Why you should try to coax yourself into a good mood before going to the dentist.

I just finished a very interesting short book, Thanks!, by Robert Emmons, one of the leading experts on gratitude.

However, I found one of his most interesting observations to be, not about gratitude, but about the connection between happiness and pain.

It’s well known that physical damage doesn’t automatically result in a certain amount of pain. Other factors influence how much pain we feel.

So it turns out that, along with lots of other reasons to be happy, being happy alleviates the severity of pain.

Emmons explains that, because he knows this, he does three things before going to the dentist:
 he takes two aspirin
 he avoids caffeine for four hours before his appointment
 he tries to put himself in a good mood.

Feeling blue heightens feelings of pain and boosts arousal levels, while feeling cheerier makes it easier to withstand pain.

I can’t say I’m actually looking forward to going to the dentist or some other painful appointment, but I’m looking forward to having an opportunity to test out this strategy.

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Life Learning Today is a terrific site, with a treasure trove of information on all sorts of useful subjects.

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New to the Happiness Project? Consider subscribing to my RSS feed: Subscribe to this blog’s feed. Or sign up to get email updates in the box at the top righthand corner.
If you’re starting your own happiness project, please join the Happiness Project Group on Facebook to swap ideas. It’s easy; it’s free.

This Saturday: lots of happiness quotations from Eugene Delacroix.

I just finished reading The Journal of Eugene Delacroix. It’s astonishingly interesting.

Delacroix (1798-1863) is famous as a painter, but I was struck by many of his observations about the nature of happiness. I couldn’t pick just one.

“I made some good resolutions today. If my memory fails, these pages may at least reproach me for forgetting them – a folly that would only serve to make me unhappy.”

“What moves men of genius, or rather, what inspires their work, is not new ideas, but their obsession with the idea that what has already been said is still not enough.”

“At least admire the great virtues, even if you are not strong enough to be truly virtuous yourself!”

“When one has money one feels no joy in possessing it, but when money is lacking one misses the enjoyments it provides.”

“The Natural History Museum is open to the public on Tuesdays and Fridays. Elephant, rhinoceros, hippopotamus; extraordinary animals! Rubens rendered them marvelously. I had a feeling of happiness as soon as I entered the place and the further I went the stronger it grew. I felt my whole being rise above commonplaces and trivialities and the petty worries of my daily life. What an immense variety of animals and species of different shapes and functions!”

“I hope that I shall long continue to keep a record of my impressions. I shall often realize the advantage of noting down my impressions in this way; they grow deeper as one recalls them.”

“You increase your self-respect when you feel you’ve done everything you ought to have done, and if there is nothing else to enjoy, there remains that chief of pleasures, the feeling of being pleased with oneself. A man gets an immense amount of satisfaction from the knowledge of having done good work and of having made the best use of his day, and when I am in this state I find that I thoroughly enjoy my rest and even the mildest forms of recreation.”

“One always has to spoil a picture a little in order to finish it.”

“It is the same with ruins, which appear all the more impressive because of the missing portions; their details are worn away or defaced and, as with buildings under construction, you see only rudiments and vague suggestions of mouldings and ornamentation. A finished building encloses the imagination within a circle and prevents it from straying behond its limits. Perhaps the only reason why the sketch for a work gives so much pleasure is that each beholder can finish it as he chooses.”

“Can any man say with certainty that he was happy at a particular moment of time which he remembers as being delightful? Remembering it certainly makes him happy, because he realizes how happy he could have been, but at the actual moment whenthe alleged happiness was occurring, did he really feel happy? He was like a man owning a piece of ground in which, unknown to himself, a treasure lay buried. You would not call such a man rich, neither would I call happy the man who is so without realizing it…”

“How strange painting is, it delights us with representations of objects that are not pleasing in themselves!”

“A man does not work only for the sake of producing, but to set a value on his time. We feel more satisfied with ourselves and with our day if we have stirred up our minds and made a good start, or have finished a piece of work.”

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There’s a HUGE amount of great information at Etavitom.com. That’s “motivate” spelled backwards, which is a clue to what you’ll find on the site.

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New to the Happiness Project? Consider subscribing to my RSS feed: Subscribe to this blog’s feed. Or sign up to get email updates in the box at the top righthand corner.
If you’re starting your own happiness project, please join the Happiness Project Group on Facebook to swap ideas. It’s easy; it’s free.

It’s Friday: time to think about YOUR Happiness Project. This week: Improve your morning.

I’m working on my Happiness Project, and you should have one, too! Everyone’s project will look different, but it’s the rare person who can’t benefit. Join in — no need to catch up, just jump in now. Each Friday’s post will help you think about your own happiness project.

This week’s assignment: improve your morning.

If you start the morning in a harried, angry, or frustrated mood, it’s hard to recover your happiness — so it’s very helpful to try to keep the first hour of your day happy and serene.

A friend of mine works full-time and has two young sons. She told me, “For a long time, our mornings were awful — lots of crabbiness and procrastination, me yelling at everyone to hurry up. Then it hit me: I don’t get to spend that much time with my kids during the week, and a big part of that time is during the morning. I made changes so that it became good family time.”

For her, the secret was to get up earlier. She hated to lose thirty minutes of sleep, but that extra half hour made the difference between a relaxed, cheerful morning and a rushed, difficult morning.

What are some other ways to improve the morning?

The most important step actually happens the night before. Turn off the light! I’m good at putting my kids to sleep at a decent hour, but not as good about doing it for myself. It’s tempting to stay up late, to enjoy the peace and quiet, but 6:30 a.m. comes fast, and being overtired makes the morning much tougher.

Also the night before, I practice the “ten-minute tidy-up.” Before I go to bed each night (mostly), I spend ten minutes putting stuff away. It doesn’t take long, but putting away the top layer of clutter makes the morning feel more serene.

As goofy as it sounds, one of my resolutions is to “Sing in the morning.” It’s hard both to sing and to stay grouchy, and it sets a happy tone for everyone.

A friend of mine started each day in a bad mood, because she had to face such bad traffic on her way to work, until getting books-on-tape has completely transformed her day. Now she actually looks forward to being in her car.

If your morning doesn’t take you outside, try to add a little sunlight to your morning. Walk around the block before picking up the newspaper, park further away from school or work. Bright light will boost your alertness, and research suggests that light stimulates brain chemicals that improve mood. Sunlight has a particularly powerful effect first thing in the morning.

What else? How else do folks keep their mornings running smoothly? It’s worth the effort to pay some attention here, because the morning sets the tone for the whole day – for everyone.

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Gimundo reports — Who knew? Denmark is the happiest place on earth. I’m a bit skeptical of this study, but it’s very interesting to read about.

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New to the Happiness Project? Consider subscribing to my RSS feed: Subscribe to this blog’s feed. Or sign up to get email updates in the box at the top righthand corner.
If you’re starting your own happiness project, please join the Happiness Project Group on Facebook to swap ideas. It’s easy; it’s free.

This Wednesday — Quiz: How mindful are you? I’m not very.

Every Wednesday is Tip (or Quiz) Day.
This Wednesday – Quiz: How mindful are you?

As preparation for my Happiness Project, I did a lot of self-examination to figure out what goals to work toward. I knew that one quality I needed to cultivate was mindfulness – that is, my open, conscious awareness in the present.

And I have been trying to be more mindful.

But it wasn’t until just yesterday, when I read this questionnaire, that I realized just how mindless I was.

This questionnaire, the “Mindful Attention Awareness Scale,” appears in an interesting paper by Kirk Warren Brown and Richard M. Ryan, The Benefits of Being Present: Mindfulness and its Role in Psychological Well-Being.

I can absent-mindedly report that I answered “yes” to every single question, except #13.

Zoikes!

The more often you answer “ no,” more mindfully you live. How do you score?

1. I could be experiencing some emotion and not be conscious of it until some time later.

2. I break or spill things because of carelessness, not paying attention, or thinking of something else.

3. I find it difficult to stay focused on what’s happening in the present.

4. I tend to walk quickly to get where I’m going without paying attention to what I experience along the way.

5. I tend not to notice feelings of physical tension or discomfort until they really grab my attention.

6. I forget a person’s name almost as soon as I’ve been told it for the first time.

7. It seems I am “running on automatic” without much awareness of what I’m doing.

8. I rush through activities without being really attentive to them.

9. I get so focused on the goal I want to achieve that I lose touch with what I am doing right now to get there.

10. I do jobs or tasks automatically, without being aware of what I’m doing.

11. I find myself listening to someone with one ear, doing something else at the same time.

12. I drive places on “automatic pilot” and then wonder why I went there.

13. I find myself preoccupied with the future or the past.

14. I find myself doing things without paying attention.

15. I snack without being aware that I’m eating.

Mindfulnss can bring many benefits. It brings clarity and vividness to present experience. It may help people end unhealthy habits and patterns. It can enhance a sense of well-being and calm troubled spirits.

This questionnaire is also useful because its questions suggest specific areas for improvement. I’m going to try to walk more mindfully; eat more mindfully; listen more single-mindedly; and not multi-task.

My Resolutions Chart will need an update!

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I was looking for a particular Louis Armstrong quotation about jazz, and I found this terrific site, Out of the Way, dedicated to jazz quotations. I spent a blissful twenty minutes mindfully enjoying it.

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New to the Happiness Project? Consider subscribing to my RSS feed: Subscribe to this blog’s feed. Or sign up to get email updates in the box at the top righthand corner.
If you’re starting your own happiness project, please join the Happiness Project Group on Facebook to swap ideas. It’s easy; it’s free.

Feedblitz weirdness?

Some of you get daily emails from Feedblitz with the latest Happiness Project posts.

Have you recently started seeing strange characters appearing in the place of punctuation? If so, when? I’ve heard from just a few people that this has happened, and I’m trying to figure out if the problem is widespread.

If you have a sec, please post a comment below so I can try to get a fix on the scope of the problem.

Does anyone have any idea what might be the cause of this sort of thing?

Sorry about this — I know it’s maddening to see those crazy characters dotting the screen.

Thanks!