Saturday, November 24, 2012

Happiness Research - Identifying Joy

Every so often, my path crosses with Oprah, specifically, her magazine, O. Last night my internet research on happiness came up with this article on her site. I read it because I am intensely curious about the questions relevant to navigating towards happiness. Is it a life purpose type of question? More dinners at the table with family?

There were two questions -
What brings you joy?
Does your life reflect what brings you happiness?

Let's get back to the basics. I haven't really considered there being a difference in Joy and Happiness, but a connotative nuance might be that happiness is a fleeting emotion. As in, you may or may not have control over it, but happiness could be induced with fun or rewarding activities. Joy, on the other hand, seems to be related to contentedness, which is sort of an emotional-spiritual-mental variable running in the background of life. In that sense, joy has more permanence than happiness, although both are worth increasing.

What I liked about this article was that it focused on things that you could be doing more or less of, which is somewhat controllable. I enjoy baking, so I could feasibly spend more time doing this than a time-wasting activity, like web-surfing.

Up until now, a lot of my happiness research has focused on way harder tasks, like practicing gratitude, increasing your self-esteem (can you just will this to happen?), and forgiving yourself (which seems worthy if I could figure out what this means). Don't get me wrong, I'm inspired to do all of those things, but I don't really understand how I would know my self-esteem is increased.

What brings me joy?

Feeling smart
Not fixating on anything, including joy
Making someone's day
Laughing with Jason about things that don't matter
My nice, comfortable house
A creative outlet

That's it, although I have a weakness for 'free kitten' signs. I want to adopt all of those kittens so they'll have a safe and warm home. I don't feel the same way about puppies or ducklings for some reason, even though they are equally cute.

Things that don't bring me joy (that traditionally bring others a sense of joy or happiness):
Cooking for my family, or keeping up a nice house (outsourcing is amazing!)
Feeling connected through social websites
My degrees
My skillset, although I'm trying to change this so that I can feel smart.
My inner voice. It's actually a mime doing hand puppets and Pictionary.
Organized religion

The article says that you should spend 80% of your time doing things that bring you joy. The biggest switch in the last year has been to unfocus on accomplishment. I have a bad habit of putting up a posture that I need to get everything done in the world, or stick to a formula that most people use (school-job-family-kids-retirement). My emotional kryptonite is thinking that I should spend more time doing things that fall outside of this JoyList.