Sunday, December 30, 2018

2018 Round-up: Lessons Learned from a Year Pursuing Happiness

I started 2018 off with "Resolving to Be Happy". What does being happy even mean and what makes one happy?

What better way to measure happiness is there than by comparing it to what one wishes they would have done differently while staring mortality in the face, so I looked at the Five Regrets of the Dying.  

To sum it up: wishing the had the courage to live true to themselves, and not other's expectations, not working so hard, having the courage to express feelings, staying in touch with friends, and letting oneself be happier.

This led to me asking myself how I could make sure that wasn't an article I would be contributing my experience to. How to Live a Life with No Regrets . Learning: Keep doing things that won't leave me regretful. This will require me to be mindful and intentional.

A big research project took a close look at the circumstances that influence happiness. Big take-away for me was that it's not winning the lottery or other external circumstances that make up the bulk of your happiness. In fact, you adjust pretty quickly to windfalls (and disappointments) and go back to pre-happiness levels within a few months, so if you are going through a little rough patch, take heart because this too shall pass. Science says so.

However, changing your mindset can have a huge impact. Read more about how here. How Circumstances Influence Your Happiness. Learning: Use some of the tips in this article to change my mindset, namely reframing and gratitude.

I also learned about 3 types of happiness and why you need each of them to truly live a fulfilling life.

I think I have the first (simple pleasures/gratification) one down pretty well, but I sure could use more of two (finding and using your strengths) and three (serving something bigger than you). I took the quiz (link in the article from the University of Pennsylvania's Positive Psychology department's website) to tell me what my strengths are, and I made my kids do it too. Learning: try new things that use your strengths and find a place to use them that contributes to something bigger than you.

I found when I did things that used my strengths, I was happier. For example, I want to volunteer more, but what I found what I was doing to be not so fulfilling. Once I found opportunities that allowed me to use my strengths, I found a lot more satisfaction in my experience.

I researched how to get more done in my life (How a Simple Routine Can Transform Your Life), How to Get Stuff Done, and Productivity Tips and Tricks for Every Personality).

You know what is even more important than organizing your 'to do' list and getting loads of stuff done? Deciding what not to do, and choosing what is the most important stuff to get done, 4 Things I Want to Accomplish Before I Die, Be a Quitter and Get More DoneHow to Go From Busy to Meaningful.  Learning: sometimes good enough is enough. Listen to your body, remember the things that are truly important, and let go of the rest. 

When striving to improve at something, it is inevitable that you stumble. Life gets in the way, you lose your way, you get sick, life happens, you lose your focus. Researching these articles: How to Make a Resolution You Will Keep, 8 Seconds That Could Change Your Life, What Your Best Really Looks Like, helped me pick myself up and keep stepping forward, no matter how small that step might be. Learning: It is never too late to start or start again, even if it is the 10th or the 100th time you have started. 

One of the biggest predictor of happiness is the quality of your social relationships, so know when to let go of a relationship and move on (How to Know When It is Time to Let Go of a Relationship), and check in to see if maybe you are inadvertently damaging your relationships (Are You the Toxic Friend?)

I also learned that I really suck at 30 day challenges. I tried not complaining for 30 days and I failed miserably, and that't okay. What I did learn was there is a recurring theme of gratitude as the antidote (The Cure to Not Complaining).

In fact, gratitude is mentioned in almost every book or article on happiness I read this year. Is there a way I can take a baby step forward and incorporate more of it into my life? Don't know how yet (although I know it won't be in the form of a 30 day Challenge), but it's a goal for 2019. Learning: 30 day challenges aren't for me, but they do offer some bite size goal ideas for me to work on, and it is okay if I take the Day 1 challenge and take 30 days to work on it.

A big takeaway for me this year, experimenting on finding stuff I enjoy, and making the time to do it.

For example, I've been afraid to learn to paint for a number of reasons, not creative or artistic, no time, etc. the time to do. Despite all those nonsensical reasons, I told a friend I was going to do this beginner painting class and would she do it with me. Then I procrastinated, and she reminded me (wouldn't let me wiggle out of it. This is why you enlist others, to bug you, I mean hold you accountable). I showed up with low expectations, and it turns out I really, really enjoy it.

Another takeaway is treat a nagging task like an appointment and schedule the time time to get it done. It feels really good to get something done that's been bugging you.

And lastly, using some of this available time created by getting rid of the unimportant and the not so useful/critical to spend time with those near and dear, strengthening relationships or creating new ones (which takes lots of time, but is oh so necessary to your health and happiness).

Going forward to next year: 2019 is going to be a year of Simplifying for me with the goal of getting to the core of what makes life happy fulfilling for me, and eliminating as much as possible of everything else. 

This will require some tough decisions because often it is hard to let go of the comfort of the mundane and automatic and it is hard to be brave enough to buck against social expectations that don't really serve you.

So, I have a lot to think about. First, what is most important? I mean really the most important. Second, what do I need in my life to not just make me happy, but fulfilled (which isn't always what makes me happy in the short term)? Third, what do I need to get rid of or reduce in my life to leave room for the most important things.

We are taking happiness to the next level in 2019.

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