Finding things you enjoy doing, and then doing them, has long been a therapeutic intervention that people have engaged in whether or not they are formally “in therapy.”
This New York Times article gives a nice overview of research on what is called “pleasant events” in DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy). Will Storr reviews how engaging in projects (or hobbies, or pleasant events, etc.) can create a sense of happiness. Happiness in this sense is definitely the type in which we find joy in the journey and realize our happiness in day to day living rather than as some far-off end goal.
After you check out the above wonderful article on pleasant events, think about this:
A) List three things that you like to DO that bring you a sense of satisfaction, accomplishment or dare I say happiness. Then actually SCHEDULE TIME to do them regularly.
B) If you can’t come up with three things, start practicing. Pay attention to how you feel when you do things. You may stumble upon what you enjoy!
I experienced this kind of discovery a couple summers ago when I was bottling tomatoes. After I canned about 20 quarts I felt a deep sense of satisfaction. I was surprised at how much happiness I found in simply bottling tomatoes. It seemed crazy to me that the miserable process of cutting up tomatoes in a steaming hot kitchen in the summer would actually result in so much pleasure, but it did!
Since then I have been careful to pay attention to feeling satisfaction in doing various things. I notice that I find a lot of pleasure in making nearly anything homemade (I made cottage cheese a couple weeks ago and I loved that experience even though it only lasted about 12 minutes, including eating!)
Alternatively, some of you may find a lot of pleasure in NOT making things from scratch!
I also want to point out the huge mind-body connection here between feeling lonely or isolated and physiological stress (detailed in the article). The antidote to this kind of misery and stress appears to be the PRACTICE of happiness, which is termed eudaemonic happiness. In other words, doing something satisfying rather than simply going after pleasure is eudaemonic. Think knitting vs. hot chocolate, or building furniture vs. watching a movie. Living happiness through behaviors is the key. And I think it’s about the doing, not so much about the finishing. Engage in projects that are meaningful and that you feel relatively capable of doing. Then check your results.
**What projects do you do that result in experiencing happiness?**