When I was in college, my brilliant friend, Patty, had this thing called a happiness book (at least I think that’s what it was called). It was a blank book, actually, where she asked everyone that lived on the floor of our college dorm to write down their own “happiness lists.”
Empathy came easy to Patty. Patty is someone who, if she saw someone crying, would immediately provide comfort. Her own eyes would often well up with tears when she saw others hurting. She was just a beloved person, that Patty. Although I can’t speak for Patty in terms of specifically why she asked us to make our own happiness lists, it is no surprise to me that she cared enough about others’ wellbeing that she wanted her friends to know how to make themselves happy.
And in college, there was a lot of heartbreak. I went through a sad breakup with a boy my first year, as did many girls on the floor. We cried together, we lifted each other up, and we made up funny games/inside jokes to make each other laugh. In that close community of Miller dorm, second floor, we helped each other grow up during our first year away from home.
The other day, something happened which caused me to think about this happiness book. An acquaintance of mine was naming the simple pleasures in life that cause her to feel happy; meaning, the things in her physical environment or space that cause her to feel joy or peace. She said that she loves an orange blossom scented essential oil and a specific hand cream–that these are simple things that make her happy. So when she’s having “a moment,” she smells her essential oil or rubs the hand cream onto her hands.
At first, I was standing there thinking, “Seriously? You gotta be freaking kidding me…A hand cream? A cream makes you happy? A cream brings you peace? Like, you can just rub a cream on your hands when you’re sad and all of a sudden you’ll feel as happy as a clam?” 😐
Upon pondering this further, though, I realized this seemed so bizarre to me only because of how far removed I actually have become from simple pleasures. I’m a rather hyper, fidgety person by nature. Self-soothing does not come naturally to me. Granted, when I feel down, I do have a couple of tools I utilize to bring me up. These tools, however, involve DOING things. Because I am, by nature, A DOER OF THINGS.
When I feel upset, for example, I typically feel a strong desire to go and exercise–like go to the gym and lift the most heavy-ass weights that I can or go for a run and run until I can’t run anymore. (And I actually really dislike running until I’m doing it.) Another thing I do is go to one of those $25 foot massage parlors in town and pay someone to rub my feet. 😳
However, sometimes I can’t exercise and I can’t just go and get a massage. Sometimes I’m at work and something stressful happens and it’s not like I can just get up and leave. Sometimes it’s time for my daughter to go to bed and she’s acting like I’m the worst mother in the world, and I can’t just leave the house and go for a run.
And then I thought of Patty’s happiness book and I realized how genius that is. I realized that I need an actual physical toolkit or an accessible written list of things that make me feel happy, so I can go to it when I feel angry or scared or annoyed.
So that’s what I’m trying to do right now–think upon my damn happy list. And so far I’ve only come up with three things besides exercising and foot massages:
- A rose water perfume/oil smell because it reminds me of my grandmother who gave the best hugs to me when I was a little girl.
- Velvet cloth. I don’t have a reason for this other than it might possibly remind me of my grandmother as well. She had a velvet rocker. Can you see my obsession with my grandmother? 😱
- Oranges and lemons and grapefruits, because I think they taste and smell fresh and juicy.
Okay, so that just felt weird and incredibly vulnerable to me to share these things with you. But now I’m on my way to figuring out more things on my list.
And in the meantime, I’m going to carry a grapefruit and cut off a piece of velvet from my daughter’s baby dress, and buy some old lady rose perfume to carry with me everywhere I go. Every time someone says something mean to me, I’m going to pull out that velvet cloth and touch it. I may even hold it out in front of my body, to act as a shield that protects me from the mean person. (I totally want to draw a picture of me doing this, but I’m too tired. 😂) And every time an unexpected stressor occurs, I will take my perfume out of my purse and start spraying it all over my entire body and into the air within six feet around me. And every time I feel anxious about something, I’ll start biting into my grapefruit. I won’t even bother to peel it. (I’ll peel it with my own teeth, perhaps.) And everyone will think I’m super wacko but I don’t care, because I’m pretty sure all these things would actually make me happy.
Cheers to our happiness lists.