Those of you who watch Good Morning America may have seen it when Dan Harris, Nightline anchor, had a panic attack on camera and couldn’t continue. Instead of ruining him, the crisis set him on a new path. 10% HAPPIER is his touching, hilarious, skeptical and profound book that shares his journey to rewire his thinking.
Harris’ book helped him deal with stress and have at least 10% more happiness in his life, and that’s nothing to scoff at, if you think about it. What would be your plan for 10% more happiness?
Before her dementia, I know how my mother would have answered. I once overheard her in the kitchen trying to encourage an unhappy friend. Mom was baking, and as they drank tea and talked, Mom asked the woman what things made her happy. I’ll never forget the cynical reply: “Do you think I’d be sad if I knew how to make myself happy? How do I know what might make me happy?”
Things got quiet. Mom was kneading bread dough. I heard her pound on the dough and say, “Well, at least try doing things and see if you stumble on something that makes you happy.” I peeked around the corner to see Mom move the dough bowl over in front of her friend and say, “Punch around on the dough for awhile and see if you feel better.” It didn’t take long until I heard them both pounding away and laughing.
Any time I want to feel/think/be happier, I go for laughter. I agree with writer Anne Lamott: “Laughter is carbonated happiness.” And I know for sure that in church, in meetings and other ‘serious’ situations, whenever I try to suppress laughter, the worse it becomes. I’m not a big fan of Woody Allen, but he and I agree on one thing: “I am thankful for laughter, except when milk comes out of my nose.”
So I take my cues from my mother: I try doing things to see what makes me happy. Even with the dementia, when a caregiver put a straw in Mom’s chocolate milk to help her drink it, Mom did something…she blew bubbles. When I was growing up and got moody and mopey, I soon found myself doing something: helping Mom in the garden, taking the dog on a walk, hanging up laundry in the sunshine, or going to the library to find a good book.
Or baking bread. Pounding the hell out of bread dough didn’t always make for the best loaf, but it got me pushing, pulling, breathing deep, and working out my feelings.
My happiest suggestion to add laughter to your life is this: become a snake charmer. Miss Harper Lee (not the author, but a darling, funny golden retriever) teaches you how in just a few pictures. Do yourself a favor and click on her link: http://thek9harperlee.wordpress.com/2014/05/30/its-official-im-a-snake-charmer/
If you have personal helpful hints for 10% more happiness—or any degree of increased happiness–please share them. Life is hard, and we’re all trying to do the best we can! And don’t misunderstand; there are times when we need more help than pounding bread or blowing bubbles in our milk. When that happens, we should support and applaud each other for getting the help we need.
This past week readers lost an inspiring and wonderful writer, Maya Angelou. Her legacy will be celebrated for generations to come.
Many times I taught I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS in my high school English classes. Each time it became obvious which students felt caged in their lives, and there were many who felt that way. Angelou’s words made a profound difference in their growth.
She’ll be remembered for many things she said and wrote, but this quote by Maya Angelou is one of my favorites: “I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t laugh.”