit this winter of staying inside too much. Part of this is the lack of available daylight, so I’ll try to get out at lunchtime during the week to soak up a bit of sun and fresh air. Maybe I’ll ask along a co-worker to add socializing and smiling (a triple happiness hit!).

It might surprise some people to learn that helping others increases happiness. So does buying something for another person rather than yourself. Even the gift of kindness makes us happier people. Doing these things on a regular basis can be a real happiness booster. As a mom, I wonder if doing things for your kids gives the same benefit. Parents are always buying things for their kids, helping them with miriad tasks, and teaching kindness by example. I surely hit the two-hours per week recommended in the article if I count parenting! I used to volunteer much more than two hours a week, but I’ve had to cut back in recent years. I think I can incorporate this idea in multiple areas of my life. At work, I coach and mentor people, and I will try to be more structured in making sure I’m helping and supportive. At home, of course, there’s all that positive parenting to do. Now I just need to find some form of volunteering that I can fit into my life again. It’s time.

Now it’s time to plan a vacation. Apparently this can lead to weeks of happy anticipation. After the vacation happiness drops back to normal, so the planning is key even if you don’t go on the vacation. I’m not sure about this one. I have planned quite a few vacations in the last several years. I don’t use a travel agent, and maybe that is why I find it rather stressful to plan a vacation. Anticipating the vacation is something else, it can lift my mood each and every time I think about my next vacation. My next step will be brainstorming where I’d like to go…that should do the trick.

For me, the next one is the hardest…meditation. I might need a hard-core class in this, or even a retreat, and I definitely don’t have that on my list of things to do…unless I plan my vacation around it. Meditation can have a tremendous impact on happiness right away and over the long run. I’d like the result, but I don’t know how well I can learn to meditate. I can’t be hypnotized, which might give you an idea of how hard it is for me to shut my brain down. On the other hand, perhaps this is the one skill I really need to cultivate. I’m torn. As we like to say at work, I’ll put a pin in that for now.

Finally, being grateful makes us happy. So, I will practice this by writing down three things that I am grateful for each day. As simple as this practice is, it is shown to have a very positive effect on well-being. To start things out, I am grateful that I didn’t have to shovel snow today. I am grateful that I brought my lunch to work today since I didn’t have time to buy one. I am grateful that the gas company admitted they are at fault for overdrafting my checking account (and that they will cover the overdraft fees). I need to work on this, but at least it has me thinking about the positive things in my life.

Find the Joy in the Journey…and in getting older as that makes us happier people too!

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