When you think of being happy, do you primarily think of doing fun things, getting what you want, or having your life running smoothly? Me, too—but that’s only part of the picture. Happiness is not just something that appears when you reach a goal or finally have that free time you’ve been longing for. Here are some surprising sources of happiness:
For many, work is a source of deep and lasting happiness. Ariel Gore wrote in Bluebird: Women and the New Psychology of Happiness: “...in recent years I’d noticed a growing disconnect between the things I imagined would make me happy and the things that actually did. Potentially ego-boosting rites of passage in my career, for example—awards or good reviews—only seemed to cause me anxiety. Allowing myself to be absorbed in my work, on the other hand, whether it was writing or teaching or doing some familial chore I outwardly complained about, brought a quiet contentment I could feel radiate from my chest.” She continued later in the book, “When we strike a balance between the challenge of an activity and our skill at performing it, when the rhythm of the work itself feels in sync with our pulse, when we know that what we’re doing matters, we can get totally absorbed in our task. That is happiness.”
I don’t know about you, but when I need a quick shot of satisfaction, I begin cleaning and/or organizing. One of my favorite bloggers, Crazy Aunt Purl (Laurie Perry), coped with a scary and unexpected move by scrubbing grout! Perhaps putting one small area of our lives in order helps us cope with chaos elsewhere, I don’t know. All I know is a clean and organized office/refrigerator/hall closet is cause for rejoicing.
“Happy women know that no one gets to be happy all the time,” according to What Happy Women Know, by Dan Baker, Ph.D, Cathy Greenberg, Ph.D, and Ina Yalof. As Gretchen Rubin notes in her blog post, “Negative emotions are a key part of rational thought and effective performance. Also, up to a point, they can be of great service to happiness. They’re loud, flashy signs that something isn’t right. Because they’re so unpleasant, they can sometimes prod us to take action when nothing else can.” Negative emotions are a part of life—feel them, accept them, learn from them—then let them pass.
According to Dr. George E. Vaillant of Harvard Medical School, what seems to contribute most to happiness as we get older are the coping mechanisms we develop to handle the inevitable pain of life. Coping mechanisms like humor, a positive outlook, willingness to control anger and hostility, and treating others the way we’d like to be treated, help us avoid depression and foster connections with others—both of which make our lives more enjoyable.
This makes me…happy. I see that many factors contribute to a person’s happiness—factors we can control, and ordinary things that are likely already part of our daily lives. Happiness is waiting…we just need to recognize it.
What surprising thing makes you happy?