In Pursuit of Joy

I do not read newspapers on a daily or regular basis, but my favorite commuter reading is my weekly TIME or Newsweek which I read from cover to cover in one day.  (Yes, I have enought time considering the crawl of a pace that the Q88 takes to the R train, and the way I have to go through at least 8 stations to hit Queens Plaza North… then on the way home, the ride on the QM1A Express Bus gives me ample time to finish the magazine.)  Perhaps I am just more atuned to opinionated reporting rather than the unbiased and straightforward narration of what’s happening in the world on a day to day basis. 

This week (January 17, 2005 edition), TIME came up with a Special MIND & BODY ISSUE.  Emblazoned on the front was “The Science of Happiness”.  Between reports on the tsunami which hit Asia after Christmas, the recruitment shortage in the US, and mystery apes (gorilla chimps?) were interspersed writings on “SCIENCE PURSUES HAPPINESS”. 

While I make it a habit to tell friends through e-mail or through the countless letters I write about articles or books I am reading or have read which make an impact on me somehow, I found myself copying some articles to share with friends.  (Now, don’t go hitting me on copywrite infringement because I have not actually sent them out.)

On Page A8-A9 was an insert on “EIGHT STEPS TOWARD A MORE SATISFYING LIFE” which contained some practical suggestions from University of California psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky.  You’ll have to get your own copy of the magazine to get the full list, but I’m sharing with you the first two of the eight outlined.

“1. Count your blessings.  One way to do this is with a “gratitude journal” in which you write down three to five things for which you are currently thankful — from the mundane (your peonies are in bloom) to the magnificent (a child’s first steps).  Do this once a week, say on Sunday night.  Keep it fresh by varying your entries as much as possible.

2. Practice acts of kindness. These should be both random (let that harried mom go ahead of you in the checkout line) and systematic (bring Sunday supper to an elderly neighbor).  Being kind to others, whether friends or strangers, triggers a cascade of positive effects — it makes you feel generous and capable, gives you a greater sense of connection with others and wins you smiles, approval and reciprocated kindess — all happiness boosters.” (quoted verbatim)

Corny as this suggestion may sound to some, I actually think it’s a brilliant yet simple way to sift through the challenges of life and actually dwell on the positive.  Yes, I have actually started scribbling down my blessings, and I try to consciously do acts of kindness such as meaning it when I wish the security guard on duty at the end of the day a great weekend ahead, or when I make it a point to address my waiter or server by name after he introduces himself to us. 

It might actually work.



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