Resolve to be happy

My birthday is in August, which seems like a long time ago by now. But I’m still remembering my birthday with mixed emotions–with joy, but also with great sadness.
One of my birthday traditions is to get together with three long-time friends. Ever since retirement, we have gone out to lunch together on our respective birthdays.
We always exchange gifts–often flowers, dark chocolate (especially for me), and sometimes books.
One of my 2010 birthday gifts was a book from my good friend, Cindy, entitled “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.”
Cindy knows I have to write a column every week and she thought this book would be a good one. And she was right!
That’s the joyful part.
But the incredibly sad part is that when I called Cindy to set up the date for her December birthday gathering, she said she wouldn’t be able to come.
Cindy, who lives in a sizeable city, is comfortable driving around the city, but no longer is comfortable driving on the interstate.
So ends a long-time tradition. Phone calls, cards, and flowers will have to do for now.
Who wouldn’t be sad!
Fortunately, I still have “The Happiness Project” to read and scrutinize.
Gretchen Rubin begins her book with: “I’d always vaguely expected to outgrow my limitations. One day, I’d stop twisting my hair . . . I’d remember my friends’ birthdays, I’d learn Photoshop . . . I’d spend more time laughing and having fun.”
But one day never came, and suddenly Rubin realized she was in danger of wasting her life. So she asked herself, “What do I want from life, anyway?”
After a little thought, she determined that she wanted to be happy. Thus began her one-year “Happiness Project.”
Rubin started by researching what the ancient and current thinkers had to say about happiness.
Aristotle (384-322 B.C.) seemed to speak for all the great thinkers when he said, “Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.”
And 17th-century philosopher Blaise Pascal said very succinctly, “All men seek happiness!”
Knowing she wanted to be happy, Rubin asked herself what she could do to enhance her happiness.
Since there are 12 months in a year, she came up with 12 resolutions—one to work on each month.
The year begins with “Boost Energy” as we strive for more vitality during the month of January. Other resolutions are “Aim Higher,” “Be Serious about Play,” “Contemplate the Heavens,” and “Keep a Contented Heart.”
People seem to have different levels of inborn happiness, but Rubin found that genetics accounts for only 50 percent of happiness. Life circumstances account for another 10-20 percent.
That means you can choose to boost your happiness level by a whopping 30-40 percent.
Rubin challenges us to follow her pattern. I’m taking the challenge and invite you to do the same. Early in January, 2011, we’ll examine boosting energy.
In the meantime, think about what would enhance your happiness in the coming year.

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