Feminist Friday Post: “Happier,” by Vince Bowhay

What are the benefits of being happier? Just to share a few, people who are more positive:

  • Have 50% fewer heart attacks
  • Are less likely to catch the flu
  • Are less depressed and anxious
  • Sleep better and more done at work and at home
  • Learn faster

This has been a rough year for me. A promotion has led me to doing two jobs for a little over eight months. I’ve sat chained to a desk, mostly because of the pressure I’ve put on myself to meet my own deadlines, which has resulted in a diminished personal life, less connection with the people I love, and a 30 pound weight gain. Two days ago I was at a reunion where my best friend referred to someone else as his best friend, a new low.

My journey back to “happy” began about a month ago. I noticed that I didn’t want to get out of bed on time.  Words like “hate” and “ugh” were creeping into my vocabulary.  It’s especially easy to judge your happiness level by re-reading old text messages. I would find that at moments of heightened stress I was making trips to Starbucks one to three times a day. My work trash can became a who’s who of candy bar companies and soda bottles.

Why am I sharing this personal battle going on in my life right now?  Life is full of ups and downs, which is normal, but chronic unhappiness can lead to depression.  Since women constitute 52% of student affairs professionals and account for 57% of our student population, it is especially important to have this conversation with the women in our lives.

I encourage everyone to evaluate things that are giving them bliss or taking it away. How are you  ensuring happy moments each days?  What are you doing to sustain your soul? Well, like everything else in the world, there is an app for that.  It’s called Happier, it’s free and it has helped me.  They have found that “focusing on the positive and sharing good things with people you care about makes you happier and healthier.”  Makes complete sense, but someone needed to point it out to me.

I like this application because its basis is easy to understand and practical. Even if you don’t choose to download this free app, the ideas are simple enough to incorporate into your daily life. Their FAQ states:

A happy moment can be anything in your day that’s made you smile, like catching up with an old friend, hearing a song you love or getting a hug from your kids. There’s no moment too small and, in fact, science shows that the smallest moments make us happier than big epic achievements.

We think it’s possible to find happy moments in every single day, including those “I want to hide under the covers everything is going wrong” days. And that’s because your happy moments can be tiny – from eating something you enjoy for breakfast to catching the train as it pulls in, getting an email from a friend, or a compliment from a colleague.

Several of my friends are already on there. But a lot more of my friends are doing this already by blogging or journaling positive things that happened over the day, typically before bed. Science has also shown that focusing on happier moments before bed will help you sleep through the night – so I’ve set an alarm to do all my happy reflecting before bed.  And guess what?  I’m happier.

For me, being happier has now become more about sharing moments (not things) with friends and family, because seeing them smile in turn makes me smile. It brings me joy to share in the triumphs of others. I’ve started writing five positive comments on Facebook photos or status updates that fill my newsfeed each day.  Happiness is contagious I’m told, so if you need someone to give you a pick-me-up, I am only a tweet away.

Vince Bowhay is the Assistant Director of the Memorial Union at Fort Hays State University. You can follow Vince on Twitter @VinceVassup

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