Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Speaking of the Pursuit of Happiness. . .

. . . I read an article in the paper before Christmas about a study showing that people who, before going to bed each night, listed three good things that happened to them that day reported an increase in happiness. I figured, hey, I’d give it shot. Doesn’t cost anything, and I’m always game for an increase in happiness.

So that’s what I’ve been doing for the past month. Some days are admittedly easier than others, such as Christmas, when good things happen all day long. Other days are more of a challenge, like the day I drove over to the dental college for my eighth and (I thought) final visit to (finally) get my permanent crown, only to find (after a two-hour visit) that it didn’t fit and I’d have to put up with my temporary crown for at least another month until my dental student came back from Christmas break. (You know you’ve entered the Dental Twilight Zone when your dentist takes breaks between semesters, can’t schedule you during finals, and says things like, “Wait here. I have to get your impressions out of my locker.”) On that day, the good thing I managed to come up with was that I found a parking spot at the college on my first try. (You know it’s a bad day when the best thing about it is decent parking.)

But you know what? It actually works. I have experienced an increase in happiness. I now sometimes find myself in a very good mood for no reason, which was a little disconcerting at first, but I’m getting used to it. The reason I think it works is that not only do I remind myself each day that good things have happened, I find myself, as I go about the day, making a mental note of all those good things so that I can put them on my list that night. And I actually think the relatively bad days are more responsible for the increased happiness than the good days because they force you to really focus on good things in order to find them.

So far today, these are the three best things that have happened to me:
  1. My son got an nice solid A in science for the previous nine weeks, when I thought he was going to get a B+.
  2. I got an email from the librarian at a nearby school, inviting me for a school visit in May.
  3. I took my laptop to the library to write (which, in itself, is a good thing, since I love the library and like to work there) and while I was working on a new scene, an idea just fell from the heavens that is going to make the story so much better in so many ways—it solves several plot problems, gives the setting a more solid grounding, and adds sparkle to the entire story.
After all that, how could my happiness not increase?

(Oh, and just so you know, I’m not dissing dental colleges. My dental student is very nice, very diligent, and very dedicated. The whole process takes a bit of patience, though—on his part and mine.)

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