If it is possible to increase happiness, how do you do it? Rubin’s “First Splendid Truth” gives us this framework: “To be happy, I need to think about feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right in an atmosphere of growth.” Let’s look more closely at the parts of this statement.
Increase sources of happiness. This is probably the simplest and most obvious way to feel happier. My greatest sources of feeling good include spending time with friends, playing with Tank, reading and sketching. What gives you joy? What do you like to do? How can you have more fun? To feel happier, we should include one or more of our favorite pastimes every day.
|Watercolor sketch from Laure Ferlita's class|
Decrease sources of unhappiness and bad feelings. Maybe that means tackling some unfinished business or dealing with a difficult situation. Since I’ve found the importance of mindset in how I feel about my life, I’ve been examining some of my feelings and attitudes, and banishing the ones that aren’t true or are bringing me pain or discomfort. Replacing old ways of thinking with new ones can feel a little unsettling, but getting rid of the sources of nagging bad feelings frees up space in our hearts for happiness.
This means feeling as if you are doing what you are meant to do. I ask myself frequently, Am I the person I want to be? Do I respect myself? Am I doing work that feels “right”? These past few months I’ve questioned whether or not I really want to continue to write, and wondered if I still have anything to say (that anyone would want to read). For now, I still keep returning to the keyboard because writing is too much a part of who I am for me to easily cast it aside. It still feels “right,” even when it’s hard. How comfortable are you with who you are? Sometimes “feeling right” makes us happy in the face of frustration and obstacles.
“Atmosphere of growth”
Deep and lasting happiness comes more easily in an atmosphere of growth. That is, when you’re learning something new, increasing your skills, stepping outside your comfort zone, or challenging yourself. Yes, there’s definitely a time for simple relaxation, for “noodling,” for “fun” fun that doesn’t put too many demands on you. But that shouldn’t be the extent of your fun. Owning Tank is a perfect example of this. There is a good deal of “fun” fun to be had in horse ownership—but I’d be lying if I said everything about it was easy. I’m pushed outside my comfort zone nearly every time I get on his back, because correct English-style riding is challenging. It’s not simply sitting on the horse’s back and letting him do the work. Being the leader in our herd of two requires vigilance, consistency, patience and firmness. However, I don’t believe I would find horse ownership quite so deeply satisfying if I was not being gently challenged to grow. If you consider the times you’ve been happiest, chances are you’ve been engrossed in something that was just the tiniest bit challenging.
|Whaddya mean, it's not all easy?|
If you haven’t already, check out Gretchen Rubin’s blog here.