A few years ago I became interested in happiness.
Not really, of course. I’ve been interested in happiness all my life, in the same unforcused way that I’ve been interested in traveling. I keep a vague intent to travel in the back of my head, near the dusty remains of French conjugations and the desire to make the world a better place. But I rarely even devote serious consideration to it, much less action.
Same with happiness. Of course we all want to be happy, and I have instinctively made some progress towards happiness in my life. I have also, I can see, utterly failed to make most of the progress that was available to me.
But a few years ago I experienced clinical depression. I fought it and myself and the world for about a year before giving in and getting drugs, and they helped get me at least most of the way out of the pit I was in before they stopped helping. It was enough that I could keep climbing. I’ve almost entirely recovered since then — although I’m still paranoid about every down day.
By the time I finally caved and went to my doctor to seek medication, she asked me if there was anything I enjoyed doing. I could only shake my head. I had become so deeply buried that there was no part of my life that I enjoyed. It was this experience, the lack of any glimmer of happiness, that was my spur to thinking about the nature of happiness itself more deeply. And, having a bit of an analytical side, that eventually led to my exploration of happiness research. As I’ve recovered from depression, my goals have become bigger. I don’t simply want to avoid going back into the pit. I want to optimize my happiness, to be reaching up for “awesome” instead of trying merely to stave off “awful.”
There has been some wonderful work done on what tends to make people happier. And there have been many practices proposed to help people change their focus, alter their patterns, and engineer a happier life for themselves. Over time I’ve tried many of these, and I’m always finding new ones.
However, I’ve noticed that I do best with mixing up my exercises. Keeping a gratitude journal, for example, might feel wonderful and meaningful for a few weeks; but after a while it starts to feel repetitive, or worse, just another task to be done. As useful as it is for me to think about happiness every single day, I want to approach it from different angles each day. It keeps things fresh for me.
This blog is my attempt to give myself happiness exercises every day, while still letting myself mix things up a little. If that sounds useful to you, feel free to come along for the ride!