First off, welcome back to me! i say. Nearly a month is way too long for any self-respecting blogger to go between posts--
Friday i went back to the Chronic Pain Management Class at Kaiser for my 2 month follow-up day. Other than the nurses trying to kill me by having us do ALL the strength exercises i have not been doing faithfully, it was a good day. Even an encouraging day.
The last thing of the day was time spent with the psychologist--she spoke of Intentional Happiness. What is that, you ask? Why, i would be *happy* to tell you, i answer.
The psychologist started out by commenting that for all the years there have been studies to define the many types of mental/emotional illnesses and their treatments, no studies had been done on people who are well-balanced and happy in their lives. Surprising, you comment? Truthfully i had never given it a moment's thought, i respond.
This study was done with a goal of ascertaining what differentiates a person's capacity for happiness or unhappiness, thriving or failing. It encompassed people who had lived through horrible circumstances and events: the holocaust, loss of children, illnesses, etc. Those who survived and thrived had several habits in common. But first to set the stage:
If you draw a circle representing 100% happiness in your life, what percentage of that circle do you suppose genetics plays a part in? Take a guess--no really, just guess! i was totally off. It's FIFTY PERCENT! This would include things such as coming from a long line of family members with depression and/or anxiety, other illnesses both mental and physical such as a predisposition toward cancer, diabetes, etc. So HALF your happiness is affected by genetics. (Again i apologize, dear Corinne, child of birth--you are so screwed.)
Now, of the 50% remaining, what percentage do you think you are solely responsible for? This includes your behavior and habits, that sort of thing, the parts only you control. FORTY PERCENT!! That's right. A whole hunk of it is up to us. Our choices. Our habits.
This leaves 10%--that is the percentage determined by circumstances: events, disease, pain and such. A mere 10%. BUT, and here's the kicker, when that 10% starts taking over our thinking and actions, it swallows up the 40% that is our behavior and habits to become FIFTY PERCENT. Holy negativity, Batman!
So--this brings us to the answer to the original question: What are the common habits of happy people?
*Intentional happiness. This is the choice to look for the good--what happened today that was good? What went right? (NOW who's talkin' smack about Pollyanna, huh?)
*Support. The habit of seeking support and working to maintain and improve those supportive relationships.
*Hobbies. Those who thrived in the midst of bad circumstance had hobbies! Since i am a big hobby person i understand this one. My hobbies focus me on the immediate. i have no thoughts of past failure or present pain, i'm lost in the moment. And lest you think a hobby means craftiness, a hobby can be many things that don't mean having shelves full of yarn and scrapbooking supplies and fabric and....yeh. That would be me. A hobby can be as simple as reading a library book, or watching a movie. All hobbies don't require huge amounts of supply space and/or money, they simply are an activity that gives you something to focus on other than your circumstance.
*Flow. This was an unfamiliar term. As soon as the psychologist explained it i understood--that feeling you get when you're doing something that absorbs you and puts you in the moment? That's flow. For me all those hobbies i mentioned, the reading/creating and such, those put me in "flow."
*Meaning. Finding meaning for life is a habit of a happy person. For me there have been many things that contributed to that--none of which i can do as easily any more, given my energy-free life. Once upon a time i loved providing infant foster care, i loved being a part of students' lives for the years i worked in the church high school department. i loved providing a safe space for the occasional teen who needed a place to stay. i loved (and still love!) loving my kids. i find that i am in a time of redefining what i can do, given the change in health. But that's okay--no place does it say i have to do the exact same things to have meaning in my life. For me it has all been driven by the unconditional love i have known from my Creator God, and the desire to share that in my actions toward others. i need to accept that i will do this in my flawed way, but the desire is there and always has been. i just need to do some thinking to find a different way to perform the acts that give me meaning and purpose.
As simple as this all seems, the practice is the key. My choice to look for the good, to seek support, to find ways to be focused and absorbed and in the moment, to find meaning--these choices are the key to thriving in the midst of crappy circumstance. Crappy circumstances are the things we often see as interruptions in our real life, when in fact they are our life at that moment.
Skimmer's recap: Half your potential for thriving in life is determined by your genes. Only 10% is determined by your circumstance. That leaves 40% dependent on your personal choices and habits. That's a whole lot of control.