I heard a couple of interesting things this past week or so. First, the vast majority of people in North America are basically happy. In another story, people with disabilities have been studied and those that have made very good adjustments are also basically happy. So why does it feel like people feel that something is missing and they want to achieve happiness still?
My theory on that is that we are so wrapped up in every-day things that we actually forget to be happy. When we sit and think about it for a while, we realise that we are basically happy. Something seems to be missing but we are happy overall. Let’s break out once in a while and do something very child like and bring back some joy into our lives. Joy that we feel and can recall when we get busy with everyday life again.
Create a huge Joy List. Remember when you were a kid and what it felt like to run out into the rain on a warm summer day? What it felt like to see a puddle and just go over to it and jump up and down, splashing all over the place? Remember the joy of taking a walk on a clear, cold day in winter along the edge of a frozen river? These are a couple of my joyful memories. Write a huge list for yourself of things that bring you joy. Sitting on a patio with friends enjoying a libation. The music you love to listen to (not just have on as background music but that you really like to listen to).
Did you write it down? Please do write it out because you need to post this in a few places where you will see it often. Be sure to include activities that bring you joy that you can make time for when you feel like you need a small boost. Kids are spontaneous. Be spontaneous in doing some of these things on your joy list. Just do something! Laugh about it while you are doing it. Luxuriate.
Most of us are happy overall. We just forget that fact in the hectic lives we live. This is different than events happening that bring us sadness and despair. Those are dealt with in different ways. But, day to day we just get wrapped up in living and forget to be consciously happy. That is when it is great to bring out the Joy List and pick something that appeals and do it right away. Make your list. Post it. Do stuff! Enjoy!
Pretty much anything you read about happiness will lead you to the subject of gratitude at some point. All point out that we tend to focus so much on the problems in our lives that we actually become blind to the good that is there as well.
This subject is so obvious to me that I know it is to most as well. I will not dwell too long on it here. Gratitude is a habit that has to be nurtured just like any other habit. Do not worry about the research on this idea. Do not wonder if it really will work or is just more hokum that will achieve nothing at all. Just try this for the next couple of weeks without fail and without missing once. If you miss once, start the two weeks over again.
When you get up in the morning, take a minute or two and think of at least 3 or 4 things that you can be grateful for on that particular day. It could be as simple as the hot water that you have for your shower. Or, for the transportation that will take you to your job. Or, your job! Focus on thinking about a few each morning when you get up and try to make them different each day. Don’t have time? What about in the shower, or during a bathroom break? Find the time.
Then, the last thing before you go to sleep, again think of at least 3 or 4 things that you are grateful for in general. No matter how lousy the day felt to you, make the effort to identify at least 3 or 4 reasons to be grateful. The rainbow earlier on. The snow stopped finally and it looks so brilliant now and clean. Do not limit yourself to just 3 or 4 but be sure to focus on things for which you are truly grateful when you think about it.
Some of you might want to make a journal of your ideas. A Gratitude Journal. Go ahead. I have always had a file called my rainy day file. In that I keep things that bring cheer and a smile to my face. Things that just plain make me feel good when I recall them. If I find myself a bit down and can’t seem to pick myself up (yes, I too have those days), I reach for the file and randomly look through and someting always sticks out and brings that smile and sense of calm and peace back.
To day I heard of a great file that everyone can access right away if they want to. It is another blog and it has just won an award. I encourage you to just have a look at it. It reminds us that everyday things are really remarkable but we mostly don’t notice or revel in them. This fellow reminds us to sharpen our observaation skills and see the fun in things. Enjoy it.
The idea that music can contribute to your happiness is something we probably all know intuitively. There are studies out now that conclusively prove the co-relation between listening to music and happiness which in turn contributes to much better health, especially in relation to cardio-vascular health.
I caught a news report on TV about these studies just now and decided it was a great time to bring this forward in our quest for happiness. It seems that studies show that listening to music relaxes stress and opens arteries and the like. That has the effect of reducing the impacts of negative stress. It has the effect of taking us out of ourselves and our immediate worries. It helps us to allow our subconscious to promote within us the reality that where we are right now is not permanent and all pervasive (concepts that lead us to depression often). Endorphins and that sort of thing get generated and released into our system when we listen to music.
So, … what sort of music should we listen to? Do we need to listen to classical music to get the best effects? What if we really like to listen to rock music, will that work or does it lead us to be more stressed because of the upbeat tempo? Interestingly, the studies have shown that it does not really matter that much what music we listen to as long as for us it is music that makes us feel great. If Brahms makes you feel great, listen to it (if it makes you feel bored or restless or fidgety, don’t listen to it for relaxation and diversion). If head-banging music makes you feel great, go for it! Music, apparently is like art. The beauty is in the ear of the beholder.
I will add a personal caution that just makes sense though. Always keep in mind that what we are putting into ourselves is what will come out in time of stress and challenge. If we are filling ourselves with messages of hate or violence, that is what becomes our response to situations and it will certainly not lead to happiness. Violent Rap music is weakening. Uplifting and positive Rap music is strengthening. Yes the words are important. Pay attention and listen to uplifting music and songs.
Another thing that just makes good sense to me is that the music you listen to will have an impact on your mood and relaxation levels. If you are going to be retiring to bed soon and you are listening to heavy duty rock and roll, you will likely be a bit wound up with enthusiasm and be less able to get to sleep. Rather, as you get ready to think about going to sleep, and you want to listen to some music (or even read or watch a TV show) think about making choices that will calm the spirit and put you in a better frame of mind to drift into a restorative and deep sleep. More about getting ready to sleep another time.
Music is great. Don’t inflict your choices on others unless it is desired by the others. Keep the volume within reason so you do not damage your hearing (watch the volume on your personal headphones and ear-buds!). But, by all means, plug in and listen to more music. Whatever kind you enjoy and makes you feel great and/or relaxed.