Several recent studies about happiness are quite joy-affirming…
A few highlights:
1. Exercise more – 7 minutes might be enough (to increase happiness and reduce depression).
2. Sleep more – you’ll be less sensitive to negative emotions.
3. Move closer to work – a short commute is worth more than a big house. Two Swiss economists who studied the effect of commuting on happiness found that [having a bigger house or better job] could not make up for the misery created by a long commute.
4. Spend time with friends and family – don’t regret it on your deathbed: “An increase in the level of social involvements is worth up to an extra £85,000 a year in terms of life satisfaction. Actual changes in income, on the other hand, buy very little happiness.”
5. Go outside: “One study found that spending 20 minutes outside in good weather not only boosted positive mood, but broadened thinking and improved working memory.”
6. Help others – 100 hours a year is the magical number: “we scientists have found that doing a kindness produces the single most reliable momentary increase in well-being of any exercise we have tested.”
7. Practice smiling – it can alleviate pain.
8. Plan a trip – but don’t take one: “In the study, the effect of vacation anticipation boosted happiness for eight weeks. After the vacation, happiness quickly dropped back to baseline levels for most people.”
9. Meditate – rewire your brain for happiness.
10. Practice gratitude – increase both happiness and life satisfaction.
I’ve always understood these things instinctually. In fact, I’ve experienced all ten points firsthand, whether it’s exercising to sweat out lingering anxiety or feeling the rush of pleasure planning a trip. In the end, you gotta follow your bliss whenever you can. That’s why I decided to take part in a joint photo exhibit, which will be up at the Urban Gallery in Toronto for all of November. Almost more important than having my work hang on a wall and be seen, was co-hosting the reception, which allowed my friends and family to mingle and catch up. That made me happiest of all. Selling the work was truly secondary.
So with the reception over, another experience is fast approaching: this week, I ditch the office and the city and head off with a small crew to photograph, film, and write about Malaysia for Outpost Magazine (Click here to follow the journey online). The bliss of travel, of course, has a price, which is that I have to leave my little family behind. When the news came that I was going, I was so excited but was also met with this sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach about leaving my son behind. I know how fast things move with kids’ development, and I don’t want to miss any of it. I worry about Sevan being pissed at me and guilty that I’m leaving my wife to care for our son all alone. As a friend said, “Just make sure to bring your wife a nice gift.” Words of wisdom. I know these feelings will pass and that the experience will be worth any short term turmoil.
Finally, travel always reminds me of my mortality. Before leaving, I’m often visited by a feeling that I’m not going to make it home. I was visited by this fear when word came that the Malaysia trip was on. But while riding my bike to work, dodging car doors and street car tracks and pedestrians playing chicken with me, I realized that riding my bike in Toronto was probably more dangerous than travelling around Malaysia. Still, for peace of mind, I updated my Will and made sure my executor knew where all my insurance policies were…
As the Middle Eastern proverb goes, “Have trust in God, but tie your camel.”