I’ve got a shelf of science fiction/fantasy books that pretty much come down to the battle between technology and magic. I think I love them so much because that’s how humans are. We know things that are common sense. We know technology works. But we still long for magic. Things that are too odd, we shy away from, even if we desperately want to believe in Tinkerbell or doors in the back of old wardrobes.
And that’s how I tend to feel about self-help books. Anyone who tells me to focus on materializing something into my life is likely to get a raised eyebrow. And no matter how much I want to believe there’s an easy, mystical way out of something, I can hear my 11th grade physics teacher laughing loudly in my head.
Which is why The How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubromirsky makes me so… well, happy.
She’s a professor of psychology and she’s spent years looking at the research data as to what percentage of our total happiness is under our control, and what things we can do to raise our happiness levels within that percentage. The book isn’t filled with vague feel good advice and suggestions, but rather the results of studies and experimental data.
She offers a specific range of strategies that have proven to work to raise happiness levels in her test subjects, with the caveat that not everything will work for every person, and to find the techniques that fit your personality.
The first activity is practicing gratitude. Conveniently enough, that’s a practice I’ve already been thinking about making more a part of my life.
First off, I’m really very, very lucky. Just in when and where I was born, I’m lucky. I’m pretty sure neither my mother nor I would have survived if that situation had played out 100 years ago.
I’m lucky that both of my parents loved me, and encouraged education and my creativity.
Was my childhood perfect? Nope. Was it pretty freaking amazing? Yes, actually.
Was it better than the childhood of a whole lot of other kids? Considering that my mother worked in one aspect or another of things like Child Protective Services for a good section of my life, I’d have to say Yes, it was so much better that so many other childhoods.
Is my life now perfect? Nope, but it’s pretty amazing.
I’ve already written about how the act of noticing things is the start to adventure. Realizing the adventures you’re having, slowing down, paying attention.
I started writing the Explorer’s Logs to keep track of the adventures, even the little ones, that are so easy to let slip through the cracks, so that at the end of the month or the year I don’t look back and think “wow, I didn’t really do anything, did I?”
But I did. And you did, too. And I think keeping track is the first step to realizing how much fun we’re having, what adventures and magic and wonder are already in our lives.
So, a renewed commitment to the Explorer’s Logs, and to tracking gratitude as well. Because happiness is its own adventure and a land we’re all interested in exploring. Even if we can’t get there through the back of a wardrobe.