Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Sustainable Happiness; A Generous Approach

"Awakening our creative impulses is the beginning of making magic in our lives and in the world." - Jamie Ridler
Collage by Lani with textures from FlyPaper 

Got this generous idea from an article over at "Yes! Magazine," Sustainable Happiness? 6 Ways to Get There, by and Ian Murray.  Their idea is that our happiness is interconnected with others; other people, other species, and of course our environment.  Our daily actions contribute to—or detract from—our own well-being and happiness, and that of others.  While pursuing happiness, if we pay attention to the well being of our communities, various ecosystems to which we are connected, or to future generations, we are contributing to everyone's sustainable happiness and possible multiplying exponentially our overall well being and that of the planet.

This kind of thinking can lead us to create a more sustainable lifestyle and greater life satisfaction for all. O'Brien and Murray have six simple suggestions which I'll play with here. 

1. Cultivate Appreciation - O'Brien and Murray remind us that gratitude and appreciation are associated with happiness and life satisfaction.  Why would we not want these things in our lives?  They suggest that if we take a moment to experience our appreciation, especially for those small things we may take for granted, this helps balance the ever present media messages that tell us that we aren’t good enough and that if we only would get more stuff, then we could be happy (creating the carrot on the stick that we chase until we drop).  Appreciation brings us into the present, and in that way, helps us be mindful and happy. 

So here's my appreciation today.  I enjoyed the winter sun on my face (yes, I know it's spring but it sure felt like a winter sun this morning), I enjoyed watching Prospero throw himself into his morning scratch on the bushes while out for our walk, and I definitely enjoyed a lovely, ripe mango.  I could feel myself appreciating these little things in the moment, which of course activated my parasympathetic nervous system and alleviated any stress from monkey-mind activity.

2. Embrace your Natural Highs - Natural highs are those little, natural things that can be found right where you are, usually sensual things that trigger good brain chemistry, like the fragrance of roses (or since roses are not to be found here at this moment, the beautiful scent and texture of my morning mango). Paying attention to these triggers creates happy brain chemistry which could bring you unlimited experiences of delight and contentment. O'Brien and Murray remind us of the sounds of rain on a tin roof or of children’s laughter in the distance, and suggest we simply pay attention to the wonder of the world around us. Here are a few more natural highs that were shared during a course on sustainable happiness:

The smell of the earth thawing in the spring
Hearing an owl hooting at night
The cold side of a pillow
Smelling flowers
Gazing at Northern Lights
Hiking in the woods
Birds singing in early morning
Lying on the grass and enjoying a starry night
Watching a beautiful sunset

3. Chart Your Sustainable Happiness Footprint - In this one, we pay attention to our daily activities and how they influence our well being and the well being of others.  Using the "Sustainable Happiness Footprint Chart," document activities from waking up until bed. Filling in each column will illustrate how these activities affect us personally, and how they may affect other people and the environment.

O'Brien and Murray suggest we may want to chart our Sustainable Happiness Footprint for a week. After a week, we can look at our chart and ask ourself if there is one thing we might shift to enhance our well-being, or the well-being of other people, other species, or the natural environment. (Copies can be downloaded here.)

4. Create an Interdependence Map - The Interdependence Map is a way to understand how our life is intertwined with the world around us.  It looks a bit like a mind map (Paul Foreman has some great free Mind Map templates and inspiration here) where we can trace all of the factors that influence something's existence. Anything can be traced this way, from a piece of paper to ourselves.  If we choose paper, then our map would have paper at the center and various things all around it, like trees, the sun, wind, soil, and water; or machines that were created to harvest trees, transport logs, and convert the wood into paper; or various energy sources for the processes, like water and chemicals at the paper mill; etc. etc. 

Creating an Interdependence Map that puts ourselves at the center can lead to some amazing insights. We could include our ancestors, family, friends, home, transportation, food, energy sources needed for clothing, electricity, and heat.  Each of these can be a hub for other webs of interconnection.  

Once we complete our Interdependence Map, O'Brien and Murray suggest we ask ourselves if there one thing that we could change that would lead to a more sustainable happiness.   One small change can have a ripple effects in the world. Changing something that contributes to our own well-being might be a good place to start, like going for a walk after work or spending more time with family, less time on line and of course starting an art journal.

5. Make Your Own "Happy List" - Here's a sweet one!  We can take some time to list all the things that make us happy. Just put down everything that comes to mind. Once we have our list, we can look at each item and ask ourselves if we might not benefit from doing some of these items a bit more often.  O'Brien and Murray suggest we look at our list through the lens of sustainable happiness. Is there anything on our list that is detrimental to us, someone else, or the environment?  What can we do to make as many of these items as sustainable as possible?

6. Value Genuine WealthAccording to O'Brien and Murray (and it totally makes sense to me) genuine wealth is found in relationships, natural beauty, and an appreciation for life, love, and laughter.  I would add the arts and creativity into the mix!  Building genuine wealth can be pretty straight forward.

O'Brien and Murray suggest we try this:

  • Make a list of all our genuine wealth, including family, friends, education, the natural world around us, health, sensory experiences, political freedom, the ability to love and laugh, etc.
  • Ask ourselves if we take any of these for granted.
  • Is there anything on our list that we would like to increase or improve in order to enhance our genuine wealth? If so, what steps do we need to take to accomplish this?
  • How are we contributing to the genuine wealth of other people or our community? Is there anything more that we could or would like to do?  (Isn't that nice?  A very generous approach to happiness!)
Once we begin to draw on these sustainable happiness choices, we’ll likely discover that there are many new choices that we can make—and the best part is they are already within our reach.


Anonymous said...

Lots of great resources Lani! -- Thank you for sharing them all here... <3

adela hubers said...

Thanks so much, Lani. Great ideas for the DoodleShare Project.