Discussing ways to be more joyful was a very pleasant way to spend one evening a week. I highly recommend the class. Payment is on a sliding scale; that’s how cool the teacher James Baraz is!
The first night we were told to spend 3 minutes writing down everything that made us happy. What we were grateful for. What we enjoyed. What made us feel satisfied. What fun!
Undercooked brownies, jigsaw puzzles, 3 day weekends, and Velcro. My good old pink tennis shoes, strike anywhere matches, getting a massage, cats, and coffee cake. R&B, GPS, NPR, and the OED! LOL, I couldn’t stop. When the 3 minutes were over I was still writing away, just trying to get all the things down before I forgot one while writing another.
Making the list was fun. Making an even bigger list was even bigger fun. I transferred my list from class onto a piece of butcher paper and hung it in my office. Everyday I think of new things to add: triple washed spinach, watermelon, the beach, time lapse photography, toast, getting my back scratched, afternoon light, TED Talks, the burnt edge on lasagna, the Golden Gate Bridge, a roaring fire, the poem at the base of the Statue of Liberty, mac ‘n cheese, the cello, cookies-every kind of cookie, and Oprah! I love Oprah!
When something strikes me as delightful, I think to myself, “I’ve got to remember to write that on my list.” The thing makes me smile in that moment and again when I write it onto my giant list. Through the act of adding new things to my Giant List of Smiley Joyful Things, I end up experiencing the pleasure twice.
Pausing to notice that something is pleasurable, is the secret to being happier. In case you breezed through that last sentence, here it is again: Pausing to notice that something is pleasurable, is the secret to being happier.
But you have to decide to notice. It really is a decision! By labeling a thing or an activity as smiley/joyful, it becomes more so. Talk to yourself with the voice in your head. I do. Let your Internal Optimistic Narrator really get into describing your gratitude. As I sink in to the bath water I say, “I love hot water.” I am profoundly grateful for hot water–think of all those who live their whole lives without. As I put down my empty glass I say, “Boy, did I love that iced latte.” As I slip between the sheets I sing, “Bed, glorious bed. Soft, fluffy and flannel.” (to the tune of “Food, Glorious Food” from the musical Oliver–yep I am the kind of musical theatre geek you thought only existed on GLEE). My Internal Optimistic Narrator never misses the chance to break into song.
And I don’t do this once, I do it every time. Every bath, every latte. Every time I crack my knuckles, every time the steam from my tea opens my sinuses. Every time I enjoy the tingly foam of toothpaste or take note of a lovely smell. The voice in your head never stops, why not teach it to be an enthusiastic, grateful voice.
Like Pablo Neruda who wrote the poem “Ode to Things,” I too sing an ode to all these wonderful things that have been made by the hands of mankind, things that exist because of the creativity and effort of others, things that we enjoy and that become a part of our lives and a part of who we are.
It isn’t about loving stuff in a material way. It’s about having gratitude for all things, no matter how small. It may be just a puny raisin in your morning toast, but somebody grew it, dried it and shipped it. By golly, I’m going to take a second to be thankful they did.
I hope others are thankful for the things that I do and make. I try everyday to be that person. It’s a good goal.
Smile. Be happy. Be happier!
And pause to take a note of it!
Oh, and Scrabble. I can’t believe I almost forgot Scrabble. I love Scrabble. And, good grief, I can’t forget about rechargeable batteries and avocados! Oh, and then there’s strawberries and onions and Twitter and Facebook and, and, and, and . . .
I love everything. Well, everything except the sound of a vacuum cleaner.
In the collage at the top of the page you can find some of the things I love, smiling back at you. Life is pretty great when the whole world smiles back! Find: Strawberry Smiley, Pink Shoe Smiley, Mac ‘n Cheese Smiley, Vaccum Smiley, Fire Smiley, Raisin Bread Smiley, Onion Smiley, Iced Latte Smiley, Massage Table Smiley, Golden Gate Bridge Smiley, Cookie Smileys, Kitties Smiley, Bubble Bath Smiley, Watermelon Smiley, Cello Smiley, Beach Smiley, Coffee Cake Smiley, and Toast Smileys.