My Happiness Experiment
Sometimes I struggle with being as happy as I think I should be. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my life and feel so blessed every day, however I don’t always focus on that. I think a combination of my set DNA mixed with some definite trauma in my past and just my personality of an introverted extrovert (it’s actually a thing, I looked it up) makes some days harder than others to not be grouchy. I could find a slew of excuses: I’m tired from teaching an overcrowded classroom all day; I’m a busy mom with busy kiddos; I’m worried about my sons who are now adults and on their own; The dog chewed up another dog bed… It could go on and on, but I don’t want to make any excuses anymore.
Trying to figure out why some people are just happier than others, I finally found a book that explained it in a way I understand. Choosing Happier by Jem Friar clarified for me that some people have a natural lower happiness level than other people. It also said that human brains are wired to focus on the negative because that is how we survived back in the hunter/gatherer time, so I don’t feel completely at fault! The good news for me is that I can make changes to my way of thinking deliberately and train myself to be more positive than negative. I know this isn’t new information but I had an epiphany while running on the treadmill about the whole situation. What better way to hold myself accountable to my whole “Happiness Experiment” than to write about how it works out for me? So now here we are!
I’m only partially through the book, but I didn’t want to wait until I finished before documenting how this little experiment goes. This is actually just the very beginning of it. I have always known that exercise helps me keep my head on a little straighter so I did give myself a jump start to the experiment by setting a running goal of 50 miles for the month of November. That was my way of trying to get myself to work out more regularly again. I happily made my goal and now start a new goal, but exercise is one way the book documents helping the brain feel happier.
The next portion of the experiment is something that I have wrangled my whole family into doing with me. I’m so blessed that my husband is very good about finding the good in most situations and his natural level of happiness is much higher than mine. I strive to be like that, but as I said, it’s been a struggle for me my whole life. Luckily for me, he is good natured enough to go along with my crazy ideas. Normally at dinner we share the best part/ worst part of our day. It was something I started long ago when the older boys were little to actually hear something about their day than just the normal “nothing”. We have now added to our traditional dinner talk an extra three appreciations to start finding the good in life. According to Friar there is a 3:1 ratio of good thoughts to bad thoughts in order to start to mold the brain to focus on the good before the bad. It is also supposed to help you spend your day looking for those appreciations to share at the end of the day.
Already I am seeing some change in my mindset after only trying this for a few days. I am also consciously working at recognizing when I am falling into a grouchy mood in order to prevent myself from falling back into bad habits. I have hopes this will continue to get easier and become more immediate for myself, but will report back in a couple weeks with the progress.
My next project is something I plan to do with my class of fourth graders. On the blog, PrimaryTEACHspiration, I found a great activity called “The Twelve Days of Christmas Kindness” where my kids will take the time to write something positive to each classmate for twelve days leading up to the holiday. Lots of fun things planned, so I’ll keep you posted!