Key to Happiness

Posted on: 27 November, 06

I read an article titled “What Does it Take to Lead a Happier Life?” According to the article, it is not that hard. The idea is every night at bedtime, think of three good things that happened that day and analyze why they happened. Supposedly after doing this for a while, the quality of one’s dreams and sleep will improve. Gosh, if my sleep quality improved, that would go a long way to making me a happier person! Anyway, the basic idea is focusing on the positive in one’s life instead of the negative. I think the analysis part helps give one a clearer picture of the effect of one’s actions, that one does have some control over one’s life. For me, when things seem bleak, the feeling of being out of control is usually at the core. I don’t consider myself a control freak….much….maybe a bit. Whatever. I consider myself more of a “take charge” kind of girl. If there is a problem, I want to come up with a solution, implement the solution, and move on. I don’t like to spend too much time wringing my hands and saying “Woe is me.” If there is a problem beyond my control, I generally don’t spend too much time fretting about it. World peace? Since I don’t know the secret handshake to get into the UN, there’s not much I can do on that one. I try to vote for the folks who are most likely to do some good. I try to raise my boys to use diplomacy instead of force. I try to be a good representative of our country when dealing with people from other countries. All of those are nice things, but not likely to have too much effect on the Middle East crisis. But I digress….. When people feel more in control of their lives, they generally feel more content with their lives.

Of course, this article was dinner table conversation. We are one of those crazy families who actually eat dinner together every night and talk about all sorts of things. We are already a rather happy crew, but we all thought this was an exercise worth trying. J, experimenting with teen angst, was not sure three happy things had actually occurred in his day. He said it was a “neutral” day…nothing bad, but nothing really good either. I mentioned that we had fudge today, one of his favorite treats. His eyes lit up a little. Then he said not having Algebra homework was definitely a good thing. C suggested that the third thing could be the amazing warm weather we had today. Bingo, even an angst ridden teen could come up with three good things. Once he got the idea, he was able to come up quite a few additional good things. No, they were not anything spectacular. Just little things that make the day a bit nicer. That is the idea. Every day, we all have little bits of goodness dropped in our path. It is too easy to let the bad things take our focus.

I think by focusing on good things right before sleep increases the production of those “feel good” chemicals our brains naturally produce. (Sorry, I forget the medical terms.) The release of those chemicals help us fall sleep more quickly. Once asleep, our brains are still processing those happy thoughts so the sleep is more restful. A good night’s sleep makes the next day go better. It begins to snowball, in a good way. Thinking about how we had a direct impact on our happy things makes us feel good about ourselves. Again, this feeds upon itself. If you tell yourself something often enough, you start to believe it. May as well tell yourself good things!

We are all going to try this for a while. Actually, I did this with the boys when they were little. I thought if they went to sleep thinking happy thoughts, it might help keep the monsters under the bed at bay. Don’t worry, I am not going to start posting my three happy things each day. That would just get a little sappy. 🙂 But try it. What have you got to lose?


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