In a few days, I will leave home for nearly two months to support my daughter during the final weeks of her pregnancy, in the delivery room, and for the first month or so of my granddaughter’s life. I am excited and busy. My mind is swimming with details.
Last night, though, I put details aside to be with a group of friends who held a Grandmother Baby Shower/Blessings On Your New Adventure/Please Return Safely ceremony for me. It was one of the happiest nights of my life.
Happiness studies show that we each have a natural happiness level, which can be raised by developing happiness habits. Joyous events and circumstances, like the communal love I felt last night, raise our happiness level for a while. Sad, tragic, and dreary situations lower our happiness. In either case, we eventually settle back into our natural level.
This morning, I’m tired (I was too wired up to sleep well!) but still enjoying a happiness upswing.
Why so happy? Silly question, right? Anybody could look at the circumstances and say, of course you’re happy! You’re about to become a grandmother, your friends just celebrated your joy — and, icing on the cake, you’ll be driving away from the tedious end of a Vermont winter into sunny warm weather in Alabama. Who wouldn’t be happy?
Even so, I want to break it down a bit. Grand-babies don’t come along every day, but the other ingredients of my current happiness high are available to each of us on a pretty regular basis.
Gratitude. Gratitude is one of the most reliable contributors to personal happiness, and my gratitude cup is overflowing. Hugs, blessings, good food, thoughtful presents … I’m so, so grateful. I’m not very good at writing thank you notes, but I’m going to send a heartfelt thank you to send one to everyone who made last night special.
Community. My town has pot lucks, talent shows, silent auctions. We take meals to people who are sick, and check on pets. We sing together, swim together, skate together, snow shoe together. It’s like a bank: we make regular deposits in our community account. And when we need a withdrawal, the “funds” are there. It’s a solid investment strategy.
Forgiveness. When I looked around the room, I felt such pleasure in my relationship with each woman in the group. Because we’re human, I’ve been in conflict with some of the women in the past — conflict that we worked through together so we could move on. I’ve forgiven, been forgiven, and deepened relationships.
Touch. Twice we stood in a circle holding hands. Hugs were also abundant. Gretchen Rubin, author of the blog and book The Happiness Project, cited research on hugging from The How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky. Rubin wrote about Lyubomirksy’s “study in which students were assigned to two groups. One group was the control; one group was assigned to give or receive at least five hugs each day for a month – a front-to-front, non-sexual hug, with both arms of both participants involved, and with the aim of hugging as many different people as possible. The huggers were happier.” Let’s hear it for hugs!
Mindfulness. Savoring, and being fully present, are excellent happiness tools! Perhaps I’ve been sharpening those tools lately through a ramped up meditation practice. And/or, perhaps the loving energy and shining eyes all around the room were too powerful for my mind to wander, despite my pre-trip to do list. I knew I was experiencing a very special, once-in-a-lifetime event. I was definitely present, and in full savoring mode.
Recycling. My friends know, I strongly believe changing our shopping habits to be less voracious consumers of Planet Earth is a requirement of our long term personal happiness. So I was thrilled that several of the presents were items previously-loved by other babies. I was especially pleased to know that my young friend Edwin (just three years old) gave the thumbs up to passing on one of his old trains to the new baby. Learning to give is good for Edwin’s happiness, too.
Acknowledgement. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs includes the need for recognition from others (as well as internal self-eteem). In general, I try to give generously of my time, and my heart, with no expectation of any recognition (except from my faithful husband; his support is usually enough). But I just flushed with pleasure last night when one friend explained that they wanted to have this party for me because I “do so much for the community” and I “will be missed.” It makes me feel good even now to type those words! Sometimes, recognition does matter.
Okay, enough analyzing. I’ll get out of my head, and slide back into enjoying the moment.