Tag Archives: Happiness

No News is Good News


Screen Shot 2017-10-28 at 11.40.03 AMSo, you wake up every morning with a sort of looming dread. It’s been a year or more of this. The newspaper is sitting by the front door or you grab your phone to read it online. You go from a state of relatively refreshed well-being (because unconscious), and then you basically screw yourself. Bam. The reality of what’s happening in our country and our planet comes crashing back down. Great way to start your day. You’re a genius. Fun times.

So how do we protect ourselves and still remain decent citizens who give a crap about making the world a better place? If we don’t pay attention, we feel guilty or we feel out of it. And then guilty. I have met several people who say they are empaths and this time is just too difficult for them. Dude. You don’t have to be an empath. It sucks for everyone. So what to do?

Here are some strategies both emotional and practical that I have been working with this year that can maybe help.

1. Drink heavily.

2. Okay kidding. Let’s start over.

1. This one is stupidly obvious: don’t start your day with the news. Seriously though, give yourself at least one hour of carefree ignorant bliss. Make pancakes for your family. Brush your teeth. I mean how do you expect to save us all from North Korea when you haven’t brushed your teeth. First things first. And then experiment with that. Can you possibly go until lunchtime? Unless you work in news or education or perhaps political satire (gaaahhhh, I know, I screwed the pooch), the only real repercussion that will probably happen is that you’ll not know what people are talking about and have to hear about the news at the water cooler. I’m going to shock you: I’ve decided not to read the news until lunchtime. Your coworkers will look at you, horrified, but give it one month. You’ll be changed. And they will either sneer at you with jealousy, or follow your lead. Either way you win.

2. Change the way you read your news. One thing I did for a little while was save to it up. Read the papers all at once but only every 3 or 4 days. My husband was concerned that I was becoming a hoarder, because of my stack of 4 newspapers, which were eventually relegated to the closet until I was ready to read them so friends didn’t do a hoarder intervention… Cuz, I’ve already been on one reality TV show… It was a great way to skim what I needed to know without having to do it every day. And in fact – – bonus! – – by the time you get to it, three out of four stories are moot anyway! Or at least all you really need to know is what’s in that fourth installment of that news item and you didn’t need to know all the steps along the way. Start on the 4th paper and work your way backward in time.

3. Weekly magazines or weekly online wrap-ups! I love the week in reviews. I also like weekly magazines because you get more in-depth conversation and complexity rather than just up-to-the-minute hyperbole and clickbait.

4. Talk to humans. This one feels important. But it’s certainly more interesting than reading headlines or catching CNN’s Breaking news. This probably doesn’t hold for you if you’re doing weekly visits to your Breitbart-obsessed uncle. In that case try a quick conversation changing distractor like: “Hey! Did you know The Jews invented football?” Then watch him try to work out what to do about that.

5. The history channel: when all else fails, watch something about The American Revolution, The Civil War, The Holocaust. And while you might think this is a horrible idea, because your brain starts making connections to the dystopian future that seems to be looming, it does help to remember that everything is cyclical. Most of all, politics. There will be a moment again in our future where we can look forward to more of that hopey-changey stuff. I promise.

6. Watch the show “Bob’s Burgers.” I don’t know. It might help.

That’s all I got.

Whatchew got? Tell us here:

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Flourishes


Flourishes

Last week I asked the wrong question in my blog: What is your definition of success? I wondered about happiness and about accomplishment and how the twain shall meet. But my real question was how do we have a basically fulfilling life. And I think the answer is that “meaning” is what leads to a sense of fulfillment and happiness. This is not exactly a news flash, so why do we spend so much of our time in the land of accomplishment, comparing ourselves with the competition, working toward a raise or promotion, and simply trying to just get shit done?

I started reading Martin Seligman’s new book Flourish. So far it answers the question of what leads to “well-being.” Interestingly, happiness is relegated to just one piece of the pie and this he calls Positive Emotion. Ya know: smiling a lot. The others pieces are Flow or Engagement, Relationship Building, Love, Meaning (which is something bigger than the self), Gratitude, and finally Success or Mastery for it’s own sake, which he calls Accomplishment. This is a much clearer picture of what it takes. It’s a nice check list. You can look at it and say, oh that’s why this month sucks: no relationship building. Or, what am I missing? No mastery. Got it.

Last week I was in a bit of a funk and for no apparent reason, it seemed. I was getting all kinds of accolades and juicy bits of success, which were meaningful because I love my work, and I was having terrific lunches with friends (relationship building), and my health was good and I appreciated it (gratitude). What was missing? Ah! No flow! Flow is a big part of my life when I’m writing – it’s about being so caught up in what you’re doing you don’t notice the time fly by. When mid-week I started writing 2 new comedy songs, things turned around.

One of the things Seligman talks about is how much energy many of us put into accomplishment, but it’s often pursued even when it brings no positive emotion, no meaning, and no positive relationships. There is a piece of this that is important and that’s mastery. This looks like winning for the sake of winning. This is a part of well-being, but in our culture of winner-takes-all it can become our main focus, swallowing up all our time without our stopping to notice that it’s not doing much for us in a big-picture-am-I-happy sort of way.

But how do we stop? The addictive nature of achievement is supported by the culture. Yeah, there’s meditation, there’s vacation, there’s really good and surprisingly cheap Chardonnay, and of course sex. And sometimes all together. But the next morning, many of us just pick up where we left off, go to work and spend the day grasping for more “success.”

A check list like this might help. Separating the bits of one’s day, week, year, life with a look at the pieces of the pie is helping me step back and see if I’m giving enough time to each part of the Well-Being cocktail. Like a Long Island iced tea, mixed properly, you won’t wake up each day hung-over, wondering why you’re depressed.

But one other thing I noticed in this plan is that almost all of it involves other people. Gratitude is often about others: Better Relationships and Love are (duh), “Meaning” which is caring about something bigger than yourself can be about saving the planet which is in part about caring for people and our future, and Accomplishment has something to do with what others think of you, or at least offers an opportunity to gloat/share/wonder with others. So I’m taking a look at what each of these on this checklist has to offer my life in connection to other people and to give that some weight and attention.

It’s the people, stupid.

Right now I’m on a plane with my cute kid (Gratitude), on the way to a Memorial Day vacation (Positive Emotion), to see family (Relationship Building, Love), writing this piece and finishing a song (Flow), and tackling my new music software (Mastery), while trying to figure out the formula for well-being and writing this song that satirically criticizes the upcoming federal budget cuts (Meaning).

Check, check check, check, check, check, check. With a flourish.