I am exactly halfway through my Happiness Experiment and I cannot believe how quickly time has passed. Its been six weeks since I first made the decision to take on this craziness and I honestly didn’t think that I would make it this far with all the tasks I had to take on. But that was six weeks ago. Six weeks ago, I also didn’t think I could enjoy my job or run for 45 minutes straight or be positive about the things that scare me the most. Although I sometimes still get frustrated at work, still get anxious about life and usually feel like throwing up after 30 minutes of running, my life has somehow changed. Maybe not drastically, but the subtle changes have added up.
This week’s tasks were somewhat of a replay of ‘Remember Love’ from week two. The tasks were hard and challenging and yet far more rewarding than “Find more fun” or starting a Happy Book. ‘Make time for friends’ or ‘The Week of Extreme Nice’ as I liked to call it had the following tasks:
This was easy enough. We all know that Facebook is a great birthday reminding tool. But writing on a Facebook wall really took away from the joy and satisfaction you get when not only do you remember one’s birthday on your own accord but you also put in a little effort to make it a tiny bit more special than the generic “HBD! hope its a gud one!”.
For my co-workers birthday, I went to Shopper’s and after spending half an hour going through all sorts of age joke, over-the-hill joke and fart joke birthday cards, I found one that simply said “Happy Birthday from all of us” and had funny cartoony people all over it. I made each co-worker pick a cartoon and sign their name under it. The card didn’t exactly bring a tear to the eye of the receiver but I enjoyed the fact that I had made the effort. And quite frankly, who cared if it wasn’t appreciated as much I would have liked it to be. “Don’t expect praise or appreciation”. And I didn’t. I was just happy that I bothered with it at all this time.
Be Generous encompassed every level of kindness and compassion you could imagine. I know I often fell short and I totally expected to fall short in this department. But I truly made an effort to choose to be kind over being indifferent, to choose to build people up instead of sharply criticising, to contribute instead of being a spectator. And most of all, the greatest generosity that I found the most painful was to cut people slack. I often complained and judged people for their behavior, the way they dealt with minor annoyances and the pettiness of their problems. Some examples of people who fell into the “cut them some slack” category were annoying Filipino ladies who cackled like the Wicked Witch sisters of the west on the bus while I tried to stop my head from pounding at the end of a long day. Who knows, maybe they had a long day with their own trials and this was their own little injection of happiness. Or how about the patient who barks at me that his physiotherapy treatment is too expensive and somehow comes to the conclusion that its my fault that he’s still in pain. Well, maybe I should try to forget the part where I somehow became the cause of all his problems and only remember the part that he’s in pain and that exact reason nullifies the first part anyway. Or how about those people who complain about hot weather by telling me they loooove winter. Well, I haven’t even tried cutting those people slack. It just seems too impossible.
Yes, show up. Show up to hang out with friends. Show out to help out friends. Show up to celebrate with friends. And show up to console friends. I was thankful and happy that I got the opportunity to ‘show up’ this week. Whether it was to enjoy a delicious birthday dinner and laughter or to help a friend move and scrub kitchen cabinets, showing up gave me a huge boost of happiness. It’s an undeniable fact that the best gift you can give someone is the gift of your time. And it is also now an undeniable fact that the bigger the gift, the happier you are.
Let me be honest right off the bat. I failed at this on the very first day. It was so easy to forget to avoid gossip. And even when I was able to avoid gossiping myself, I found it impossible to avoid listening to it. My workplace with its meagre staff of six people buzzed with gossip all day everyday. And you can only talk about the Royal Wedding, or debate Osama’s “death” and rave about the great weather for so long before you get bored and antsy. Don’t gossip is going to be an ongoing battle…right up there with don’t nag and don’t be rude to people who can’t speak English.
Make three new friends
This was easier than I thought. I was afraid a week was too short to actually befriend three people but the funny thing is, I realised that I really don’t pay attention to my life as much as I need to. Unless you live under a rock on another planet altogether, there are people to befriend (or at the very least talk to) every where you go. Part of my goal of reaching the three friend quota was to smile more often, open conversations, try to look approachable and ask questions. I found people are very responsive to conversation. It was me who was the unfriendly one. It was me who was too busy to ask about their day, or comment on how nice they look in that sweater or even just smile.
This week (like ‘Remember Love’ in week two) was challenging and yet rewarding and eye-opening. I was exhausted because ‘showing up’ meant that time was taken from my set routine of other things on my task list. But I learnt there were different levels of fun and happiness. There were the challenging tasks (remember love, don’t nag and gossip, cut people slack) that although weren’t super fun or brought instant happiness, were more rewarding.
There were the routine tasks (evening clean ups, clearing out your desks and closets, tackling nagging tasks) that also weren’t super fun but kept a consistency in happiness by taking away needless stress.
And there were the personal tasks (taking time for projects, finding fun, exploring) that were fun, brought instant happiness but were hard to maintain consistency. I tended to get bored easily of personal tasks, found challenging tasks too exhausting and often pleaded laziness to routine tasks but all three were indispensable to my happiness.
Moreover, this week I learnt the Splendid Truth that Gretchen Rubin came up with in her Happiness quest:
‘In order to be happy, one must make another happy.’
And from the last six weeks I learnt that:
‘In order to make another happy, one must be happy themselves.’
And although this sounded like a Catch 22 situation, there was a very definite way to get around it. Make yourself happy first with the personal and the routine tasks and the more rewarding challenging tasks came easier.
In the wise words of St. Francis of Assisi:
“Start by doing what’s nescessary, then by doing what’s possible. And suddenly you’ll be doing the impossible”
So, happiness-o-meter for week 6: 7/10
Until next time…stay happy. And cut people some slack.