October 22, 2016
EXPERIMENT: What Triggers Happiness?
In the past couple of years, I had a few moments when I would wake up with a hope that this is just an unfortunate nightmare and the next moment it will all be gone. Well, it didn’t go away and sometimes the level of stress I was dealing with felt like an actual pain in my whole body. But this is a story for another time, this time, I would like to bring your attention to something completely opposite. As strange as it sounds, during this time, I also experienced the happiest memories of my life. The kind of memories I hope I will get to tell my kids someday.
HOW IS THIS EVEN POSSIBLE?
So this whole paradox of the hardest and happiest periods of my life happening at the very same moment made me thinking… What was it that actually made me happy despite the pain, stress, and challenges I was dealing with? As you can imagine, after experiences like these, you can’t put reverse mode on and simply go back to where you were, it changes you for good. You see things differently, you feel about things differently, oh what the hell, let’s be honest, it seems like you just stepped into completely another person’s shoes. So I thought, this is a perfect moment to do some research on my happiness, as some things might have changed. Which hopefully will help me to make sure that going forward I have plenty of these “happy triggers” in my life, so no struggles would be too hard to handle. It’s not like I have forever to figure this out!
A WEEK OF RESEARCH
Exactly a week ago I started documenting every single detail that made me happy. And that same week ago on January 17th, 2016, on my birthday, I also got the sweetest notebook from our friends, Aiste and Martynas. Easy to carry with me, perfect for documenting weekly events as it has 53 sections which each has 4 pages to take notes. So this task was set to be a pure pleasure from the very start.
I started paying more attention to what was going around me, and I even became more conscious about my daily choices that affect my happiness.
1) HUMAN INTERACTION
More than 72% of all my recordings include human interaction. Which only confirms to me what I recently heard on the Robert Waldinger’s TED speech about his study. It’s possibly the longest study (75 years!) on human development, which also includes research on happiness. To sum up – our happiness and even health highly rely on the quality of relationships we have. For the full speech, see below:
2) MORAL SUPPORT, STABILITY, SAFETY
I also noticed that it’s not that extremely important to have people beside me, but rather to have quality relationships with them. Ability to rely on others in cases of need – this is what creates that sweet sense of happiness and peacefulness. Sometimes it’s enough to have someone who will say that it’s all going to be ok or will simply listen. Every time I had someone beside me to talk about my worries, all problems suddenly seemed so little and there was this sense of calmness in knowing that no matter what happens I’m going to be fine, as long as there is someone who I can trust.
Having in mind my life events in the past couple of years, I think I also learned another aspect of this. When I take a closer look at everything that happened I can see a pattern of how absolutely everything turned out for the best, and if not for these events, I probably wouldn’t be who I am and where I am. So I also learned that I can trigger the same feeling by my belief that everything happens for a reason and whatever is going to happen, it’s all for the very best!
It’s one of our fundamental needs to feel stability and safety under our feet. So there is no surprise I also made some notes about financial stability here as well.
3) WORK & PERSONAL LIFE BALANCE
This is one of the most important points! I feel that whenever I focused too much on one or another I felt miserable. But the best feeling always came in moments when both were nurtured and taken care of more or less equally. To give you a better idea, let me tell you how my current life looks like. I’m in the final years of earning my degree in communications (full-time studies), I’m also writing my dissertation, currently regularly consulting 6 companies and will likely take in another 4 soon. So as you can imagine, sometimes it could be quite a task finding time for my personal life, but it’s not impossible. I might not have all the time in the world for all the people, but it does motivate me to choose carefully who I dedicate my time to. Also, I make sure that the time spent away from work and studies is as meaningful as it’s possible. I would even say that I probably spend my personal life time healthier and happier now than I was spending it a while ago when I had so much more time.
Feeling the appreciation in everything I’m doing was instantly making me happy, while everything that wasn’t treated as meaningful and valuable by others, felt like a complete waste of time. That’s why it’s so critical to surround yourself with people who encourage you, acknowledge your efforts, and respond with a positive attitude. This week I was paying more attention to this and I feel so grateful for the most appreciative clients and teachers, such responsive followers, proud families, supportive friends. Thank you all for expressing your thoughts and especially appreciation, as this is truly a powerful drive in my life.
It’s not that easy to find purpose on every step of the way, but you can always create it, at least until you find the bits of your true passion. Everything with a purpose behind it cheers my soul. Sometimes I even feel like I live in a world full of secret symbols that I choose to put to every single thing in my life. I love my revitalizing Sunday mornings with the girls at the bakery, I adore taking a day off in the middle of a week to escape the rest of the world, I can’t say no to all the handmade, old-fashioned and unique stuff, because in my mind these are the things that hold stories inside of them and have a soul. Find these secret symbols of your own in as many things as you can and turn them into regular rituals. They can brighten even the darkest days and make the hardest tasks a bit easier!
6) CONSTANT GROWTH, VISION & GOALS
(©Laura Urbonavičiūtė) (© Lithuanian Energy Conference)
Oh, give me a piece of paper, a pen and I will make you lists and lists of goals, I could spend hours contemplating about where I want to be in 5 years… I take so much pleasure in this that I’m not sure if this is my secret obsession, or if I simply learned what a powerful thing goals setting is. What you ask for, you will get. Just make sure to put your order in correctly, as life’s sense of irony has no limits. My happiness is directly related to knowing the direction of my journey. Whenever I have a clear vision and goals set, as well as all my actions and daily tasks directed to the right direction, I feel good. But I think it’s also important to remember that you can’t work on only one area of your life, make sure there is a growth in all the parts of your life. Life is like a wheel of a car. If it has holes, not a perfect shape and you’re taking the fastest ride of your life, how far do you think are you going to get? Most of the times a car with this kind of wheel is not going to stop smoothly, it’s going to crash together with everything you were working for so hard.
7) WELLNESS & REVITALIZATION
Our bodies don’t have eternal engines. Whatever goals you have, you will need your body to work with you, not against you. And of course, it takes quality sleep, good meals, some physical activities and another kind of care. I feel like this is the most obvious thing to talk about, but somehow most of us take it for granted. I’ll be honest, I’m no exception here! I feel like this area of my life is one of the weakest ones, as sometimes I’m in the middle of such crazy pace that I forget to have a proper meal. Also, I haven’t figured out a way how to get on good terms with the gym yet.
During the experiment of this week, I had a chance to think about it more and try a couple of different ways to make it work. Whenever I felt that my energy levels were falling, instead of going for a cup of coffee I forced myself to have at least a snack or better – a proper meal. Also, in moments when I felt like I lack sleep, I let myself sleep more instead of waking up strictly for the time planned. What’s more, I realized that physical activity doesn’t have to be necessarily done in a gym, it can be skating, skiing, taking longer walks with my pup by the river, which can help to maintain the strength of the body, though it’s still joyful. As a result, I think every extra minute that was spent on my welness this week was completely worth it.
During this week experiment I clearly noticed that my levels of happiness are immediately jumping up everytime I switch my usual intelectual activities to the physical ones. I think this is a key for creating a better relationship with my mind and body, so going forward I will try to change this habit of taking my wellness for granted and hopefully I will get better at this!
8) HERE & NOW
The past or even the future can be holding us from experiencing happiness. Sometimes it keeps us from getting in a trouble or making the decision that would impact our future in some terrible ways, but unfortunately, I think more often it keeps us from living. Living without holding off. The happiest moments I recorded this week was exactly the ones when I stopped and took it all in: touched the snow under my feet, heard a magnificent silence of the nature, looked straight in the eye of the person I was listening to, smelled 25 roses all at once, tasted the most perfect cherry sherbet, and felt like I truly was here and now.
MORAL OF THE STORY
Happiness is something each of us should be studying all our lifetime. But a week of a little bit more focus dedicated to happiness was just what I needed. It puts many things for me in perspective and helps to realize that I still have quite some negativity in my life that should be replaced with more things that trigger my happiness instead, like getting rid of these baobabs that The Little Prince had on his planet.
“There were on the planet where the little prince lived, as on all planets, good plants and bad plants. Now there were some terrible seeds on the planet that was the home of the little prince; and these were the seeds of the baobab. A baobab is something you will never, never be able to get rid of if you attend to it too late. It spreads over the entire planet.“
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