You’ve made resolutions to improve and already you’ve broken some of them. I get it: it’s hard to keep resolutions at the best of times, never mind during a pandemic. It’s worse if you were hoping those resolutions were what you were going to get you through the rest of the pandemic. You may feel adrift.
Fortunately help is at hand. Here is a good article that will provide you with some gentle resolutions and how you can keep them: I teach a course on happiness at Yale: this is how to make the most of your resolutions | Health & wellbeing | The Guardian.
In a nutshell, be more compassionate with yourself. By doing that, over time you may find you build up enough inner resources to go back and tackle those failed resolutions. Did I say failed? I meant, paused resolutions. 🙂
(Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash)
That sounds like a ridiculous idea, but if you read this piece, you might find yourself thinking along the same lines: A Lazy Person’s Guide to Happiness.
It’s hard to be happy in a bad environment. I think most people can agree with that. It’s possible, but there is a significant mental effort to achieve it.
It’s also possible to be unhappy in a good environment. Again, it takes mental effort to achieve.
Given that, the more you can design your environment to be one you are happy in, the happier you will be. Simple when you think about it. Simple, but not often easy.
Perhaps a good task is to list all the places and people and other things in your life where you have been happy. That’s list A. Now come up with list Z, with all the things where you have been unhappy. Finally take list A and Z and come up with a plan to add more of the items on list A in your list and less of the items on list Z. But before you do, rate your happiness on a scale of 1-100. After your follow through on the plan, rate it again. Congratulations, you have engineered your own happiness. Keep it up.
(Image via David Siglin)
I know, everyone says you can’t buy happiness. I think this piece does a good job of showing how money can enable you to find happiness. Now you don’t need money for this, but money helps.
What does the article say you should do?
- Buy experiences
- Make it a treat
- Buy time
- Pay now, consume later
- Invest in others
- Make it a treat
If you read the piece, you’ll get a taste of what they are getting at: Shopping for Happiness – Put A Number On It!
Of course, you can have lots happy moments without spending any money, and lots more spending a fraction of what some people spend. Perhaps the real goal is to find as many ways as you can to be happy, and aim for those with the least amount of spending.
Regardless of what you do, aim to be happy and pursue it.
Can be found here:
- BBC – Future – Why the quickest route to happiness may be to do nothing
- Daniel Kahneman explains why most people don’t want to be happy — Quartz
Basically, happiness is an elusive and not well defined idea and we are better off seeking things other than happiness. It is great to be happy, but it may not be great to try and be happy. Feel free to read and disagree.
According to this article, you need to:
- Acknowledge what you are grateful for.
- Label those negative emotions you feel.
- Make decisions.
- Touch people more (appropriately, obviously).
Lots of references in the piece, so read it and get busy and get happier.
Over the last year or so, I’ve found these worthwhile pieces on how to think about life and how to improve it. If you find one of these worthwhile and it improves your life as a result of you reading it, then I think collecting and writing about these is worthwhile.
- If you are feeling lonely and want to understand and deal with it better, consider this: The Science of Loneliness: How Isolation Can Kill You – New Republic
- One idea you can consider: talk to strangers. Hello, Stranger – NYTimes.com
- If you need new ways to live a better life, courtesy of a famous person….7 Steps to Living a Bill Murray Life – Vulture
- Or if you like to write, try to improve your life via writing: Writing Your Way to Happiness – NYTimes.com (I am guessing some writers would not agree with it)
- If you struggle to be happy, this could help: Everyone wants to be happy. Almost everyone is going about it wrong. – Vox
- If you want to be more optimistic, consider the big picture, presented here: A Cockeyed Optimist – NYTimes.com
- If you think you are working too much and are often thinking of cutting back, this could help you: Keynes’ 15 Hour Work Week Is Here Right Now
- Lots of good ideas via a collected stream of tweets, here: Things @GhostfaceKnitta Learned in 2015 (with tweets) · valerieinto · Storify
- Why should you give away money and be happier: Giving money away makes us happy. Then why do so few of us do it? – Vox
- Don’t hesitate when it comes to improving your life. You have less time than you think. See this to see why: These graphics will make you rethink your life – Tech Insider
- Being laid off will happen to everyone. If that’s you now, and you are struggling with it, consider: Advice For the Recently Laid Off – Medium
- Self Confidence makes for a better life. Here’s how to become that way and more so: The Truth On How To Become Self Confident
- Change your mind, change your life. How? One way: Rewire your brain: Why Practice Makes Perfect: How to Rewire Your Brain for Performance
- If you struggle with your thoughts (e.g., worry too much), read : BBC – Future – Why we should stop worrying about our wandering minds
- Sometimes the way to improve our lives is not to have more, but to seek less and not be caught up in the trappings of status. To live a simpler life, like this: Here’s why one of the world’s richest men wears hand-me-down clothes – The Washington Post
- More on how to live with less. Living With Less. A Lot Less. – The New York Times
(Image from one of the articles linked to on NYTimes.com)
Here’s the curve (X is age, Y is a measure of one’s happiness)
As you can see, it is lowest for people in their 40s, then starts to improve past that point. To understand more about that and why you need to hang in there if you are in your 40s, read this: The Real Roots of Midlife Crisis in The Atlantic.
Two additional comments:
1) If you are in your 30s, you can expect this to happen, so take stock and think about ways to prepare for it.
2) Obviously this is a large generalization. Still, there is much merit in it, I believe.
I often struggle with how to get through the long, cold winter. If you do too, or are dealing with other difficulties that can make you sad and miserable, try this exercise that I find helps.
For a period of no more than 10 seconds, do something that makes you happy. It can be looking at something beautiful, enjoying a piece of music or a piece of food, or saying something good to someone you love. Choose the best thing you can think of. In that 10 seconds, don’t think of anything else, just that. Think about it before you do it, think about it while you are doing it, then think about it after you have done it. That’s it. That’s the exercise.
Now, maybe you think 10 seconds is too short and a minute or more is something you can focus on. Great! Do that then. Or you so enjoyed that 10 seconds of admiring the snow, or sipping you tea or juice, that you are going to move on and try the exercise with something else. Also great. Whatever you do, try the exercise and then try to do it repeatedly through the day, week.
Happiness is hard to define, and still harder to quantify. But I think that each of us, in our own way, can build up the part of ourselves capable of being happy and work it and make it stronger. The heart literally gets stronger through exercise. The heart figuratively can stronger through exercise, too. At least I think so. Try this exercise and tell me what you think.