Friday, June 29, 2012

You Are My Sunshine


Hope is the thing with feathers-

That perches in the soul- And sings the tune without the words- And never stops-at all -

Emily Dickinson



It is the classic chicken and egg question. Are optimistic people happier or are happy people more optimistic? It is hard to say. As I have mentioned a few times, Gretchen Rubin’s best selling gimmick memoir The Happiness Project  got me thinking about my own life experiment in being more childlike. Her end goal was to be happier. She achieved that goal by trying to be a better person, like going to the gym, being nicer to her husband and taking time for projects with her kids. Her means are my ends. I want to be a better person (friend, mom, wife, sister, daughter and writer) by trying to be more childlike (i.e.happier).
I guess she summed it up with this discovered life lesson: The best way to make yourself happy is to make others happy. The best way to make others happy is to make yourself happy.
Rubin’s former life was editor of the Yale Law Review and clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor before reinventing herself as a happiness expert and author. With the determination and self discipline you would expect from an Ivy League over achiever, she had a highly structured schedule of “resolutions” and read and tried every theory on happiness. From laughing yoga to hypnotherapy to painting classes, her simplest suggestion was the most effective for me.  
I sing in the morning. Since I am focusing on optimism this month, I sing optimistic songs like “You are my Sunshine”  and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning”. The only thing risked was someone telling me that my voice reminds them of scratching on a chalk board. The reward is huge. The first time I did it, my kids didn’t say a word. That night, after an exhausting 11- hour day of tests and football practice, my son finally sat down to do his homework and was happily singing as he did it. The next time I tried it in the car, I turned around to look at my 3- year old who was waving her hands enthusiastically like a symphony composer in her car seat. Last week, I woke up growling like a grumpy bear and my daughter started singing “You are my sunshine” to me. I had no idea she knew all the words.


I have given eight copies of The Happiness Project away so far to friends. It is an easy read that will make you take a moment to think about what makes you happy. Whether it is singing in the morning or cleaning out your closets, there is something that is sure to strike a chord.


So I leave you with this question for the day: Is happiness the chicken or the egg?


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