I recently posted a picture on my BBM profile that said, “Do more of what makes you happy.” A short while later, my cousin* messaged me, “Yes…so true.” “The secret,” I typed back to her, “is to know what makes you happy in the first place,” to which she replied, “You are absolutely right. Time to do some soul searching.”
Now, aside from the fact that I love it when people tell me I’m absolutely right, her comment made me stop what I was doing and think about what makes me happy in the first place. I pulled out a pad of paper and started soul searching. What I discovered is that I am at my happiest when I’m dancing (especially dances from Thrace, in northern Greece, or salsa, which I do not know how to dance well but would like to learn), when I am exercising, when I’m writing and when I am hanging out with my friends, my cousins and other people I love (my parea, as the Greeks say).
And yet, as I thought more about my list, I realized I do not do any of these anywhere often enough. There is a growing body of research that says it is experiences, not things, that make people happy, but when I look at my list, I feel like I’m not pursuing my happiest experiences frequently enough. Why? None of these experiences on my list cost money. In fact, I can do most of them for free, in my own home even. Am I denying myself happiness and, if so, why, and what am I going to do about it?
I say I have “no time”, or “no energy” or “no mojo” to do these things more frequently. But these are excuses. Daniel Gilbert, author of Stumbling Onto Happiness and host of PBS show “This Emotional Life”, says that there are three key findings on the science of happiness:
- we can’t be happy alone;
- we can’t be happy all the time;
- we can be happier than we are currently.
Spending time with friends and family would satisfy the first finding. By spending time with people I love, I can be happy with others. Dancing more often, even in my kitchen with the stereo blaring in the background, would make me happier than I am currently. And while I say I love writing, the act of writing is torturous and grueling and frustrating for me…proving that we can’t be happy all the time, even when we are pursuing happiness.
Time to put away my excuses and do more of what makes me happy, more often and with more joy. Time to make a coffee date with my cousin. Time to exercise and invest 30 minutes in my health. Time to dance in my kitchen. Baiduska, anyone?
What makes you happy?
* This makes it sound like I only have one cousin. I actually have 26 first cousins, and each one of them is special to me in his or her own way.