Thursday, October 30, 2008

What Makes You Happy?

What makes you happy? Like Maria in A Sound of Music, I can list a few of my favorite things: hot cocoa on a cold winter's day, brightly-colored birds twittering excitedly around a bird feeder, long walks along the river with my honey. . . When you're feeling down, what gets you "up" again? What makes you happy?

Most people believe themselves to be pretty happy, overall. Research shows that "happier people are healthier, more successful, harder-working, caring, and more socially engaged." (The Sunday Times Magazine, October 2, 2005; read the full article

Research on what makes people happy has blossomed in the last several years as a new field of study called "Positive Psychology." As its name implies, Positive Psychology focuses on the positive experiences in people's lives as well as the specific character strengths - such as humor and honesty - that make happy people happy. Some of the goals of Positive Psychology are to support the development of happy, healthy families, schools, and communities.

Positive Psychology support groups are popping up all over, including right here in my town of Alexandria, VA.
The Inner Arts Center sponsors a monthly group on the 3rd Saturday of every month. The group shares articles, books, and techniques exploring topics such as optimism, resilience, savoring, and awe. If you're interested in bringing more happiness and joy into your life then you may want to look for a Positive Psychology support group in your own area.

And, as Maria von Trapp knew, simply remembering a few of your favorite things will bring a lilt to your step and a smile to your face - and then you won't feel so bad!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Be The Change

One of my favorite quotes is from Mahatma Gandhi:

"Be the change you wish to see in the world."

This little web journal is my contribution towards positive change - if not in the whole world then at least in my little corner of it.

Saturday, October 25, 2008


So. What do we call this thing, this blog? I wanted a catchy name that would encapsulate the topics I would cover here: getting back to priorities, simplifying your life, being happy with what you've got, not always chasing after more, more, more. Oh, and re-connecting with nature. Very important, if you've lived as I have, without a garden for so many years, surrounded all day long with gray walls and fluorescent lighting.

You get the picture. Somehow we've (I've) lost sight of who we really are. We are not the things we accumulate, the spouses we marry, the jobs and careers we work so hard at, the children we give birth to and raise. Certainly these things are important and they have their place in a happy life, but they are not the sum total of who "I" am.

And, to some extent, all these things can be so distracting, feeling that we need to work harder in order to have the perfect house, better cars, a nice vacation, to send our children to the best schools. We spend so much of the short time we have on earth in all these activities that are not "I" that there is no time left to spend on really knowing who we are, re-acquainting ourselves with ourselves.

And there's a certain dissonance in that. A feeling that even though all these things, these activities, these people we surround ourselves with and fill up our time with may indeed be pleasurable (or not, as the case may be), still they're not enough. There's something missing, a vague sense of incompleteness, a feeling that we can be so much more than just the sum total of what we have and what we do.

And after we've eliminated - figuratively if not literally - all the things that are not "I," then what's left? How do we re-prioritize, re-focus, re-acquaint? Simplify, pacify, restore, and re-energize? Calm down and de-stress? Un-busy ourselves. It's not so much the gaining control over life as the letting go of needing control.

So. We come back again to the beginning. I hope in this blog just to present some ideas, not necessarily to come to any definite conclusions, about re-prioritizing, de-stressing and un-busying, learning how to nurture ourselves as well as the people we care for, re-connecting with community and nature. Ultimately, learning how to live in peace and harmony.

Welcome to Harmonious Living.