Category Archives: Happiness

World Happiness Party

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My friend and I were on our way to Jerome, Arizona to celebrate our shared birth month. We were just leaving Cottonwood when we saw the motorhome pictured above. It was parked in a hospital parking lot. My friend and I were both hooting and hollering, pointing to the motorhome, and asking each other Do you see that?

Next thing I knew, my friend was pulling off the highway and into the hospital parking lot, telling me we had to see this giraffe-patterned vehicle up close. (One of the things I like most about this woman friend is that she is always up for an adventure.)

I’m not sure what we expected. A daytime rave going on inside? The owner/driver hanging out, ready to answer our every question? Alas, there was no one in or around the motorhome. (Why didn’t we leave a note? Why oh why didn’t we leave a note?)

IMG_5049We took our photos, then got back to our road trip. A week later, it occurred to me to type “WorldHappinessParty.com” (http://worldhappinessparty.com) into my browser and look at the page.

The page says,

Make the world a better place. Join our wise, daring fraternity!

Then the page asks,

WHAT IS THE SCIENCE OF HAPPINESS?

Short answer:

current research suggests 7 main ways to increase life fulfillment.

Here are those 7 main ways, as suggested by the World Happiness Party:

1. STRENGTHEN SOCIAL TIES

Here’s a tip for being more sociable: when someone tells you good news, don’t answer blandly or look at the negative side. Respond enthusiastically and positively. Practice this on someone. Do it until you notice a change in your pattern of response.

2. GET PROPER EXERCISE  

3. SMILE & LAUGH MORE.  SAVOR LIFE’S JOYS.

Smiling.  Activating the smile muscles makes you feel better even when the smile is faked.
Laughter.  Laughter relieves stress and increases resistance to illness and pain. Even fake, forced laughter produces these results.
Count your blessings.  At the end of each day, write down 3 things that went well that day.  They can be small. Give a reason for each. This alleviates depression and stress.
Gratitude.  Thank someone for something they did that was important to you — even if it happened long ago. You’ll both feel lifted.

4. CULTIVATE OPTIMISM

Optimism adds 10 years to one’s life (on average). It can be learned. If you habitually grumble when things don’t go your way, dispute your pessimistic assessment in these ways:
Find evidence that it isn’t so bad after all.
Find an alternative (more benign) explanation of the event.
Find evidence that the negatives are only temporary.
Don’t let your whole life be affected.  (Don’t “catastrophize”)
Blame bad events on causes outside yourself.
Take credit for good events.
Question the usefulness of pessimistic beliefs.

5. PRACTICE GENEROSITY 

Dedicating yourself to larger causes…erases fear and anger and puts you in a sociable, creative frame of mind.

6. FIND PURPOSE

People with a strong sense of purpose…tend to be happier than others. They solve problems proactively and can absorb life’s ups and downs.

7. MANAGE STRESS

If you are wondering, as I was, who makes up the World Happiness Party, here’s the answer:

WHO WE ARE
The World Happiness Party is a non-partisan organization dedicated to spreading information about the science of happiness.Founded in 2009 at Western New Mexico University, its members believe in three things:

Happiness.  The desire for a fulfilling life unites all humans…One person’s happiness need not cancel out another’s. The enlightened pursuit of happiness removes social conflict.
World Reach.  Assisting those who need it most assures that no corner of the globe will be left out. Currently, the W.H.P. is aiding troubled regions in Africa, the Middle East and Mexico.
Science.  The science of happiness can revitalize the human race. It doesn’t have all the answers, but it’s a good start.

The World Happiness Party invites us all to

JOIN the HAPPINESS MOVEMENT!
    
Here are creative, rewarding, fun things you might do:
— Start an exercise, walking, sports or laughter club
— Community projects involving art, music, etc..
— Mentor youth; care for those in need
— Political activism for the greatest good
— Form a science of happiness study circle
— Aid impoverished people around the world
— Compose a testament of your thoughts and/or work

There’s a toll-free phone number on the website (1-800-374-7428). This is the phone number folks are to call to join the party or get assistance and/or information. When I called the number, a robot voice told me the office was closed IMG_5050and I should call during regular business hours. I’ll try to remember to call again when it’s not a Sunday afternoon.

I took all the photos in this post.

Optimistic Thought

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I have a confession to make. The Grateful Dead was not my first jam band. No. Back in the last century, in the early 1990s, I had a wonderful (until he dumped me) boyfriend who played the harmonica. He introduced me to Blues Traveler.

Honestly, I didn’t even know they were a jam band. I didn’t even know what a jam band was. But recently I rediscovered the Blues Traveler of my early adulthood youth and realized…yep…jam band. I guess I’ve been a hippie for a long time.

Travelers And Thieves (Colored Vinyl)

I even saw the band perform at least three times. (My memory is a little fuzzy.) That’s not quite being on tour, but the only other band I’ve seen play more than once is Further.

My favorite Blues Traveler song (still) is “Optimistic Thought.” These are my favorite lyrics from the song:

Life I embrace you
I shall honor and disgrace you
Please forgive if I replace you
You see I’m going through some pain

But now I see clearly
And the dawn is coming nearly
And though I’m human and it’s early
I swear I’ll never forget again

The upbeat tempo and fab harmonica playing of John Popper are awesome as well.

Here’s a video of a (super fast) live performance of this song for your listening and viewing pleasure:

Happiness and Bighorn Sheep

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On the morning after the first suicide of the year, I walked out on the Bridge.

It was just after six o’clock in the morning. The air was cool enough for legwarmers under my long skirt and flannel over my tank top, and the sky was the fresh pink of daybreak.

I wasn’t sure what I wanted. I wanted to pray for the man who had jumped 18 hours before, but I feel silly when I pray because I don’t believe an old guy with a beard and a long robe sits in the sky listening to what I have to say. Maybe I wanted to meditate, but “contemplate” was probably closer to what was on my mind. I wanted to ask for rest for his soul. I wanted him to be at peace. I wanted my energy to touch his energy in a way we had missed in life, but thinking that made me feel too woo-woo and new age-y. I wanted some connection with the man, something I didn’t know how to express even to myself.

I wanted to give thanks for my own life too, to express gratitude that I haven’t succumbed to the darkness I sometimes feel near the Gorge, usually at night, when I’m alone in my van, wondering what I’ve really accomplished in my life, wondering why I do what I do day after day, wondering why I’m even walking the earth.

My new friend Zack was an angel to me two nights before, the night before the first suicide of the year. I was walking to the restroom to brush my teeth, and suddenly he was there, for no logical reason. I didn’t recognize him at first. The light was fading and he was skulking around looking for snipes. I walked into the restroom and heard footsteps following me. I was thinking oh shit when he spoke my name, and I realized I had met him and his lady the day before. We talked a bit, and just before we went our own ways, he said that happiness has to come from our hearts, that we have to decide to be happy.

Thank you for that, I said as I hugged him.

Maybe we fight the darkness by deciding to be happy. Deciding isn’t a magical antidote that guarantees everything will be happily ever after. Deciding won’t make all the negatives disappear. But deciding not to dwell, not to wallow, on the negatives seems like a step away from the darkness.

As I walked out on the Bridge, I let the beauty of the Gorge wash over me. I’m always surprised and delighted by that beauty, no matter how many times I see it. Seeing the Gorge never feels routine.

I felt a sense of peace slide over me as I walked. I hoped the man who jumped knew peace too.

As I neared the end of the Bridge, I looked across the street to the south and saw something my brain at first couldn’t understand. I could only make sense of what I saw by thinking someone had set out life-size, three dimensional target practice dummies that looked like rams in what had been a parking area before it was blocked off by the Department of Transportation. Then I realized the creatures looking up at me were moving, alive. Six bighorn sheep were right next to the road, watching me, wondering what I would do next.

I was afraid they would try to cross the road and one would get hit. I walked across the highway slowly and softly told the sheep they shouldn’t be so close to speeding cars. They moved back as I approached, but didn’t leave the empty lot. I perched on the barrier blocking vehicles from entering, and five of the sheep moved closer to the fence separating the empty lot from miles of the Pueblo’s sage. The one sheep that stayed in place kept eating from small patches of lush green grass that had shot up after the monsoon rains. Its mouth moved fast, as if film were being played at high speed. The sheep seemed to be goofing around, trying to make me laugh, but really, that’s just the way its mouth moved when it ate.

One by one, the other five sheep bounded gracefully over the low barbed wire fence and were back in the safety of the sage. Finally, the last one quit munching grass, walked to the fence, hesitated, then jumped across. I had barely breathed a sigh of relief when it hopped the fence again and moved back into the former parking lot to get more of the delicious grass. I continued to sit in silent awe, watching sheep on both sides of the fence, feeling blessed to witness their breakfast.

The sheep in the sage slowly made their way closer to the Gorge. The lone sheep in the parking lot seemed oblivious as the rest of the herd moved farther away. I could no longer see the other five sheep when number six decided it was time to get back to the group. It didn’t seem to want to jump the low fence, but looked for some other way to get to the other side. It approached the tall hurricane fence on the west side of the empty lot and trotted back and forth along it, getting visibly agitated and stamping its feet. It was cut off from its family and not sure how to join them.

I considered getting closer and trying to point the sheep in the right direction, but quickly realized the idea was ridiculous. This creature was not a Disney cutie or barnyard friend. This animal was wild, strong, and a least a little pissed. It might not realize I wanted to help, might instead feel cornered and attacked. While I wanted to have a magical, spiritual moment saving a wild beast, I was more likely to be kicked in the gut by a being living just fine before I can along. I stayed where I was.

The sheep walked over to the lower fence and hesitated, then sailed over into the sage. Go! Go! I silently cheered. There was another low barbed wire fence to clear before following the other sheep into Gorge, but a foot caught in the wire and the sheep crashed to the ground. I gasped, but there seemed to be no serious damage. The sheep was on its feet in moments, then disappeared under the Bridge and into the Gorge.

What connection do I make between these big horn sheep who travel in the Gorge and the man who gave up his life there the day before? I have just the vaguest idea, an idea I can barely grasp and can’t articulate. I feel like the answer is somehow connected to my understanding of my own state of grace.

Someone once told me that grace is a gift we don’t deserve, something given to us for no reason we can understand. I walked back to my van in a state of grace, blessed with a life I’m not sure I deserve, a life that on this day included a moment with bighorn sheep.

(The bulk of this post was written in late summer of 2013, edited in August 2015.)

World Smile Day

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Today is World Smile Day!

According to http://www.worldsmileday.com/index.php/article-index/item/373-about-world-smile-day, World Smile Day was started in 1999, by Harvey Ball, a commercial artist from Worcester, Massachusetts who created the smiley face in 1963.

As the years passed Harvey Ball became concerned about the over-commercialization of his symbol, and how its original meaning and intent had become lost in the constant repetition of the marketplace.  Out of that concern came his idea for World Smile Day®.

The World Smile Day homepage urges each of us to

Do an act of kindness. Help one person SMILE!

I hope this post has brought a smile to your face!

On Happiness

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We tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have.”

–Frederick Keonig

(Wikipedia tells us that “Friedrich Gottlob Koenig (17 April 1774 – 17 January 1833) was a German inventor best known for his high-speed printing press, which he built together with watchmaker Andreas Friedrich Bauer. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friedrich_Koenig)

Thanks to the KindSpring (www.kindspring.org) weekly newsletter for sharing this great quote.