Friday, February 19, 2016

Yes. You can control your happiness

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

  1. 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.
  2. Noticing that you have become the ‘listener’ in the relationship.
  3. After you spend time with someone you end up feeling inferior or ‘bad’ about your own life or kids or circumstances.
  4. You spend a lot of time explaining or justifying your decisions (or your kid’s decisions).
  5. 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.



La Contessa said...

This couldn't have come at a BETTER time for me.I will READ the article....................
I have already figured out that I need to weed friends out and I started that process a few years ago...............
I am still amazed at the lack of follow through and just plain old~ fashion good manners on a daily basis.
There are VERY few people in my circle who LISTEN.
I promise to READ this weekend............and will report back!

Simply LKJ said...

I need this right now too. Plan to read over the weekend. Making some changes in the next few months in the area of volunteering and friendships.

My red flag are the one to always initiate-call, text, invite, etc.

Thanks for sharing Leslie, have a blessed weekend.

Elizabeth@ Pine Cones and Acorns said...

Leslie, a fabulous post! I think in the age of social media that so many people are confused about what friendship is. I read recently that a study was conducted recently (I forget by who) that came to the conclusion that the 750 people(ram don number here) who are your "friends" on Facebook are not really your friends. I was aghast that money was actually spent to come to this conclusion. But I am even more concerned that people actually think all of the random people that they met in their lifetime, who they have not seen since they played in the sandbox, or high school or worked with at their first job are actually their friends!

I have moved around my entire life. I have no friends from grade school, or high school. I have 1 from college, and a few from graduate school. And the rest from my adult life, I actually can count my friends on 11/2 hands. I am blessed with these friendships and know that I will always be able to count of these friends no matter what! We are excited for one another, we listen to the trials and triumphs and love one another even when we do not always agree.

I cannot wait to read this article.

Thanks for sharing the article and your lessons.

Have a wonderful week Leslie!

Karen said...

Your description of your Valentine's Day dinner with your friends mirrored out VD dinner. We have some friends that we have history with and we celebrate most of the holidays with dinner and engaging conversation. It's always fun and we all enjoy our time together. We all consider ourselves so fortunate to have each other. I will enjoy reading more of this study.

Calypso In The Country said...

Great post, Leslie and I am looking forward to reading the article! As I get older, I have grown to really cherish my good friendships. One of my best friends and her family have been joining us for ski weekends in Vermont these past two years. Both of our families are so comfortable together and as we drive home separately each time, I find myself reminiscing about how much I enjoyed the time we just spent. I have a few of these type of friends that I just enjoy so much and feel thankful everyday to have them in my life! Then there are those "friends" who just get under your skin and after seeing them you wonder why you just wasted time hanging out with them! Luckily, I don't have many of them!
Enjoy your weekend!

La Contessa said...

GREAT ARTICLE...........
THIS should be on the COVER of the NEW YORK TIMES..........if anyone still reads a PAPER!!!

michele said...

I love that valentine tradition you and your people have created--what incredible memories you are making, and I can just imagine how those dinners together fill you up. the happiness stuff is so thought provoking. the journey I am on rarely has me contemplating happiness, but I do feel invited into real joy which is not at all affected by my circumstances. it is so freeing and healthy for my relationships to live this way, and letting go of the attachments feels entirely natural rather than painful! peace to you as you dive into your yoga career!

Carla from The River said...

Yes, another great post!

In 2012 I got rid of a toxic relationship. It was everything on the Red Flag Warning!! I finally had to unsubscribe from her issues! It was bringing me down.

I also want to share, I have my internship at the flower farm all worked out. :-) I am so excited. I also took some classes in early February too.


Laura said...

I need more of this please.
Guide us!

Enjoyed visiting as always,


Sarah said...

Another excellent post, Leslie. I look forward to reading the article.

Art and Sand said...

First, I love that you continue to meet with your friends despite your move.

On happiness ...

I drive my family nuts because I am nearly ALWAYS happy. And, I scare them if for some reason I am down. I am the one who is supposed to always be happy and boost them up.

On the Red Warnings, #2 is definitely me. I am a listener and have always been one, but I don't consider it a red flag. People I barely know start telling me things. And, I think it is interesting that even in blogging, people will send me private emails to share things with me and get advice. So I guess that the listener in me shows through somehow in my writing.

Why am I happy all the time? - It's my relationship - 46 years with my best friend, children who enjoy spending time with us not just because we are their parents, friendships with truly wonderful, happy people.

Lori said...

I have a group of girlfriends ~ we try to get together at least once a year. These are the ones that it does not matter if my nails are done or I have makeup on because we love each other just the way we are. There is no judging ~ no pretense ~ we can be ourselves with each other. Along with this group I also have 2 other groups of girlfriends that are the same way ~ yes I know... I am very fortunate. With that being said there are also those where I know I have to be on my A game ~ these although I call them friends, the trust factor is not there and you are always wondering what is being said behind your back. I don't spend much time with this group. I am a word girl and there was a poem I found years ago that started - "why do I feel alone amidst this group of people" ~ feeling lonely while in a crowd is such a sad place to be and I do my best to avoid these situations. I choose happiness or try to every day ~ some days it is hard with the stresses of life, work and family but we wade through the bad and come out the other side. Great post as always Leslie xo

cindy hattersley design said...

Leslie your posts always inspire me to think and feel more deeply. I kind of stumble through life and don't get caught up in anything too heady. You make me think...I love that...

Preppy Empty Nester said...

Fabulous post!! My family and I have moved around a lot. Every place brought new faces. There is always that certain person who after the conversation I walk away thinking that I know everything about her - her kid's name, her husband's business, and every other boring minute detail of her life and she never even asked my last name or anything about my family. There was at least one in every town I lived in. How wonderful that you have such a great group of friends to get together with. It is surely a gift. Enjoy your week.

Stonecropsister said...

I think my closest relationship is with my brother, through email, thousands of miles away. He is the funniest, nicest, most logical, forgiving, human-human being on the planet. When you find a person like this, you really recognize quality. He is my little brother, but I look up to him so much.

I met someone in my forties who got me. It was life altering. I've never been the same. I think that this is the great thing about aging as a woman - the discoveries in front of us, who knew? It's nice to have friends like your couples or like my brother that understand and there is always going to be a response if you need a friend. It's so comforting isn't it? xx Nancy

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