When it comes to happiness, I’m afraid I share a few traits with lab rats.
Yes, I too have nearly invisible eyelashes. I too have nearly hairless extremities. But what I’m talking about here is my personal propensity to find the button that brings me what I want. And then I push it over and over till I’m a quivering pile of mush.
See, many years ago, I discovered two things that always brought me happiness:
1. improving the aesthetics of my living space
So anytime I felt stuck or lost or blue, the solution was easy: fuss with my living room or take myself on a trip. Daytrip to a new city = 1 week of improved mood! Rearranged office and one new throw pillow = I am a new human who loves everything and everyone!
And while it’s great to know myself and know what makes me happy, It's reductive and short-sighted to winnow or narrow your sources of joy. Click To Tweet
What happens when my house is ‘done’ and every corner has been perfected? What happens if I develop a health issue that prevents me from flying? Or something happens that requires me to stay close to home?
I imagine I’m not alone in this weird tendency to home in on one or two sources of happiness. When you look at the things that make you happy, do you find a recurring theme?
Do you notice that nearly everything that lights you up involves friends, socializing, and chatting your head off? Or maybe your happiness centers around trying new restaurants, cooking, and browsing the farmers’ market? Or reading, writing, and reading about writers?
When we diversify our happy, we make it easier + more sustainable to feel the way we want to feel. We’re protecting ourselves from the inevitable day when life happens and the things that used to bring us joy are no longer available to us. We’re creating a happiness contingency plan!
4 questions to help you diversify your happiness
Think about how + where you find happiness in relationships
Pretty much every study ever tells us that relationships and experiences are the real secret to living happy, fulfilling lives. But what do we mean when we talk about ‘relationships’?
And surely we can acknowledge that one person’s happy-making relationship is another person’s stifling, overwhelming, crazy-making relationship, right?
So what makes you happy relationship-wise? Having deep-and-meaningfuls with a person you just met? Knowing everyone in your neighborhood? Having a work BFF?
Talking to your mom and sister twice a week? Having a weekly lunch date with your college roommate? Having a huge group of friendly acquaintances or a few super close friends?
When you understand which types of social ties and connections make you happy, you can make a greater effort to seek them out.
Think about what makes your body happy
This is not where I try to re-frame exercise as ‘movement’ and tell you to “find a type of movement that brings you joy and create a daily practice.” (Though we should all probably do that).
I mean, quite literally, what feels good to your body? Floating in a lake? Getting a deep tissue massage? Lying warmly under a million heavy quilts in a cold-ish bedroom? (GUH THAT IS SO AWESOME.)
Taking your bra off after a long day? Brushing your hair? Removing chipped, old nail polish so your fingers can breathe? Exfoliating
Think about what delights you intellectually
Do you ever read or talk about something and think “Ooooh! This feels good to my brain!” This is how I feel when I read about words that don’t have English counterparts, or culture-bound syndromes, or anything Bill Bryson writes.
What ideas intrigue and excite you? What topics do you find yourself always cramming into conversation? What section of the bookstore are you always wandering through? Which Wikipedia holes do you fall down?
Think about what makes your senses happy
At the end of the day, we’re all just mammals. As much as we like to think we have sophisticated brains and palates and needs, most of us can light up the pleasure centers of our brains by simply stimulating our senses in the right ways.
We can trigger happy memories by walking into a bakery, or smelling fresh laundry, or sniffing the shampoo our high school sweetheart used.
We immediately reduce our blood pressure by watching a river flow beneath a bridge or a tree shadow on our bedroom wall. We know happiness tastes like Grandma’s twice baked potatoes or Vogel’s bread or anything cooked over a campfire.
Happiness can feel like fresh sheets or sand between our toes or sinking our hands, Amelie-like, into a giant barrel of dried beans. Your happiness might sound like the songs that were popular when you graduated from high school, a coyote howling in the distance, or tires on gravel.
When we diversify our happiness, it’s easier to access and easier to tuck into our daily lives. Click To Tweet And who doesn’t want more happiness in their life?
I’d love to hear from you! What makes your body happy? Or your brain? Or your senses? Do you have a tendency to return to the same sources of happiness over and over and over?
P.S. How to figure out what makes you happy (so you can add more of it to your life) + Why we resist doing things we know will make us happy
P.P.S. Did you know I have a (free) private Facebook group dedicated solely to the topics of money and happiness? And the stuff we talk about has helped members change jobs, save thousands of dollars, and fight less with their partners? Join us!
Love how you added taking your bra off at the end of the day, haha! That is so me.
Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog
vogels bread mmmmm! i miss it so much since i left NZ!
I KNOW, RIGHT?!!! I’ve found that Thomas’ English Muffin Bread is sort of similar!
Studying the handwriting of myself and others makes me happy. It’s like palm-reading!
Fun! I can see where that would be fascinating!
Things that make my brain and body happy: Yogaaaaaaaaah. Working really hard at cycling class. Writing summary reports with statistics. Charts and graphs of EVERYTHING. Making an incredible spreadsheet that automates all my calculations. Also spending time drinking wine around a fire with incredible friends who have kids that get along with my kids. So we don’t have to supervise them.
Kate, you might enjoy the book by two women scientists, “Dear Data.” They were interviewed on a NOTE TO SELF podcast and listening to them talk about how they quantified data about themselves into postcards was fascinating. Authors are Giorgia Lupi and Stefanie Posavec. This is from the podcast shownotes: Long-distance friends Giorgia Lupi and Stefanie Posavec spent a year tracking the little things in life. Thanks yous, coffees, complaints, street sounds. And each week, they turned their small-scale data collections into whimsical hand-drawn postcards.
On a minute level, they may not say much. But look at them together and they tell an intimate story. This week, Giorgia and Stefanie talk us through three weeks of data, and all the big lessons in our most mundane moments.
I don’t really enjoy exercise but I adore the feeling that comes right AFTER exercise. And some of my favourite feelings – floating in a pool, drinking a cold beer in the shower, binge watching TV on the couch with a great dinner in my lap – feel one million times more amazing if done right after a really hard workout. Soooo I’ve finally harnessed the motivation to exercise on the daily and it totally makes all of life better. Post-workout is my drug!!
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This is f*cking awesome! I absolutely love your articles, you seem to touch on things that I’ve never seen anywhere else and they are meaningful! Thank you!