I teach workshops focused on happiness and health in addition to my one-on-one work in healthcare. I love these workshops because I find joy in seeing people leave with a sense of hope and excitement having begun to explore and fill their buckets with practices they can continue doing to be happier in their lives at home and feel a greater sense of purpose.
At a recent workshop, one woman excitedly blurted out, “You are a happiness collector!” This was during a discussion on using micro-moments or happiness boosters throughout the day to change our mood. Happiness boosters are those things we can do in 5 – 10 minutes or less to lift our mood into an upward spiral and feel, even, one percent happier.
We co-created a list of happiness boosters from which everyone could make their own lists to take with them. Some of the activities on our group list were — dancing, music playlists, stretching, run around the outside of the house (or the inside), call someone we love, work on a jigsaw puzzle, play a game, take a quick walk outside, knit, crochet, fill the bird feeder, pick flowers, remember something fun or funny, eat chocolate, send a loving text to a friend, sing, read a poem out loud, or take a few deep breaths. Making those lists was uplifting for everyone, filled with laughter, and sparking lots of creative ideas. At the end, we each acknowledged how we felt happier and closer just making the list!
Later that night and since, as I reflect on the comment that I am a happiness collector, I find myself agreeing wholeheartedly. I do collect happy! I collect ideas and activities for plugging into happy or changing my mood whenever I’ve become too serious or noticing a downward spiral. And, I do them regularly throughout most days. I also share them with others through my work and with friends. We would all benefit by collecting happiness.
Sonja Lubymirsky, in her book ‘The Myths of Happiness’, writes about the higher value of experiences over things in raising our general sense of well-being and positivity. In her book, she talks at length about the myths of happiness which often involve things, trips, money, large purchases, and relationships which actually do little to raise our sustained level of well-being.
As a collector of happy, I am learning that I tend to look forward to experiences over things. For example, once a month, I go to visit my daughter, her husband, and my grandchildren. I look forward to the adventures of every weekend. Most visits, we enjoy simple experiences such as going for walks on the beach, nature walks, the local community zoo, or playing board games at home. Every visit I return home with memories that keep me smiling until my next visit.
Memories are wonderful happiness boosters. Most memories grow from experiences more than things. My fondest memories stay with me and become endless sources of joy as I look at photo’s, write about them, and share the stories with others. I also find joy in listening to the adventures of others through their stories. Most people love to tell stories of their experiences — where they were, who they were with, and what they were doing — as a way to keep the memory alive as well as to integrate experiences into our overall sense of well-being. Good memories are part of my collection of happiness boosters or ‘power ups!’ as Jane McGonigal calls them in her book & game, Super Better.
Why is it important to collect happiness boosters? Having a cache we can reach for throughout our day helps us become more resilient in the face of everyday challenges. Taking the time to insert a happiness booster into our day, lifts our mood, increases our positivity ratio, and makes our day much more positive! Research has also shown that micro-moments of positivity can do more for our overall long-term well-being than the large events we think will make us happy such as going on vacation or buying a new car. I can easily create micro-moments every day while going on vacation takes planning and time.
When we practice creating positive moments, acknowledge what is good or going well in our lives, and express gratitude for what we already have, especially the simple, we experience more sustained health, healing, even longevity. Recent research is showing that our happiness directly affects our health in positive ways from lower blood pressure, stronger immune systems, faster healing, and living longer.
Here are two simple happiness boosters you can try right now.
1. Laugh – think of something funny or something that made you laugh, let yourself laugh.
2. Take three deep breaths. Let your exhalation be twice as long as the inhalation. You might notice that your heartbeat speeds up a bit on the inhalation and slows down a bit on the exhalation. This change in heart rate is known as heart rate variability and is an indicator of our health.
Both of these happiness boosters positively affect our heart rate variability which improves the healthy functioning of our vagus nerve which directly affects the health of our internal organs and results in feeling better over-all. In fact, the health of our vagus nerve and our heart rate variability are measurements of our general level of health.
When I remember a joyful moment with my grandchildren from a recent visit, I feel more energized. Remembering our walk on the beach looking for nesting Snowy Owls, collecting sand dollars, or wondering where beach creatures go in winter, I feel less pain and am inspired to go for a walk here in the woods around my home, with a similar sense of wonder and exploration I have through the eyes of curious children.
My goal is to continue to ‘collect happy’ for my own well-being and to share my collections so you, too, can feel a lifted sense of positive well-being. I hope you will share your ideas of happiness boosters or power ups with me!