Applied Happiness

If you were told you could do a few simple things and be happier, what would you do?

A:  Say, “Is that so?  Tell me more?” and be open to giving it a shot?

– Or –

B:  Run like a scalded cat the other way?

It’s an important question.  How you answer it may be the difference between being alive and living.  We’ve seen both answers along the path to the Happy LIFE – a self-propelled journey into creating “happy habits” – that is starting to make the rounds to employees of companies who think like we do at Life University.  Perhaps predictably, their experience has been similar to ours at at LIFE U.

An esteemed colleague (translation:  He’s a VP and way above my pay grade but I like him and he’s always been great to work with), summarized our Happy LIFE implementation like this:  “All, here’s the truth for me.  Remembering to compliment people is a challenge for me.  After sending “gratitudes” through Happy LIFE, I now express my appreciation more. The program will sound kooky to some, but it works in at least one way for everyone.”

I’d have to agree with my esteemed colleague.  But, unlike him, I’d say I’m fairly fluent in the language of affirmation (I have to be in order to balance out all the snarky things I say to get a laugh; in fact, I’d add Sharing Laughter as the sixth love language).  That means that I love to notice things that I can genuinely compliment people about.  For those who’ve read Gary Chapman’s book, “The 5 Love Languages,”* you’ll be familiar with Words of Affirmation as one of the five languages people use to express and receive love (and I’d say the same idea applies to kindness, too).

But, I digress.  What I found was this:  As a result of writing emails expressing appreciation for those who’ve made a real difference in my life, I’ve become less self-conscious about following my natural tendency to be complimentary.  Now, I don’t feel like a complete fool for complimenting even strangers if I happen to notice something I admire about them.  And, best of all, I’m finding that, even if a couple of the people I compliment make cracks or look at me like I’m deranged, most people seem pleased as punch to be complimented and thank me for it, often quite warmly.  It’s like we’ve just given each other gifts that are free and that fit perfectly – gifts we can wear in our hearts.

So, if some ol’ broad passes you on the street and says, “That color is perfect for you; everything you wear should include that color!” just believe her.  You look great.

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*Gary Chapman’s 5 Love Languages are:  1) Words of Affirmation, 2) Acts of Service, 3) Receiving Gives, 4) Quality Time and 5) Physical Touch.

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The Gratitudes

So, the next phase of the positivity path I’m on is “Three Gratitudes.”  Yes, I am aware that “Gratitudes” is not actually a word.  However, it seems like a fine time to make it one since it sounds like “Beatitudes,” which comprise the Sermon on the Mount, one of the loveliest, most poetic and grace-filled passages in the Bible.  And, “beatitude” means “supreme blessedness.”

More and more, social scientists like Barbara Fredrickson and Sonia Lyubormirski are publishing research that, to paraphrase wildly, seems to support the idea that gratitude is the prerequisite for blessedness.  Let that sink in for just a minute – that may be a keeper:  Gratitude is the prerequisite for blessedness.Image

The Mac dictionary app defines gratitude as “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.”  There’s also the concept of “radical forgiveness,” advanced by Colin Tipping and (to my limited understanding) Buddhism, which says we are most fulfilled when we learn to be thankful for and appreciative of everything that we experience, even the tragic.   I can tell you that I’ve tried acceptance-based forgiveness and I’ve got a couple of long standing and deep seated issues that ain’t budging, no matter how many times I tell myself, “It is what it is.”  And time alone doesn’t seem to be healing all wounds.  In fact (and in all honesty) I still find myself half hoping that time will wound all of the heels I’ve encountered.  So, it seems clear that there must be a better way than simply surviving the time that passes after we’ve been wounded and, more and more, I believe it may be marked with  a signpost that says “Gratitude.”

Increasingly, when I find myself being overwhelmed by sadness, resentment, hurt or anger – that’s my sign.  That’s the time to stop and count my blessings, no matter how trite I may have found that saying to be when someone tried to offer it as advice during a difficult time.  That’s why I think consciously making gratitude a habit is essential to creating a fulfilling life.

Today, I begin.  I’m looking forward to this phase of listing daily three things for which I’m grateful.  I don’t suppose I’ll share all of them beyond my daily journal but, who knows?  To begin my Phase Four of the Happy LIFE, I’m going to start with these:

Today, I’m grateful for:

  • Being a woman in a time and place that I am not property or legally subservient
  • A husband who does double duty as best friend and confidant
  • The freedom of expression (and a job that lets me indulge it daily)

And, as always, I’m grateful to you for taking the time to read and consider being Positively Happy.