Being Happy

Laura posts on the industry that’s grown up around “happiness.”  One of the latest books in this industry is The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.  I’ve been reading Gretchen’s blog for a while now, since before the book came out.  I actually have a small collection of similar blogs that I label “Personal Development.”  I don’t agree with everything in Gretchen’s or any of these blogs, but they often have posts that give me interesting ideas or help me to refocus.  I told my dad about The Happiness Project book and he immediately downloaded it onto his Kindle.  He likes it so far.  After going through a tragedy like he has, I think it helps to remember the little things that bring you joy. We’re cut from the same cloth, me and my dad.  We’re always trying to improve ourselves, our minds or our bodies or both.  Trying to be happier or healthier is, for me, about taking things to the next level.

Laura references a TED talk that she had referenced before and that I watched when she did.  It focuses on the relationship between cultures where people live a simple life surrounded by friends and family and longevity.  To live longer, it suggests, we need to do more physical activity, like farming and laundry and walking to the market and spend time with people we care about.  As Laura suggests, we’ve gotten a long way from this kind of life.  Like her, I sometimes fantasize about moving away to a farm.  But I figure I’ll be as isolated there as I am here.  Here, I’m isolated in part by the technology that takes people to jobs far away or jobs online.  Leisure time is spent inside in front of the tv or again, via car, to places elsewhere.  As I’ve been trying to simplify my life, I’ve tried to moderate my use of those technologies.  Yes, the Internet keeps me connected, but being online all the time doesn’t always make me happy.  I recognize at times that I’m filling a gap with mindless online activity rather than finding something more productive to do.  I’ve been without the Internet all day.  I wrote in the morning, then I worked out, called about the Internet outage, and then spent over two hours cleaning the kitchen.  I mean really cleaning the kitchen: wiping down cabinets, scrubbing walls, mopping the floor kind of cleaning.  I listened to music and sang out loud while I did it and it actually made me happy.

No, I don’t always know what makes me happy, and cleaning the kitchen wouldn’t always make me happy.  But I like books and blogs that prod me a little to pay attention to what does and doesn’t make me happy.  Too many people plod through life, going to work, trying to get ahead, and not thinking at all about what they’re doing.  I follow Socrates: the unexamined life is truly not worth living.

2 Replies to “Being Happy”

  1. Don’t know if you or your dad would be into this sort of thing… But the book When Things Fall Apart is my favorite book for when terrible things happen.

    I did not like Rubin’s book. But generally speaking, I do like to read books that ultimately reduce my stress level, help me find myself, and remind me to chill out. (Free Range Kids, 10-10-10, and Fearless Confessions are a few off the top of my head.)

  2. Even though we lead two different kinds of lives this post resonates with me right now.
    I think there is something to the idea of isolation. We begin to see these feelings emerge during the industrial revolution and continue on in this post-modern world (possibly because of technology, I hate to say). Of course we need to make sure we don’t demonize technology, as some do, but realize that balance is necessary. Technology can isolate us from the world. I did an ethnographic study in an Anthropology of Food class last semester. What I have come to discover is that even though modern technologies for food production and distribution are more efficient the loss of having a central place, like a farmers market has had an impact on the way we connect with community.
    On a different note, I’ve been at home on my spring break without my laptop, which I am usually glued to, and have only hopped on the home computer every now and then. I am not doing anything super-human but, somehow walking the dog and putting away dishes has made me feel productive and therefore happy. And like you said those tasks won’t always make me happy but, I know there is something about physical work that can make me happy (especially after sitting at a computer for a long time).

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