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New Directions…Make me happy baby!

A recent new reader of my blog pointed out the blindingly obvious the other day. She said,

“Sarah, your blog is all about food and your vegetable garden.”

From which I heard the underlying comment, which was really

“Sarah, your blog is boring – write about something new.”

I also have been thinking this lately, I just haven’t come up with anything else to write about yet.  Hence the continuing posts about my zucchinis.  Which – by the way – are coming along very well.  I have three little ones on the stalk and maybe more to come! But I won’t digress, the focus today is on new topics.

A few suggestions from this so called new reader – who will now be known as Nicola, considering that is her name – were things like,

“Write about your job!”

“Write about your personal life!”

“Write about your friends and problems and things inside your head!”

Ok, well that last one wasn’t exactly verbatim, but you get the general gist.  The thing is…you don’t wanna read about that stuff.  I don’t wanna WRITE about that stuff – even I find it boring.  No offence friends.

So this was the best I could come up with for now – it’s inspired by the Harvard Business Review January-February edition of this year.  I read an article in the magazine called ‘The Science Behind the Smile.’

Firstly I want to share some of the highlights of the article with you.

“Why do events have such a fleeting effect on happiness?

One reason is that people are good at synthesising happiness – at finding silver linings. As a result, they usually end up happier than they expect after almost any kind of trauma or tragedy.  One of the most reliable findings of the happiness studies is that…we have a remarkable ability to make the best of things.  Most people are more resilient than they realise.”

Well.  That’s nice to know.

“If you go blind or lose a fortune, you’ll find there’s a whole new life on the other side of those events.  And you’ll find many things about that new life that are quite good. You’re not lying to yourself; you’re not delusional. You’re discovering things that you didn’t know – couldn’t  know until you were in that new life.  You are looking for things that make your new life better, you are finding them, and they are making you happy.  What is most striking to me as a scientist is that most of us don’t realise how good we’re going to be at finding these things.  We’d never say, “Oh, of course, if I lost my money or my wife left me, I’d find a way to be just as happy as I am now.” We’d never say it – but it’s true.”

That one is a little harder to swallow, but still nice to know. I guess. Ok, here’s some more:

“If I had to summarise all the scientific literature on the causes of human happiness in one word, that word would be “social”.  If I wanted to predict your happiness, and I could know only one thing about you, I wouldn’t want to know your gender, religion, health, or income.  I’d want to know about your social network – about your friends and family and the strength of your bonds with them.

The psychologist Ed Diener has a finding I really like.  He essentially shows that the frequency of your positive experiences is a much better predictor of your happiness than is the intensity of your positive experiences. When we think about what would make us happy, we tend to think of intense events – going on a date with a movie star, winning a Putlizer, buying a yacht. But Diener and his colleagues have shown that how good your experiences are doesn’t matter nearly as much as how many good experiences you have.  Somebody who has a dozen mildly nice things happen each day is likely to be happier than somebody who has a single truly amazing thing happen.  So wear comfortable shoes, give your wife a big kiss, sneak a french fry.  It sounds like small stuff, and it is.  But the small stuff matters.”

Not exactly the advice that Richard Carlson gives in his book ‘Don’t sweat the small stuff – and it’s all small stuff,’ is it? 😛

Ok, so here’s the crux of the matter.  Another article in the magazine by Shawn Achor tells us this,

“Training your brain to be positive is not so different from training your muscles at the gym.  Recent research on neuroplasticity – the ability of the brain to change even in adulthood – reveals that as you develop new habits, you rewire the brain.

Engaging in one brief positive exercise every day for as little as three weeks can have a lasting impact, my research suggests.  I worked with tax managers at KPMG in New York and New Jersey to see if I could help them become happier.  I asked them to choose one of five activities that correlate with positive change:

  • Jot down three things they were grateful for
  • Write a positive message to someone in their social support network
  • Meditate at their desk for two minutes
  • Exercise for 10 minutes
  • Take two minutes to describe in a journal the most meaningful experience of the past 24 hours

The participants performed their activity every day for three weeks.  Several days after the training concluded, we evaluated both the participants and a control group to determine their general sense of well being.  On every metric, the experimental group’s scores were signficantly higher than the control group’s.  When we tested both groups again, four months later, the experimental group still showed significantly higher scores in optimism and life satisfaction.  Just one quick exercise a day kept these tax managers happier for months after the training program had ended.  Happiness had become habitual.”

Alors, bon. A new challenge?  There’s certainly no better time for me to try it! I’ll give this a whirl and share my exercises with you.  I’m not sure if there’s a way for us to measure the success of it, but maybe the results will speak for themselves.

In the meantime – don’t expect me to stop ranting about my veggie patch.  Sorry Nicola! 😛

I leave you with this – a very appropriate video that rage started playing just as I finished this post.



About sarahsmeth

This blog is about things I do, and love, and am learning about. I hope you enjoy reading it, as much as I enjoy sharing these snippets of my day and life with you all.

4 responses »

  1. Good job Sarah! Love the “new direction”. Although , I also love reading about your vegies and food obsession 😛

  2. Great entry sarz, loving the insights 🙂


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