Thursday, August 14, 2014

Happiness and Simplicity (Addenda to Last Week's Blog)

Last week I wrote a blog article about the documentary "Tiny" and how the subjects of the film had found happiness by simplifying their lives. Since writing that blog post, I've continued to mull over the themes and ideas in the movie. And as I've continued thinking about these things, it just so happens that I've stumbled across a couple of related nuggets on the interwebs this week.

One of the inevitable questions that arises from pondering the happiness of living in what is roughly the size of a walk-in closet is "What is happiness, anyway?" I mean, this is something we all strive for and we are bombarded with advice throughout our lives about how to earn it or buy it or make it or find it, but what is happiness in the first place? Is it a state of being? An action? Is it even reasonable to believe it should be our default emotion?

An article shared by a pastor friend on facebook this week suggests we may have our assumptions about happiness all wrong. The article, titled "5 Scientific Reasons Your Idea of Happiness is Wrong," from can be found here. (Yes, I realize that isn't exactly a reputable news source, but, hey... internet.) Knowing your time is precious and attention is short (at least if you're like me), here's the Cliff's Notes version of the article: 1) for most of human history, it was assumed that happiness is like luck, meaning it just happened or it didn't, 2) you physically cannot feel happy for very long, and 3) having lots of possessions, having lots of choices, and making personal happiness a major goal in life all tend to decrease happiness.

The article's scientific advice for being happy? "[S]top worrying about being happy and instead divert your energy to nurturing the social bonds you have with other people." So stop thinking about myself and work at loving others? Why does that sound familiar? (All this reminded me of this great 10-minute TED talk by Michael Norton on "How to Buy Happiness." Hint: you can't spend it on yourself.)

The second nugget I found this week was a posting by a facebook friend who is decluttering her life through an online activity. There is a group on facebook that is challenging people to simplify their lives by going through closets and drawers and recycling, giving away, or throwing out at least one thing every day. There was a game element to it (something like electronics on Fridays or 12 things on the 12th), but I can't seem to find the official page anymore. I'm going to contact my friend for the name and I'll post it in the comments. (Or if anyone else knows what it is, please do the same.) It seemed like a happy coincidence to find that just days after writing my last blog article.

As for me, I haven't jumped whole hog onto the tiny house or trash something everyday band wagon yet, but I did take the initiative over the weekend to clean out my tupperware cabinet of mismatched or broken things. That felt like a big accomplishment and now I feel happy every time I open that cabinet. At least for a moment.

"Clap along if you know what happiness is to you." -Pharrell Williams, "Happy"

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