Tuesday, August 19, 2014

How to be happy

Taking a break from running on the Colorado Trail, near Molas Pass
What is happiness? Last night Jarrod and I watched the documentary Happy, (directed and produced by Roko Belic) and learned that 50% of our happiness is genetic. We all have a "set point" that we easily fall into whether things are going well or going poorly. Aha! So that explains the perpetually happy, bubbly, smiling people in this world! I guess it also explains the perpetually negative, unhappy people. But remember, our genetic makeup only accounts for 50% of our happiness, so there's still hope! Our circumstances, such as income, age, health, appearance, social status, where we live (you know, all the things that we are preoccupied with) only account for 10% of our happiness. Wait, what?! I thought that being young, healthy and living in Durango played a HUGE role in my well-being and happiness!? Nope! That leaves 40%, which is categorized as "intentional activities", or actions that we choose to do that make us happy. That 40% is where we have the most room for growth. Thankfully, they did all the research for us and laid it out very simply. They interviewed top psychologists, neurologists and everyday people from 14 countries all over the world. They found that there are 5 common things that the happiest people in the world all do. The best part about it? They are free and easy to do! This looks different for every person, but whatever these things mean for you, if you make time to do them regularly, you will be very happy:

1. Play & do the things you love
2. Spend time with friends and family
3. Have new experiences
4. Do things that are meaningful
5. Have gratitude 

Side note about money, in case you were wondering:
As far as income goes, money DOES play a role in bringing people happiness UNTIL their basic needs are met. After that, it does not make a difference. So the difference in happiness between someone making $5,000 and $50,000 is tremendous, however the difference between someone making $50,000 and $50,000,000 is zilch. Once basic needs are met, people easily enter the "hedonic treadmill": As they make more money, their desires and expectations also rise, and there is no permanent gain in happiness. Buying something new may provide instant gratification but we quickly adapt to it, the excitement wears off and then we may buy something else that's new, which gratifies us for a short period of time and wears off, and the cycle continues. Wow, it kind of sounds like heroine when you look at it that way, doesn't it? No amount of money above meeting our basic needs will make us any happier. 

Reflecting on my own life, I think I do well at making time for play, having new experiences, and having gratitude (Ask me about the 5 to 1 for 21). I used to do more things in the community that were meaningful when I worked with youth on probation and did service projects with them. I could do more of that now. My biggest void (that I've been aware of for a while now) is not spending enough time with friends and family. I envy people who spend time with their friends and family regularly, without really even planning for it. They just get together at the end of the day or at the end of the week and it's comfortable. I think it's all about having a good balance. Lately, I have been spending a lot of time having new experiences, traveling and playing. Even prior to watching this documentary I've become conscious of that, and I've been purposefully using this down time back home to catch up with friends (and soon this weekend with family). 

What are YOU doing that brings you joy? 

Hiking above treeline on the trail to Sharkstooth, La Plata Mountains

Taking in the majestic Half Dome, Yosemite

Feeling dwarfed by the Sierra Redwoods, Yosemite

Getting ready to kayak on Vallecito Lake (Jarrod and Alpe)
Enjoying the best camping spot ever (with Jarrod)

Time with the girls (Tricia, Rachel and Bekah)
Lake Chabot, CA (with Bekah Hartzog)

Playing with my niece Kalei, Parker, CO