Thursday, August 21, 2014

You want to be happy? By Sandy Semerad


“You want to be happy. We all do. You just need to figure out how to get there. I don’t think any one person can make you happy. Only you can make yourself happy,” said Freemont Jackson, one of my characters in A Message in the Roses… “As to being content long-term, that has to come from within.”
Easy to say or write about, but how do we actually achieve that long-term contentment?  
A Benedictine monk claims the answer is simple. We need to slow down, look where we’re going and be grateful.
If we stop and look before we go, we can better take advantage of the opportunities life has to offer, Monk David Steindl-Rast said on a recent NPR program. And if we miss one opportunity, another one will come along soon, according to Monk David.
“Grateful people are joyful people,” he said. “If we’re grateful, we’re not fearful. If we’re not fearful, we’re not violent.”
A long time ago, I discovered I’m happier when I count my blessing, though for many years, I searched for bliss, and I’ve listened to my share of happiness experts. One such expert, Author Shawn Achor, said we would all be happier if we do the following activities every day:
1. Think of three new things for which you’re thankful. Repeat this exercise for 21 days so the practice will become habitual. Also share your gratitude with your significant other and friends. Then ask them to reveal their three new blessings. Sharing doubles your happiness, he said.
2. To double your optimism, take two minutes to write down your gratitude and your most meaningful experiences. Again do this every day for 21 days.
3. Add 15 minutes of a fun activity to your day, Achor said. This must be a physical activity like walking the dog or gardening. (I love walking my dog P-Nut. She definitely knows how to live in the moment. I think she’s trying to teach me. Of course, I’m always in the moment when I’m writing.) Achor didn’t include hugging and making love as fun activities. They certainly qualify. (I know Carrie Sue Justice, my protagonist in A Message in the Roses, would think so).
4. Smile at least three times every day. Smiling increases the serotonin in the brain apparently.
5. Get social, if you want to charge your happiness battery. People can motivate you more than anything, Achor said. So take time to encourage and motivate others. In other words, spread the happiness.
I like the idea of spreading happiness. If only we could somehow, magically, make everyone in the world more grateful, unafraid, nonviolent, and ultimately content. Swoosh, just make it happen. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? #happiness