Last weekend I found happiness.
Ok, maybe that sounds dramatic. But truthfully, sometimes we need a big, catchy line to jolt us out of our busy trance and remind us about the stuff that really matters in life.
That’s what happened for me last weekend when we returned to our hometown for our annual Valentine’s dinner with some old friends. We have this little tradition now—each year around Feb 14th we get together with three other couples-- rotating houses and switching the duties. One year the wives cook, the next year the husbands cook. The guys pull out their cheesy, heart-covered ties, the wives find something pink or red to wear, and in a steamy kitchen we share expensive wine, eat good food, and enjoy lots of funny moments that feel wonderfully familiar.
This is the bridge we cross with old friends; it’s a magical passage where past and present melds together and we are suddenly in that comfortable place where Real Life reigns. It’s a truthful space; no pretenses, no ‘perfect’ kids, ... actually, no need for perfect anything.
Which brings me to the point of this post and the topic of happiness.
This morning I was reminded of the Harvard Study of AdultDevelopment, the longest running, most extensive study on happiness to-date. Basically since 1938 researchers have been tracking two groups of men--Harvard graduates--to find out what makes them happy. And after 75 years of correlating their social lives with their physical health researchers discovered that when it comes to living a happy life, what matters most is the quality of our relationships.
Did you get the quality part?
Because if you’ve ever been in a crowded room filled with clinking glasses and muffled conversations and looked around and felt strangely disconnected--even lonely-- you’ll understand this.
You’ll recognize the instant warmth that happens when you’re with someone who ‘gets’ you and how the conversation seems to flow. And you’ll know the opposite; you’ll recognize that moment when you’re standing in a conversation with acquaintances wearing a polite smile and wishing you were home with a good book.
It’s quality that counts
There’s a whole lot of interesting results regarding this study, but I mention it because it was referenced when I read the HappinessHack: This One Ritual Made Me Much Happier, and it helped me clarify why I felt so emotionally replenished following our Valentine’s dinner.
In this post the author cites research from How FriendshipsChange in Adulthood and The Harvard Study, both which explore the importance of genuine friendships for a happy life, and shares his decision to deepen his own friendships by creating a group (or as he calls it, “kibbutz”) that meets regularly to explore one question in depth.
hmmmm….doesn’t this idea sound intriguing? There’s so much potential here.
If you have a chance to read this Happiness Hack I’d love to hear your thoughts. What impressed me most was the author’s positive, action oriented approach to his life. Instead of feeling sad or regretful about not having enough nourishing friendships in his busy, successful life he decides to take matters in his own hands.
I love his attitude.
It’s a reminder that we can create our own happiness at any point in our lives-- by beginning with what the Buddhists call an open-hearted attitude. The idea is to spread empathy and kindness to all those you meet, but to also realize that at your core you deserve to be loved and valued and fully accepted. And truthfully, not everyone can offer us a healthy relationship.
With this in mind I thought I’d share a few of my Red- Warning- Signs for Friendships
- After walking away from a long conversation with a “friend” you realize this person never asked about you or your own life or your kids.
- Noticing that you have become the ‘listener’ in the relationship.
- After you spend time with someone you end up feeling inferior or ‘bad’ about your own life or kids or circumstances.
- You spend a lot of time explaining or justifying your decisions (or your kid’s decisions).
- You feel constantly criticized.
Can you relate to any of these?
I'd love to hear your own thoughts on this topic.
In the meantime I hope you have a wonderful weekend. I’ll be taking a workshop on Yin Yoga and I’m so curious to see how it goes.