Thursday, December 8

Thirteen Ways to Happiness & Wishin' and Hopin' by Wally Lamb

I was going to write about this study I read about the other day. Children that grow up in homes with violence end up with the same types of brain responses as soldiers in a war environment. I remember my therapist told me about that and I sort of believed it but was also skeptical. How could I compare what happened to me to that of a soldier in combat? Well...there it was, all true. The thing is, I also didn't want to write about it. It depressed me.

I liked this article much better and it fit in nicely with the Thursday Thirteen theme. See, I waver between feeling up and positive to feeling depressed and negative. It's a battle to stay upbeat but I find if I can do it a couple of days in a row, I can get a momentum going and keep at least an even keel for a while.

The article talks about what happy people do differently to stay happy. There was a list of 12 things and then I added one:

Thirteen Ways to Happiness

1. "Express Gratitude". Even if the only thing you can say is you have a roof over your head and food in your belly, this helps. I think about the things I do have when times are rough--like now, with the spending Christmas season. Things could be a lot worse.

2. "Cultivate Optimism". This is something my therapist was trying out with me. It involves saying things like, things aren't going so well but they can get better.
Or they will get better.

3. "Avoid over-thinking and social comparison". In other words, instead of worrying about the Joneses' just focus on yourself. So I'll just not concern myself with all the lights and decorations everyone else seems to have.

4. "Practice acts of kindness." This is a good one. I've done lots of these and it really is true--it gets that feel-good serotonin flowing.

5. "Nurture social relationships." This is a little harder for me to practice except on the internet. I never did make any friendships here in NJ mostly because it just seems like I have to say good bye to people I've made close friends with in the two states I lived in before, MD and NY. I try to attend to my internet friendships though. I've found some of my closest friends online.

6. "Develop strategies for coping". Ah, well, this is a skill I learned as a child when there were all sorts of crisis and chaos going on around me. I would come up with a Plan A, B, C, D, and E. If one failed, I'd turn to another.

7. "Learn to forgive". That's come with age. It's not something I could do when I was younger and filled with righteous anger. Over the years, the anger's tempered and I've learned a lot about how people behave and think.

8. "Increase flow experiences". Well, that's something I need to work on. I can get into the flow when I'm writing but haven't been able to focus recently. If I developed a hobby I enjoyed I could get into the flow too.

9. "Savor life's joys". Ah, yes, like spending the day with Little T or watching a snowstorm from the safety of my home or the sun coming up over the ocean.

10. "Commit to your goals". This is another one I need to work on. I feel adrift because I don't really have any goals other than getting through each and every day.

11. "Practice Spirituality". We do that, praying several times a day.

12. "Take Care of Your Body." I could improve in this area. I could exercise more regularly and watch what I eat. I could make sure I get to doctors for regular check-ups and preventative tests like mammograms and stuff.

13. Keep your sense of humor. This my own addition. I think if I didn't have a sense of humor (albeit a dark one sometimes) I would have lost my mind already. When I laugh, I feel those feel-good endorphins flowing around.

Last night, I finished reading a book called Wishin and Hopin by Wally Lamb, one of my favorite authors. The book was funny and sweet, focusing on 10 year old Felix Funicello, his family, friends, and school teachers. I saw it marketed in the book club as a Christmas book. I wouldn't have called it that although Christmas is in it. So are Halloween and Thanksgiving. It's more a coming of age story and Felix reminded me of Ralphie, the kid from A Christmas Story. I also got a kick out of the book because it was like a walk down memory lane--the way people dressed and talked, the TV shows they watched, and how simple everything used to be. Families ate together instead of apart. It was a fast, entertaining read and I'm glad to add it to my Wally Lamb collection!

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