Monday, August 29, 2011

On Happiness

Five blog entries, in five days; so what was it all about.  As I mentioned last Monday, the experiment comes from a book that I am reading.  The book is called 59 seconds:  think a little, change a lot.  A couple of weeks ago I was reading an interesting blog entry.  The blog’s author highly recommended this book and I was convinced to purchase it.

Chapter one is called happiness, and it highlights a number of studies done on happiness and comes to a number of conclusions.   The first being that writing is far more effective than talking when it comes to working through traumatic events in a persons life.  Furthermore other studies found that the act of writing can have significant benefits to promoting everyday happiness in a person’s life.  Hence my week long homework assignment.

According to the book the results of this exercise should be a fairly quick change in mood and happiness that may last for months.  Furthermore, If the feeling wears off the author instructs the reader to repeat the exercise as needed. 

So how do I feel?

Happy is certainly a word I could use.  I am by no means unhappy, however in general I am a happy person.  I really started the exercise from a position of general happiness, so I guess a more important measure would be relative happiness compared to a week ago.  So how do I feel relative to last week?

Again it is not an easy question to answer.  I can’t say that I am tremendously more happy, but in no respects am I less happy.  Having a scientific mind I would love to say that I have achieved a 54% increase in my level of happiness, but the subjective nature of feelings prevents me from being certain.  Overall I think my happiness has increased slightly. 

As far as the exercises went, I enjoyed the process of putting my thoughts on paper and they will be an interesting record for me to look back on in the days ahead.  I think that the experiment would have been more conclusive, if I had started from a position of unhappiness, but frankly I really don’t want to find out.

The key takeaway for me is that it is good to incorporate words of gratitude and affection in my writing.  Something I will continue to try and do.

The books discussion on happiness doesn't end there however.  Based on other studies, the book concludes the following:

  1. Buying experiences and not goods promotes happiness.
  2. Giving  promotes happiness.
  3. Smiling promotes happiness.
  4. Intentional change, rather than circumstantial change will promote happiness.

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