Happiness Workout #2: Happy Eyes
Note: this series of short essays was an experiment to see if I could help my friends and family become happier. In its original form, it was an email sequence that was sent on a weekly basis. Due to other commitments, I ended the email sequence, but wanted to publish the content in case you, dear reader, find it helpful.
Last week, I asked you to go on a 7 Day No Complaints workout. Maybe you did great, were super mindful, and didn't complain at all for the past week.
More likely, you weren't perfect. That's ok though!
Because I lied. It's not going to be just 7 days. You're going to do it again.
Another 7 Days of No Complaining, whether you were perfect or not. This is all part of that first key principle: Happiness comes when we remove habits that promote suffering.
This week, we're going to replace that negative habit with a more positive one.
Stay strong, stay happy,
Week #2 Basic Workout: If This Isn't the Good Life...
Too often, we dwell on negative experiences and quickly forget positive ones. Of course, we should aim to do the exact opposite: quickly forget negative experiences into our life, and dwell on the positives.
In high school my favorite author was Kurt Vonnegut. I stole a habit from him that's worked wonders ever since. Whenever something nice would happen, he would say, out loud, "If this isn't nice, I don't know what is".
Over the years I've evolved that to "If this isn't the good life, I don't know what is." You can use either (or make your own!).
Whatever language you choose, your workout this week is: 10 repetitions of saying, out loud, "If this isn't the good life, I don't know what is."
The hope is that with this quota, you'll be more likely to consciously look for things to be openly happy about. Combined with the No Complaints workout continuation, we'll start to make some progress in the rewiring of your normal system of habits.
Week #2 Advanced Workout: Start a "Milton Moments" Journal
John Milton, the English poet behind Paradise Lost, is primarily famous for coining the phrase: "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned." But there's another line in Paradise Lost that I like even more:
"There is a Moment in each Day that Satan cannot find
Nor can his Watch Fiends find it, but the Industrious find
This Moment & it multiply, & when it once is found
It Renovates every Moment of the Day if rightly place"
In normal person language, he's saying that just a single perfect moment can save an entire day. If, and it's a big if, you can explicitly and consciously appreciate that moment, it can repair whatever other ills your day might have held.
This week's Advanced Workout is find and capture these kinds of perfect moments. Specifically, I want you to start what I call a "Milton Moments" Journal.
During the course of the day, whenever you have a perfect moment (perhaps one that causes you to say out loud "If this isn't the good life, I don't know what is"), you write it down in a running list. I use Evernote for this, but you might use your phone's notes app or physical paper. The benefit is twofold: 1) writing down the perfect moment only further cements it in your brain and 2) when things aren't going great in the future, you'll have a document capturing all your happiest moments to buoy your mood.
I've kept one since 2016 and its among my most treasured digital possessions. To give you a sense of the kind of things I write down, here are two examples from Nov 2018:
11/1/2018 - [My little nephew] Reyansh holding onto me like a barnacle as I tried to leave the apartment. He didn't want to let go and ran out three times to the elevator to give me an extra hug. I later found out that he prayed at night with Shivani that I would never leave. Warms the heart.
11/10/2018 - Singing along to “Beacon” with [my brother] Brij in the convertible with the top down as we ate Waffalonia waffles.
Create your own Milton Moments journal and soon you'll have delightful memories to return to whenever you wish.
"It's so hard to forget pain, but it's even harder to remember sweetness. We have no scar to show for happiness." -Chuck Palahniuk
This is the third in a series of short articles. Click here for part four.
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