Meaningful Mondays: Happiness Revisited – Guest Post by Donna Connolly

Happiness revisited

 

I recently met  Donna Connolly from Retirement_Reflections and immediately knew that I wanted her to write a post about Happiness. I’ve only know Donna a short time but she is so upbeat and friendly that we ‘clicked’ straight away – although we live in different countries. That is what is so wonderful about blogging, you meet fabulous people from all over the world who become firm friends.

Donna has had a very interesting life and I would love you to check out her bio, website and social media links which are mentioned at the end of her post.

I know you are going to enjoy Donna’s take on Happiness Revisited.
Donna writes…..

Happiness Revisited

A warm thank you to Sue for inviting me to submit a guest post for her ‘May Month of Happiness’ series. To be totally honest, I hadn’t given this topic much thought for quite some time. Sure, I consider myself to be happy, but what does that really mean?

Happiness Challenge

A couple years back, when I was still working and living overseas, I took part in a social media ‘100 Days of Happiness Challenge’. Ironically, I recently found out that Sue had taken part in the same challenge, at approximately the same time!

When beginning that challenge, I found that research frequently defined seven key areas as often contributing to happiness.

• Close relationships with friends/family
• Actively engaged in meaningful activities
• Gratitude
• Caring for others
• Awareness of own strengths and virtues
• Regular sleep, exercise, and healthy diet
• Spiritual engagement and meaning.

Being an uber-nerd, I used the above seven points to make a ‘Happiness Chart.’ I categorized each of the one-hundred photos that I had posted into one or more of the above areas.

What did I discover? Many things!

My ‘Happiness Challenge’ served nicely as a life-snapshot (which was very cool to reflect upon) as well as a gratitude journal and a travelogue (as many of my posts took place over summer holidays). The majority of my posts focused on relationships with others (fifty-seven posts, featuring over one-hundred and eighteen different people).

Gratitude was also a frequent topic (forty-eight posts). Although I had fewer posts from the other categories, these areas are also very central to my life. They are simply more private and harder to post publicly.

Ultimately, my biggest takeaway was that I am extremely grateful to have the life that I have surrounded by such amazing people. I simply need to avoid getting too preoccupied with ‘stuff’ so that I do not lose sight of the joy all around me.

Sadly, I then put my ‘happiness research away’ and moved on to other things (including more ‘stuff’)!

The World’s Happiest Man

When Sue contacted me about this post, I immediately reviewed my past happiness challenge entries. They made me smile just looking at them! I also began to reread the happiness research.

Here, I discovered Matthieu Ricard. Ricard, a French intellectual turned Buddhist monk, took part in a twelve-year brain study on meditation. His brain scans revealed excessive activity in his left prefrontal cortex compared to the right side of his brain. Researchers concluded that this allowed Ricard an enormous capacity for happiness and a reduced tendency for negativity,

Such findings had never previously been reported in the neuroscience literature. Thus, dubbing Ricard “the world’s happiness man”.

Was Ricard’s advice in-line with the previous happiness research that I had done? Partly. His key recommendations centered upon the following:

  • Benevolence and altruism are key to happiness. However, not necessarily for the reasons that you might think. Ricard’s argument is that focusing on yourself all day is ‘stuffy’ and ‘exhausting.’ He adds that comparing yourself to others is the ‘happiness killer.’
  • Train your mind to focus on happy thoughts. Ricard believes that we all have the ability to have ‘lighter minds.’ He encourages that as little as fifteen to twenty minutes of meditation (or happy thinking) per day for two weeks can bring positive mental results. Just like athletes build up their strength and skill through their practice, Ricard suggests that we to can adopt this strategy for increasing our happiness. (Source 1, Source 2, Source 3.)

Happiness revisited

I don’t know about you, but the Chinese character for happiness (fu) has always reminded me of someone (gold) pushing a grocery cart (medium blue). A box of something (green) is falling into the cart followed by a loaf of bread (light blue). Turns out I was not that far off…at least in terms of groceries and full bellies!

The actual Chinese character represents happiness as a full stomach. When the mouth (aqua) is united (light blue) with a cultivated field (medium blue) we are blessed with the abundance of heaven (gold).

Hmmm, I am not sure where this fits into our research. Healthy diet? Spiritual engagement and meaning? Perhaps both!

What are your thoughts?

Have you found any of the suggestions in the ‘happiness research’ to be true for you?

What else would you add?

I look forward to connecting with you in the comment section for this post! And thanks again to Sue for providing this opportunity for me to participate with you at ‘Sizzling Toward Sixty!’

Meet Donna Connolly

Happiness Revisited

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53 thoughts on “Meaningful Mondays: Happiness Revisited – Guest Post by Donna Connolly

  1. Pingback: Meaningful Mondays: Happiness Revisited - Guest Post for Sizzling Towards 60 & Beyond - Retirement_Reflections

  2. Donna

    Hi, Leanne – Thanks for stopping by, reading and commenting. I also love Sue’s focus on happiness this month. I agree, it is a wonderful idea…and very contagious!

    Reply
  3. Sydney Shop Girl

    I love this post, Donna and thanks for writing it here. The Happiness Chart is a brilliant idea. I can relate to the need to have gratitude for all that I have been blessed with and to then put away the little things that might be consuming me.

    SSG xxx

    Reply
    1. Donna

      Hi, SSG – I must confess, your username made me instantly go and check out your blog. I love it! I have a son currently living in Singapore.There are always great connections wherever we look. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I greatly appreciate it!

      Reply
  4. Kate Crimmins

    Loved the Happiness Chart. Lately I’ve been reflecting on my life in general and there is so much to be happy about. It’s been a great run yet each day I spend way too much time on the flaws. I need to keep the big picture in mind at all time.

    Reply
    1. Sue Loncaric Post author

      Thanks for visiting Kate! Life can get in the way sometimes can’t it? However, as you say you need to keep the big picture in mind. Once we start focusing on the good in our lives we feel so much happier. Have a wonderful week. x

      Reply
    2. Donna

      Thanks for commenting here, Kate. You and Sydney Shop Girl have made my day. I had thought that the ‘Happiness Chart’ was too nerdy to share. But since I had done all that posting for the 100-day challenge, the tallying up was easy. The ‘Challenge’ helped reinforce me to look for the joy in even the average moment. The final ‘Chart’ overwhelmed me with the abundance of joy that I have in my life…and that was just a small sampling!

      Reply
  5. Karen Hume

    HI Donna,
    Great to read your guest post. All seven of the happiness categories you talked about make sense to me. Like you, I keep charts but unlike you, it hadn’t occurred to me to look at my blog posts to see what fits. That was a great idea and very revealing.
    Thanks for sharing the Chinese character for happiness. That was interesting.

    Reply
    1. Sue Loncaric Post author

      Hi Karen, thanks for visiting and leaving a comment for Donna. I enjoyed having her write a guest post for me and loved her idea of charts which I hadn’t really heard of before. Have a great week and hope you visit again.

      Reply
    2. Donna

      Hi, Karen – Thanks so much for popping over to Sue’s site and leaving a comment here. You’re right. Examining my blog posts to see how they fit into the happiness categories was very revealing. Realtors say, “location, location, location!” My posts said, “relationships, relationships, relationships!”

      Reply
    1. Sue Loncaric Post author

      Hi Jill, thanks for visiting and I’m so pleased you enjoyed Donna’s post. I’ve actually just started a writing challenge in April – A Sentence A Day. It is fun looking back through the month and certainly makes me pause to think about my day and what I have to be grateful for. Have a lovely day and hope you visit again.

      Reply
    2. Donna

      Hi, Jill – A “One Sentence Per Day Happiness Journal” is such a great idea. My guess is that many of those one sentence thoughts serve as great seeds for future blog posts! Thanks so much for sharing this here.

      Reply
  6. Leanne | crestingthehill

    I loved your idea of working out which categories were the best fit from your happiness pics. I’m finding that what brings me happiness is slowly changing – I’m less dependent on other people and more focused on what I bring to the table (see that eating metaphor I put in there!) Maybe I’m getting more selfish about my happiness – but the saying “don’t put the key to your happiness in someone else’s pocket” is ringing very true for me lately. Great post Donna 🙂

    Reply
    1. Donna

      This is such a wise reflection, Leanne. I agree that with age comes the liberty to unleash ourselves from the binds of what other people think and what other people expect us to do. It is an incredible freedom!

      Reply
  7. Denyse Whelan Blogs

    Great to ‘meet’ you Donna via Sue’s blog. I am doing quite a bit of learning as I practise meditation each day and follow the works of Pema Chodron. I tend to find contentment as a goal more than ‘happiness’ but seek it in the smallest things too. I look at the garden and see the latest little bloom…which I had nothing to do with but its there for my visual pleasure that day! Your words were very engaging.
    Thank you for linking up for #lifethisweek 22/52. Next week’s prompt: View From Here.

    Reply
    1. Donna

      Hi, Denyse – I greatly appreciate you sharing here. I have been avoiding ‘meditation’ for quite some time. I now find that ‘meditation signs’ are all around me. Thank you for providing me with another gentle reminder of this!

      Reply
  8. Donna

    Hi, Shirley – Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting. I’m so glad that you found this post encouraging. Happiness truly is contagious!

    Reply
  9. Joanne Sisco

    I love the idea of a Happiness Challenge. Maybe it’s just the word *challenge* which immediately grabs my attention 😉

    It seems to me that out of any challenge – whether physical, intellectual, emotional – there comes learning. We always learn a lot about ourselves when we have been challenged. Which brings me to the thought that perhaps I would include learning as a critical component for my personal level of general happiness.

    Reply
    1. Donna

      Hi, Joanne – I am so glad that I came back to check for any comments that I might have missed. You make a very provocative point about ‘challenge’ and ‘learning.’ The research that I’ve read, and continue to read, on ‘happiness’ does suggest that knowing who we are and who we want to be is an essential step in the ‘happiness journey.’ Actively taking the ‘time’ and ‘practice’ to reduce our focus on distractions that do not serve us is indeed a challenge. As Ricard says, with a small, daily commitment to this practice, we can improve our ‘learning’ and ‘skill’ in this direction. Thanks for sharing this idea. It is very thought-provoking!

      Reply
  10. Janis

    I love your happiness chart! I have always been a pretty happy person and, now in retirement, I feel even more positive and grateful. Sometimes it can be easy to get caught up in the negativity in the world, but (although I think it’s important to stay informed and involved) how we respond to it is completely our choice. Focusing on the seven key areas can help to bring our thoughts and efforts back to what is really important to spend our time cultivating.

    Reply
    1. Sue Loncaric Post author

      Hi Janis, I loved Donna’s happiness chart as well – it has certainly be popular. In my May series on Happiness I wrote about how our happiness is really up to us. Thanks for visiting and I hope you visit again. have a great week.

      Reply
    2. Donna

      Hi, Janis – The comments from both you and Joanne compliment each other well. Your point about how we choose to respond to situations around us, and the effort that we spend on cultivating what is important, is a good one. All of this takes steady practice and learning. The comments in this section have given me plenty to think about!

      Reply
    1. Donna

      Thanks, Dee. I am so pleased that the ‘Happiness Chart’ idea has been helpful. I found mine to be easy to make/tabulate…and incredibly revealing. But as I have shared with others, I hated to admit on Sue’s blog what an incredible nerd I can be!

      Reply
  11. Terri Webster Schrandt

    Hi Donna, nice to see you here on my blog buddy Sue’s page! I love your take on the Fu character and the symbol of the shopping cart! Choosing from the shelf of life those things we want to put in our basket indeed make us happy and fulfilled. This for me, always comes back to the choices we make for our leisure time–who am I telling here? you both have found that magic happiness elixir from which anyone can taste!

    Reply
  12. Donna

    Hi, Terri – You have just brilliantly illustrated one of the things that never ceases to amaze me about blogging. Someone puts out an idea (like my crazy thoughts on the ‘Fu’ character), and someone else elevates that idea to a new level (like your eloquent image of ‘choosing from the self of life’)! I absolutely LOVE this!

    Reply
  13. Donna

    Hi, Debbie- I just wrote to you from my site and shared my sheer awe with the personal connections made in our little corner of the blogging community. Like you, this makes me very happy. Thank you so much for connecting and being part of this!

    Reply
  14. Kat

    Fantastic post Sue, thanks for introducing us to Donna.
    I especially loved this bit “Ultimately, my biggest takeaway was that I am extremely grateful to have the life that I have surrounded by such amazing people. I simply need to avoid getting too preoccupied with ‘stuff’ so that I do not lose sight of the joy all around me.”

    Doesn’t that just round it all up?

    Reply
    1. Sue Loncaric Post author

      It sure does Kat and I’m so pleased you enjoyed Donna’s post. I love her happiness chart idea as well. Have a very Happy day! Thanks for stopping by to comment.

      Reply
    2. Donna

      Hi, Kat – Thank you so much for commenting. I agree that the comment that you quoted does ’round it all up’. But it is a bit like ‘Groundhog Day’. I need to continuing learning that basic lesson again and again…and again!

      Reply
  15. Ally Bean

    I remember that ‘100 Days of Happiness Challenge’ and how much I enjoyed reading the blog posts of those bloggers who did it. I think your take-aways, revisited and examined through the prism of time, are wonderful. Thanks for sharing your chart idea, I, too, am a fellow nerd who lurves things like that.

    Reply
    1. Sue Loncaric Post author

      Hi Ally! Thanks for visiting to read Donna’s guest post and I hope you visit again. I also loved the idea of the happiness chart – it was very popular with readers. Have a wonderful week and thanks again for stopping by to leave a comment.

      Reply
    2. Donna

      Hi, Ally – Thanks so much for visiting here. As Kate Crimson says, ‘fellow nerds’ need to stick together. Funny, it seems like there are many of us!

      Reply
  16. Liesbet

    I have always been a firm believer in the “you only live once” realization and making your life as happy as can be, in the sense that it is up to you to do the things that you enjoy most and it is up to you to make those priorities, as in work versus free time, money versus quality time, memories versus “stuff”, virtual relationships versus real life ones, etc. I do not believe as much in a “happy forever” world, but see happiness more as fleeting moments of joy. Nobody can constantly be happy (otherwise, you would not be able to recognize that feeling anymore), but a positive attitude goes a long way. And, you, Donna, have a healthy dose of that!! Nice insights in this post. 🙂

    Reply
    1. Sue Loncaric Post author

      Hello Liesbet and thanks for stopping by to comment. Yes Donna certainly does have a positive attitude and I was pleased to have her write a guest post for me. You are also right that we can’t be happy all of the time but a positive attitude makes such a difference to our lives. Have a beautiful day and hope you visit again.

      Reply
  17. Janice Wald

    HI Sue,
    I know Donna. I feel like we’re friends. Thank you for featuring her.
    Thanks for bringing your post to last week’s Blogger’s Pit Stop.
    Janice, Pit Stop Crew

    Reply
    1. Donna

      Hi, Janice – Thank you so much for commenting on my guest post at Sue’s site. I absolutely LOVE being a member of this blogging community. I’ve met such inspiring people. I’ve greatly appreciated your incredible sharing, generosity and mentorship.

      Reply
  18. Dr Sock

    Donna, I enjoyed your reflections about happiness, and your list of seven factors that contribute to a happy life. One thing that is important to me that I would add to the list is being outdoors in nature.

    I laughed about your shopping cart interpretation of Fu — the modern day version of a cultivated field?

    Jude

    Reply
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