Discussing ways to be more joyful was a very pleasant way to spend one evening a week. I highly recommend the class. Payment is on a sliding scale; that’s how cool the teacher James Baraz is!
The first night we were told to spend 3 minutes writing down everything that made us happy. What we were grateful for. What we enjoyed. What made us feel satisfied. What fun!
Undercooked brownies, sunshine, jigsaw puzzles, 3 day weekends, Motown R & B, thick socks, Velcro, strike anywhere matches, kitty tummies, G.P.S., N.P.R. and the O.E.D.. L.O.L. I couldn’t stop. When the 3 minutes were over I was still writing away, just trying to get all the things down before I forgot one while writing another.
Making the list was fun. Making an even bigger list was even bigger fun. I transferred my list from class onto a piece of butcher paper and hung it in my office. Everyday I think of new things to add: triple washed spinach, time lapse photography, peanut butter, getting my back scratched, my kid remembering to take out the recycling, the burnt edge on lasagna, a favorite song on the radio, the poem at the base of the Statue of Liberty, hot fudge and vanilla ice cream, . . .
When something strikes me as delightful, I think to myself, “I’ve got to remember to write that on my list.” The thing makes me smile in that moment and again when I write it onto my giant list. Through the act of adding new things to my Giant List of Smiley Joyful Things, I end up experiencing the pleasure twice.
Pausing to notice that something is pleasurable, is the secret to being happier. In case you breezed through that last sentence, here it is again: Pausing to notice that something is pleasurable, is the secret to being happier.
But you have to decide to notice. It really is a decision! By labeling a thing or an activity as smiley/joyful, it becomes more so. Talk to yourself with the voice in your head. I do. Let your Internal Optimistic Narrator really get into describing your gratitude. As I sink in to the bath water I say, “I love hot water.” I am profoundly grateful for hot water–think of all those who live their whole lives without. As I put down my empty glass I say, “Boy, do I love cold water.” As I slip between the sheets I sing, “Bed, glorious bed. Soft, fluffy and flannel.” (to the tune of “Food, Glorious Food” from the musical Oliver-yep I am the kind of musical theatre geek you thought only existed on GLEE). My Internal Optimistic Narrator never misses the chance to break into song.
And I don’t do this once, I do it every time. Every bath, every glass of cold water, every time I crack my knuckles, every time the steam from my tea fills and opens my sinuses, every time I enjoy the tingly foam of toothpaste or take note of a lovely smell. The voice in your head never stops, why not teach it to be an enthusiastic, grateful voice.
True, I was lucky to be born a glass-half-full-gal, even a my-cup-runneth-over-gal. But I still believe being happier can be an ongoing, conscious exercise/choice available to everyone, but only if you decide that it is.
Smile. Be happy. Be happier!
Make a note of it!
Oh, and Scrabble. I can’t believe I almost forgot Scrabble. I love Scrabble. Correction, I love kicking butt at Scrabble!