Finding Happiness in Hobbies

I attended a wedding this weekend and during the reception I watched 2 sisters dance together. One was 18 and the other 12, and the PURE JOY they had dancing was so fun to watch. I felt happy watching them be happy.

I want to talk to you more about this idea of “happy.” What is it, what does it feel like, how do you get it, and better yet – how do you KEEP it?

First, What It Is Not

Media makes it seem like happiness is something everyone should strive to feel on a regular, consistent basis. I have found this to not be realistic nor sustainable. I only know a few people whose neutral state is effusive happiness. And even then, I wonder if I know them well enough to see their true self.

Please don’t hear that when I encourage you to find things that make you happy, that means that you should fake happiness to be palatable to society.

Not. At. All. You deserve more. You deserve a life you don’t need to escape.

Redefining Happiness

Instead of trying to eliminate unpleasant feelings and situations, a more Sustainably Productive (SusPro) way of living is to identify situations, activities, and people who bring that happiness. This is where the Mental Well-being pillar of Sustainable Productivity comes in: Hobbies.

The Pittsburgh Mind Body Center study about how leisure activities impact mental and physical health demonstrates the value of hobbies for sustainable productivity.

Higher participant score on leisure time activity showed the following improvements:

  • Lowered levels of blood pressure, total cortisol, waist circumference, body mass index, and levels of depression
  • Additionally, it showed raised levels of positive psychosocial states, life satisfaction, life engagement, quality of sleep, exercise outcomes, and perceptions of better physical function {even when they factored out sports as hobbies)

Getting Started

What if you don’t know what makes you happy? What if you don’t even know what hobby you might want to try? I would like to suggest you begin by simply noticing what you notice.

  1. Identify the feeling of happiness, what does that literally feel like? When I was watching the sisters joy at dancing, my heart felt full, my stomach and mind were both calm, my face was smiling, and I just felt present.
  2. Once you know what happy might feel like, start to notice when those feelings are present at other times in your day. Does your stomach unclench when you left your phone at home and had silence in the car ride to the grocery store? Does the smile come back with internet cat videos? What smells, tastes or feelings are around you when your monkey mind finally settles?
  3. Now find out what activities can help you find more of these moments. If it is a certain smell, could you take up a hobby making bath and body products. If music makes you smile, maybe a dance class, singing lessons, or just making play lists is the hobby to make time for.
  4. Quit if it isn’t working. It does not mean it was wrong, it just means you have data points to try something new. I thought I wanted to learn to sing and did a few duets with Bixby on acoustic guitar. Turns out I don’t want to learn to sing, I want to do more karaoke. Subtle shift, but I never would have figured that out if I had not tried.

Your Turn

Each of us will have different feelings that indicate happiness. I would love to hear what yours are and what hobbies bring that out in your life!

By |2021-07-26T20:39:19-04:00July 27th, 2021|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

Eye of the Storm: (Re)considering What Brings Happiness

For years I told my husband that I did not need bouquets of flowers in order to bring me happiness.

“It’s a waste of money,” I said. “They will just end up dying.”

“A nice sensible potted plant is fine,” I said, “but flowers are silly and frivolous.”

I think the truth is I decided way back when that flowers would not bring happiness because then my feelings would not be hurt when I did not get them. This has nothing to do with Bixby – this goes back about 25 years. 

Young Susan

Back in the day there was a special kind of hell called “Valentine’s Day Carnation Sale” at our junior high and high school. This was a day ear marked to make sure everyone saw me loping through the halls (keep in mind I was one of the tallest PEOPLE, not just tallest GIRLS in my grade) empty handed. At least that is what it felt like.

The pretty, petite, popular girls carried armloads of red carnations, giggling about the secret admirers and boy friends who sent them flowers. I scuttled off to the gym for basketball practice, my feelings hurt and my hands empty.

awkward teenager
Me in 7th grade. Yes the photo quality is bad, but the reality was not much better.

So I boarded up my heart and decided I did not want flowers. If I did not want them, then it was me who got what I wanted when I did not receive any. Or so I told myself. Sometimes we make up weird truths to not have hurt feelings, instead of just saying our feelings are hurt. 

Today Susan

I’d rather be a hypocrite than the same person for 20 years. 

Adam Yauch, Beastie Boys

I am not sure when I turned the corner to want flowers. Definitely after I was married. For sure when I was growing joy in my own garden. 

vase of flowers is happiness

Everything in this vase came from my own garden. One of my favorite times in the garden is the end of a few hours of work. There is always a sense of accomplishment:

  • Patch of weeds cleared out
  • Compost spread onto growing veggies 
  • Newly planted flowers bringing color to a blank area
  • Backache that says I exerted an effort

This is when I go around with my scissors or clippers and take a small cutting of a bunch of random things. Then I bring them in and arrange them. At least arrange them like a PE major. I have seen gorgeous arrangements in garden centers by the pros, but I love mine because they are from my clumsy paws. 

Better yet, someone gave me everything in the above photo.

  • Pampas grass from a neighbor
  • Iris from a friend thinning them out
  • Euphorbia that Ellen Ashley gave me after helping in her gorgeous garden

The cheapo in my is giddy because they were free, of course. But there is another layer. There is always another layer if you sit quietly enough. This arrangement has a story. Even the vase, which I picked up for only 50 cents. This vase is from Reconsidered Goods, a non-profit creative reuse center in Greensboro. 

One of the three pillars of sustainable productivity is having a physical environment that works with you and brings you joy. 

Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.

William Morris

It turns out I love having bouquets of flowers in my home. I love it even more when these flowers come from my garden. Embracing what is true has helped me to be able to improve my physical environment. This is all part of the process of creating a life that does not need to be escaped.

Look around the space you are sitting in right now. What do you love and would benefit to having more of? Could you throw out or donate something? What is keeping you from taking action on either of these things?

By |2020-06-17T17:43:28-04:00May 26th, 2020|Environmental Surroundings|0 Comments
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