You really don’t want to be around me. Not because I’m still contagious, I don’t know whether I am or not. You don’t want to be around me because I am really grumpy.
I’m supposed to be in Seattle. We had a plan, and we had all the pieces in place. We had tickets, hotel reservations and a rental car waiting for us.
A couple days before the trip, I felt a tickle in the back of my throat. “Oh, allergies!” I said, because everyone has allergies at this time of the year. While in other parts of the country, things may start to die off in late August, in Pensacola, even in the middle of daily 90 degree temperatures, the light begins to change, and the plants send forth new growth. I had a grand new crop of hydrangeas, thanks to s week of daily thunderstorms and deluges, and our tomatoes are beginning to set once again.
The tickle progressed to a sore throat, and the day before we were set to leave, I awoke truly, totally sick. The full spectrum of unlovely symptoms. AdventureMan and I looked at each other and he said “Sweetie, we really can’t go,” (he knows that I tend to ignore illness and soldier on if I can) and I surprised him by saying “I know.”
My Father was raised Christian Scientist, an increasingly obscure subset of peculiarly American Christian sects. Christian Scientists (I may get this a little wrong) believe in Truth and Error, and illness is seen as an Error in thinking. We didn’t practice Christian Science as I was growing up, but it left an influence; illness in my mind is something to be ignored when possible and overcome as quickly as possible.
So when I am really really sick, I take it very personally. This respiratory whatever flattened me, the deep coughing leaves me aching and weak, and even when the thick head and constant sleeping part left me, I am not able to resume my active life, I am tired.
I am feeling better, and I am not yet well. I am well enough to be grumpy. My attention level is low and my energy level is lower. Poor AdventureMan! I am a terrible patient! I am an IMPatient!
Happy – or happier – Saturday. Doesn’t everyone want to be happy? Happier? As it turns out, the science of being happy is studied, and there are ways proven to improve your feelings of happiness. I found this on a website called Motto, through AOL News:
10 Science-Proven Ways to Be Happier
Science continues to find ever more specific and idiosyncratic ways we can bring just a bit more of happiness into our lives
We never get tired of thinking about happiness, do we? Life is so much nicer when you’re able to couple it with joy and gratitude.
We’ve published posts before about simple ways to be happy and retraining your brain for more gratitude, and Buffer’s CEO Joel has even shared his own daily to-do list for happiness. (There’s also our popular list of things to stop doing to be happier.)
Meanwhile, science continues to study happiness, finding ever more specific and idiosyncratic ways we can bring just a bit more of this elusive quality into our lives.
I love keeping an eye on these studies, and thought I would share the latest batch with you here to see if any of them might resonate with you and make you just a bit happier.
Here are 10 truly unique ways to be happier that you can start today!
1. Do cultural activities
Need a boost of joy? Trying seeing a play or heading to a museum.
A study that collected data on the activities, mood and health of 50,000 adults in Norway found that people who participated in more cultural activities reported higher happiness levels and lower anxiety and depression.
“Participation in receptive and creative cultural activities was significantly associated with good health, good satisfaction with life, low anxiety and depression scores in both genders,” the researchers write.
Curiously, men saw stronger benefits from receptive, or passive, cultural activities (like visiting museums, art exhibitions, concerts or theaters) while women more enjoyed active participation events (like club meetings, singing, outdoor activities and dance).
2. Keep a diary: Rereading it brings joy
To learn to find more gratitude and joy in every day—not just special occasions, the boring days, too—try keeping a diary and re-reading it from time to time.
Researchers who did a variety of experiments involving keeping a journal discovered that “ordinary events came to be perceived as more extraordinary over time” as participants rediscovered them through their older writings.
In other words, simply writing down our ordinary, regular-day experiences is a way of banking up some happiness down the line, when the activities we describe could bring us unexpected joy.
3. Make small talk with a stranger
Chatting up your barista or cashier? Good for your health!
Behavioral scientists gave a group of Chicago train commuters a $5 Starbucks gift card in exchange for striking up a conversation with a stranger during their ride. (While another group kept to themselves.)
Those who started conversations reported a more positive experience than those who had stayed quiet—even though they had predicted they would feel happier being solitary.
Another study saw similar results from giving Starbucks visitors a $5 gift card in exchange for having a “genuine interaction with the cashier.”
It seems that connecting with another person—no matter how briefly—increases our happiness.
4. But have meaningful conversations, too
While positive small talk is great, more substantial conversations could up our happiness quotient even higher.
A study that tracked the conversations of 80 people for 4 days found that, in keeping with the small-talk study, higher well-being is associated with spending less time alone and more time talking to others.
But researchers also discovered that even higher well-being was associated with having less small talk and more substantive conversations.
“Together, the findings demonstrate that the happy life is social rather than solitary and conversationally deep rather than superficial,” the researchers write.
So dive deep in your conversations with friends and loved ones—it’s great for you.
5. Live in the suburbs and get involved
This one seems to apply to the U.S. A. only, but I still found it quite interesting.
I would have guessed that city dwellers might be the most satisfied with where they live, but in a poll of 1,600 U.S. adults, the highest rate of happiness was found in the suburbs.
84 percent of suburbanites rated the communities where they live as overall excellent or good, compared to 75 percent of urban dwellers and 78 percent of rural residents.
Another study on city happiness found that residents are happier if they feel connected to their cities and neighborhoods and feel positively about the state of city services.
So wherever you live, make sure to get involved in your community for maximum happiness.
6. Listen to sad songs: They provide emotional release
How could sad songs make us happy? And why do we seek them out?
That’s the question researchers wanted to answer with a survey of 722 people from around the world.
They discovered that there are 4 main reasons we take comfort in melancholy songs:
- They allow us to drift off into imagination
- They might provide us catharsis (emotion regulation)
- They allow us to relate to a common emotion (empathy), and
- They’re divorced from our actual problems (no “real-life” implications)
Researchers determined that “listening to sad music can lead to beneficial emotional effects such as regulation of negative emotion and mood as well as consolation.”
7. Spend money on experiences, not items
Here’s one that’s easy to understand but might be tougher to fix.
We know that spending money on life experiences will make us happier than spending money on material things (and it does!) but we can’t seem to stop ourselves from choosing the wrong option.
That’s what a study in The Journal of Positive Psychology found as they surveyed people before and after they made purchases.
The series of studies concluded that we’re more likely to spend on items than experiences because we can quantify them more easily and we want to see the best value for our dollars.
However, they found that the study subjects reported that after they spent, experiences brought them greater well-being and they considered them to be a better use of money.
So if we can keep that in mind, it’s possible to have our cake and eat it, too—definitely something to be happy about!
8. Set tiny, attainable goals: Make someone smile
It might be cliché, but making someone happy will make you happy, too.
And science says the more specific you can be with your goal, the better.
University of Houston professor Melanie Rudd found that a group of people who were told to make someone smile felt both happier and more confident that they’d actually achieved their goal than a similar group who’d been told simply to make someone else happy.
Even more interesting: In a separate experiment, people wrongly predicted that going for the bigger goal would make them happier.
“If you can meet or exceed your expectations of achieving a goal, you will be happier than if you fall short of your expectations,” Rudd explained.
9. Look at beautiful things: Design makes us happy
Could looking at a beautiful object make you feel happier?
The smartphone company HTC conducted a study that says yes.
In a series of laboratory and online experiments, volunteers looked at and interacted with objects that fell into 3 categories: beautiful, functional, or both beautiful and functional.
Their reactions uncovered some interesting findings, like:
- Well-designed objects that are both beautiful and functional trigger positive emotions like calmness and contentment, reducing negative feelings like anger and annoyance by almost a third.
- Purely beautiful objects (not functional) reduce negative emotions by 29%, increasing a sense of calmness and ease.
Objects that were both beautiful and functional created an especially high level of emotional arousal:
In general, people feel happier looking at and using beautiful objects that work well.
10. Eat more fruits and veggies
We know being healthier makes us happy, but can carrots give you purpose?
I have to admit I didn’t expect such a direct link between happiness and eating a lot of fruits and vegetables as researchers in New Zealand report.
Their 13-day study of 405 people who kept food diaries showed that people who ate more fruits and vegetables reported higher than average levels of curiosity, creativity, and positive emotions, as well as engagement, meaning, and purpose.
Even more interestingly, participants often scored higher on all of those scales on days when they ate more fruits and vegetables.
“These findings suggest that fruit and vegetable intake is related to other aspects of human flourishing, beyond just feeling happy,” writes the research team.
Did you know the Spanish word for pomegranate is “grenade?” I didn’t know that either, but pomegranate is one of my favorite fruits. When I was a little girl, my mother would buy me a pomegranate now and again (these were not common where I grew up) because of the legend of Persephone. I was heavy into Greek and Roman mythology and she encouraged my explorations.
Grenada in named for the pomegranates. They grow everywhere in Grenada, and were in full fruit when we visited. After some of the rainy touring days we had, Grenada shone forth in warm sunshine and blue skies with perfect clouds for photo-taking. We toured the town, and then (dramatic pause) (hushed voice) we visited the Alhambra.
What I have loved about this journey is the intermingling of Arabic in the Spanish; Guadalquivir River “wadi al kebir”, Alhambra “al hamra”, and it really is very red. And it really is very beautiful, so very beautiful in glorious detail. I’m going to bore you with more photos than you ever wished to see because . . . well, I hate to be rude, but . . . it’s my blog. I love each and every photo.
This is our group, gathering around our guide to enter the Alhambra.
If this were a fabric, I would have a dress made of it. I loved the intricate intersection, and the blending of the blue and cream and brown.
This is my favorite photo, for any number of reasons, cats, light and shadow, intricate tracery on columns, etc. but it is also a reminder of a very strange occurrence. I had just finished taking this shot, hunched down for a low angle, when a young woman in a group of four came along and shoved others, and then me, out of the way. Literally, she took my arm and started to move me and said “we’re taking a group photo now.”
Normally, I tend to defer, but her arrogance, and her disregard for the feeling of others prickled me, and so I pulled my arm away and looked at her cooly, and said “as soon as I am done with my photo, I will move and you can take your shot. Or you can shoot it from another angle.” I don’t know why I did that, I am surprised at myself. I don’t like to cause trouble. But who has the right to shove others out of the way???
That is the memory this photo brings back.
Please look at this photo, not that it is anything special but because there are people in it. I want you to appreciate how really, really, very hard it was to take some of these photos without people in them. I had to wait and wait, sometimes, (gasp!) I even got separated from my group for a short time, in the interest of getting an unimpeded shot. We were there at a lovely time of the year, perfect weather, and we thought there would not be too many tourists. We were astonished, in Seville, in Cordoba, in Grenada just how many tourists there were.
And here is where AHI Travel did something really right. This is the last day of the tour, tomorrow we all disembark and head for the Malaga airport and from there, to places scattered around the world. Just a short walk from the Alhambra is a beautiful hotel, beautifully situated, the Alhambra Palace. We’ve made note of it because we intend to come back to Grenada, and we want to stay in this hotel. This is where we ate lunch.
Our group had a closed in verandah with a beautiful view. Lunch was served in courses, and each was carefully prepared, and delicious. Very very clever way to end the tours on a high note 🙂
The room was beautiful. The table service was beautiful.
The view was beautiful.
After the meal, we got back on the bus to head back for the ship. Once on board, we had a Smithsonian meeting and then another lecture and then dinner, and something happened that has not happened to me for a long time, I had to pack at the last minute. Our suitcases had to be outside our door before we went to bed so they could be loaded to go, very early the next morning, to the airport.
I was coming down with something. I felt hot and feverish, and my nose was running. All my life, I have had nightmares about last minute packing. I hate doing last-minute anything, I am a planner, I like having a certain amount of control over my life, even though it is an illusion, it is an illusion I work hard to maintain. How did this happen to me? How is it that I am packing at the last minute, feverish and anxious?
It all got done. Fortunately, there are a limited number of places you can put things. For some reason, I am not able to download all our boarding passes, so we have only the first ones and will have to get the rest at the airport. I know where my passport is (I never have found the one I lost somewhere in my office) and my tickets and somehow we are finished and all is well by bedtime. I just hate that feeling of being rushed; when I am rushed, I make mistakes.
Every now and then something good happens. There is a huge line in Malaga, but our new friends also have tickets that put us in another line, and we get through quickly, with no problems. We say goodbye, we’ve exchanged e-mail addresses, and we go our separate ways. We have time to relax.
We arrive in Paris barely on time, and it is a Sunday morning with long lines at security, and there is no way out, we have to stand in line. We watch one very elderly man, unsteady, but with a great sense of humor, cope as he has to go through the full-body scan. Even though it is a few days before the bombing, security is tight. The airport is a nightmare. We have no idea where our next gate is, and we are almost running, as it is already our boarding time and we are not there. We have to go down this hall and that, then down to some gate where we catch a bus, then from that bus to somewhere else where we get to our plane with five or ten minutes to spare. That is cutting it way to close for me, but I know by now that I am coming down with one of the world’s worst colds and I sleep all the way from Paris to Atlanta, waking up now and ten to drink some Pomegranate Pizazz with honey to make the cold go away.
Not only does the cold not go away – I very generously shared it with AdventureMan. We both felt so bad we were sleeping all the time and didn’t even notice the jet lag 🙂 so by the time we were well again, we were also sleeping on Pensacola time. As soon as we were well, we got the super-strong flu shots to protect ourselves from anything worse than we’ve just had. 🙂
It’s been so long since I’ve last talked with you. I’ve been off on a great adventure, and I want to tell you all about it, but I’ve been recovering from a bug I caught the last day of our trip (I was so generous; I shared it with AdventureMan). Today is the first day I could really face blogging, and I was inspired by a reading I received this morning from Richard Rohr, whose religion and spirituality seem to hit me where I live.
Thursday, November 12, 2015
Just as different ways of interpreting scripture and various types of truth (e.g., literal vs. mythic) are valuable for different purposes, so scientific theories have different applications while seeming to be paradoxical and irreconcilable. For example, we have the Newtonian theory of gravity, Einstein’s theory of relativity, and quantum theory. Physicists know that each of them is true, yet they don’t fit together and each is limited and partial. Newtonian mechanics can’t model or predict the behavior of massive or quickly moving objects. Relativity does this well, but doesn’t apply to very, very small things. Quantum mechanics succeeds on the micro level. But we don’t yet have an adequate theory for understanding very small, very energetic, very massive phenomenon, such as black holes. Scientists are still in search of a unified theory of the universe.
Perhaps the term “quantum entanglement” names something that we have long intuited, but science has only recently observed. Here is the principle in layperson’s terms: in the world of quantum physics, it appears that one particle of any entangled pair “knows” what is happening to another paired particle–even though there is no known means for such information to be communicated between the particles, which are separated by sometimes very large distances. Could this be what is happening when we “pray” for somebody?
Scientists don’t know how far this phenomenon applies beyond very rare particles, but quantum entanglement hints at a universe where everything is in relationship, in communion, and also where that communion can be resisted (“sin”). Both negative and positive entanglement in the universe matter, maybe even ultimately matter. Prayer, intercession, healing, love and hate, heaven and hell, all make sense on a whole new level. Almost all religions have long pointed to this entanglement. In Paul’s letter to the Romans (14:7) he says quite clearly “the life and death of each of us has its influence on others.” The Apostles’ Creed states that we believe in “the communion of saints.” There is apparently a positive inner connectedness that we can draw upon if we wish.
Ilia Delio says, “If reality is nonlocal, that is, if things can affect one another despite distance or space-time coordinates, then nature is not composed of material substances but deeply entangled fields of energy; the nature of the universe is undivided wholeness.”  I’ve often described this phenomenon as an experiential “force field” or the Holy Spirit. In Trinitarian theology, the Holy Spirit is foundationally described as the field of love between the Father and the Son. One stays in this positive force field whenever one loves, cares, or serves with positive energy. I know that when people stand in this place, when they rest in love as their home base, they become quite usable by God, and their lives are filled with “quantum entanglements” that result in very real healings, forgiveness, answered prayers, and new freedom for those whom they include in the force field with them. I have too many examples here to list or to even remember. Jung called these events “synchronicities”; secular folks call them coincidences; the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, who taught me, called them Divine Providence.
On the other end of the spectrum there are people who carry death wherever they go, toward all those they can pull into their negative force field. (Is this hell?) I know that when I regress into any kind of intentional negativity toward anything or anybody, even in my mind, I am actually hurting and harming them. Etty Hillesum, a young imprisoned Jew in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam, says straightforwardly, “Each of us moves things along in the direction of war every time we fail to love.” And if so, it would surely follow that each of us moves things along in the direction of healing each time we choose to love. Each time it is a conscious choice and a decision, at least to some degree. Grace and guilt both glide on such waves of desire and intention.
Consciousness, desire, and intentionality matter. Maybe they even create and destroy worlds. We cannot afford to harbor hate or hurt or negativity in any form. We must deliberately choose to be instruments of peace–first of all in our minds and hearts. Such daring simplicity is quantum entanglement with the life and death of all things. We largely create both heaven and hell. God is not “in” heaven nearly as much as God is the force field that allows us to create heaven through our intentions and actions. Once quantumly entangled, it seems we are entangled forever, which is why we gave such finality and urgency to our choices for life (heaven) or death (hell).
This is such a “WOW” for me; I feel I can feed and nourish myself on this meditation for a long time. Google Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation to sign up to receive his daily e-mail meditation.
Yesterday, as Zakat was sitting on my desk in the sunlight, watching cars go by, butterflies in the garden, whatever catches a cat’s eye, a ray of sunlight caught his skull and I saw tiny hairs covering his scars. I whooped for joy! Coming to us, one of his most distinguishing features was his scars, almost entirely circling his face.
We have had many cats through the years, most of which have stayed with us for 11 – 14 years. We have loved them all, but AdventureMan and I agree that this is the sweetest cat we have ever owned. There isn’t a mean bone in his body. He exists to love and be loved. Best of all, he is truly AdventureMan’s cat. He follows him around like a dog, sleeps touching him at night, and yearns, always, to be in his lap. I don’t mind. It is so adorable how much he loves AdventureMan.
The veterinarian, who treated him before we ever knew him, had told us it might happen. He said Zakat was in such poor condition that he hesitated to treat him, it almost felt as if it would be kinder to just put him down. His face was so infected, it was huge, distorted and swollen. But as painful as it must have been, Zakat was always a sweet cat. By the time we got him, his face was healed, the infection gone, but the scars were still fresh and raw.
We continue to go to the same vet. He has become an important member of our community of friends. He sees us often. Zakat is also FiV positive, which means he has the cat equivalent of AIDs. He is immuno-deficient, susceptible to infections other cats could easily fight off. In contrast to our sweet Pete, the Qatari Cat, we have to make sure Zakat eats; he needs good body weight to help him through the fevers and infections.
We got him through a good friend, who rescues abandoned and stray cats, neuters them, gets their shots and houses them while they search for a good home for these cats. We give thanks for their mission on a daily basis; one of the things they did was teach Zakat to take pills. It’s a good thing. He takes pills almost every day.
He pretty much stays on anti-biotics, so we also give him pro-biotics, to help his digestive system. He gets fevers. His skin breaks out in huge patches of itchy oozing pustules, which drive him crazy. He looses teeth. Sometimes one eye gets red.
Two weeks ago, the vet gave him a shot of cortisone to help with the itching, and a new course of antibiotics and pro-biotics. It was like a miracle. Within a week, there was no compulsive licking, no more outbreaks, no teeth loss, and this scars are starting to fuzz over. His coat is gorgeous. We are learning to dance for joy for every small gain, but this gain is monumental. For all appearances and behavior, he is a perfectly normal, healthy cat. We’ve had five wonderful days. It’s amazing just how good “normal” can be.
We know it won’t last, but for five days he has been totally well, thanks be to God.
One of the reasons I wanted to try the FitBit when I started, over a year ago, was to be able to keep a record of my sleep. What is startling to me is that I sleep a lot better than I think I do – most nights. I thought I slept great last night, woke up feeling rested, only to discover that FitBit tells me that I was restless and awake several times last night. I don’t remember that at all:
There is a part of me that tells myself FitBit is only a machine and can be wrong, and another part of myself that tells me we don’t always perceive ourselves and our actions impartially.
Today is a short day, and AdventureMan gets to sleep in. We’ve hit the road hard for two days, and today we have a rainbow at the end of the day, we get to hit the hot springs and we have massages scheduled, just the ticket for a man with a bad cold. Coughing makes his back ache, and he loves a good massage.
There is also no point starting too early because . . . it’s still snowing.
We hit the road around nine-thirty, following our GoogleMap instructions. Neither of us say anything when we end up in a mountainous area, very snowy, and the temperature keeps dropping. It is snowy. And icy.
Fortunately, we aren’t in the mountain pass more than half an hour, although it seems like forever, and then we are once again on flatlands, heading for I-70. We land in Colorado Junction for a quick lunch – which, due to extremely slow service, turned out to be a much longer lunch than we had intended – and then on to Glenwood Springs, a sweet resort town with a natural hot spring, very sulphuric, lots of mountains, lots of restaurants, and, as it turns out, lots of tourists.
We checked in, and headed to Splendor Mountain for a couple’s massage (wonderful) and then to the springs. The Glenwood Springs has several pools, and it is $20 per person entry during the day, less if you go at night. The $20 gives you all day coming and going, but we found that half an hour was enough for us – there were too many people! There is a ledge around the largest pool where people sit, and most of the seats were taken. People walked up and down the length of the pool. Too many people!
The sulphuric water comes into this pool and is mixed with more water for the pools – this water, pure from the springs, also has a very strong smell that many people can’t stomach, although it is supposed to be very good for your health.
Our beds at the Best Western Antler Lodge were lodge-y, I love a lodge look:
This hotel is within walking distance of the Splendor Mountain Spa, the Glenwood Springs pools and surrounded by many restaurants. This is the breakfast room: