Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Happiness Project

The Happiness Project

I attended a YWCA Women in Leadership Luncheon on Wed, (I am a past winner). The speaker was
Gretchen Rubin, the author of The Happiness Project  or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun (Harper; 1 edition, December, 2009). She was kind enough to give each of us a copy of her new book, Happier at Home: Kiss More, Jump More, Abandon a Project, Read Samuel Johnson, and My Other Experiments in the Practice of Everyday Life ( Harmony;1 edition, September, 2012).

I have been reading it and like it quite a bit. Of course, I was reminded of something I emphasize strongly in my teaching these days: what if our actual job is to help these kids to be happy?

But aren’t we supposed to be making them behave better? Ms, Rubin speaks to that in her discussion of whether it is selfish to pay attention to one’s own happiness:
“I sided with the ancient philosophers and modern scientists who argue that working to be happier is a worthy goal. According to Aristotle, “Happiness is the meaning and purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.” Epicurious wrote: “We must exercise ourselves in the things that bring us happiness, since, if that be present, we have everything, and, if that be absent, all are actions are directed towards obtaining it.” Contemporary research shows that happy people are more altruistic, more productive, more helpful, more likeable, more creative, more resilient, more interested in others, friendlier and healthier. Happy people make better friends, colleagues and citizens. …

I knew it was certainly easier for me to be good when I was happy. I was more patient, more forgiving, more energetic, more lighthearted, and more generous. “(the Happiness Project, Getting Started)
So I guess happiness is a worthwhile goal for our kids as well.

Ms. Rubin has created Eight Splendid Truths about Happiness.  Here are some I find particul;arily relevant to our work:
Second Splendid Truth
One of the best ways to make
yourself happy is to make other people happy;

Hence the importance of providing ways for our kids to give to others…
Fifth Splendid Truth
I can build a happy life only on the foundation of my own nature.

Do we try to help our kids be their best selves, or to be someone they are not? What if Leslie is withdrawn and loves to read and is writing a novel- do we insist that participating in group therapy is the only way she can heal?

Sixth Splendid Truth
The only person I can change is myself.

Do we try to impose change on our kids, or do we create an environment in which they feel safe enough to change?

Ms. Rubin has also created her own list of the Secrets of Adulthood. Yes, she loves lists. Here’s some we might consider if or how we teach to our kids: (My comments in parentheses)
  • Outer order contributes to inner calm. (Important that we realize how outer order represents inner lack of calm, and  actions can change feelings.)
  • The opposite of a great truth is also true. (DBT dialectic)
  • You manage what you measure. (Tracking change)
  • By doing a little bit each day, you can get a lot accomplished.
  • People don’t notice your mistakes and flaws as much as you think.
  • Try not to let yourself get too hungry.
  • It’s okay to ask for help.
  • You can choose what you do; you can’t choose what you LIKE to do.
  • Happiness doesn’t always make you feel happy.
  • What you do EVERY DAY matters more than what you do ONCE IN A WHILE.
  • You don’t have to be good at everything.
  • Soap and water removes most stains.
  • It’s important to be nice to EVERYONE.
  • You know as much as most people.
  • Eat better, eat less, exercise more.
  • Houseplants and photo albums are a lot of trouble.
  • If you’re not failing, you’re not trying hard enough.

Interesting, any thoughts? Has anyone else read these books? If so, any ideas about connecting them with our work or ourselves as treaters?
I have already written about what we might mean by a happier child in a treatment program, I’ll have to go back and relate with this. Stand by for further reflection.

On another topic, I am thinking of the skill of being able to do non-mood related behavior. That is, the ability to do something even when you don’t feel like it, in the service of a greater goal. All of us do this well and less well at different times. How do we learn to do this? How can we teach our kids? Please share any ideas you have.



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