Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Science of Happy

Today in Relief Society we were talking about happiness.  I love that I am part of such a practical Church!  Much of our discussion was based on this 2006 Conference address by Jeffrey R. Holland called Broken Things to Mend.

I especially love the image he describes here of our walk with the Savior and how He can heal our brokenness if we will let Him:  "It seems clear that the essence of our duty and the fundamental requirement of our mortal life is captured in these brief phrases [refers to times He said "Follow me."] from any number of scenes in the Savior’s mortal ministry. He is saying to us, “Trust me, learn of me, do what I do. Then, when you walk where I am going,” He says, “we can talk about where you are going, and the problems you face and the troubles you have. If you will follow me, I will lead you out of darkness,” He promises. “I will give you answers to your prayers. I will give you rest to your souls.”"

We also talked a little about the science of being happy... and yes, there really is a scientific background to it.  Much of our feelings of happiness stem from what's going on in the frontal lobe of the brain.  If you can imagine looking at an MRI image of the brain.  When a person is depressed one side of the frontal lobe is lit up with activity.  When he or she is happy the other side is lit because substances like serotonin and norepinephrine are plentiful and active.  The trick is to keep the activity primarily on the happy side.  Some of that is chemistry and that's why there are so many prescription drugs available to assist.  But there's also much we can do for ourselves.

A researcher named Hank Smith developed a list of 10 things that supremely happy people do.  Since that was our handout, I'm going to share his list.

  1. Happy people surround themselves with other happy people.  Joy is contagious.  People are four times more likely to be happy in the future with happy people around them.
  2. Happy people try to be happy.  When happy people don't feel happy, the cultivate a happy thought and smile about it.
  3. Happy people spend money more on others than they spend on themselves.  Givers experience what scientists call the "helper's high."
  4. Happy people have deep in-person conversations.  Sitting down to talk about what makes a person tick is a good practice for feeling good about life.
  5. Happy people use laughter as medicine.  A good old-fashioned chuckle releases lots of good neurotransmitters.  A study showed that children, on average, laugh 300 times a day versus adults who laugh 15 times a day.
  6. Happy people use the power of music.  Researchers found that music can match the anxiety-reducing effects of massage therapy.
  7. Happy people exercise and eat a healthful diet.  Eating a poor diet can contribute to depression,
  8. Happy people take the time to unplug and go outside.  Uninterrupted screen time brings on depression and anxiety.
  9. Happy people get enough sleep.  When people run low on sleep, they are prone to feel a lack of clarity, bad moods, and poor judgement.
  10. Happy people are spiritual.

I think at my core I am a happy person.  I've just taken a detour on this adventure called life and I'm struggling a bit to get back on my path.  Mr. Smith's list is a good starting point... some good things to keep in my conscious thought and build better habits.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A House of God

Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing,
and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting,
a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory,
a house of order, a house of God;
D&C 109:8

This is the scripture I'm using as a guide in managing my home during my 2015 rebuilding year and beyond.  It was revelation given to commence building the Kirtland Temple in late 1832/early 1833.  And since home is the only place on earth that can be considered as sacred as the Temple, I think it's good pretty darned good advice for making home into sacred ground.

The Kirtland Temple, Kirtland Ohio USA
Photo courtesy of Russ' Photo Journal.  View more pictures here:

I've been thinking a lot about what the phrase "home as sacred ground" means.  Some days I will just read through this verse and see which words catch my attention and other times I'll follow those thoughts and see if they lead me to personal inspiration about how to apply the advice.  One thing that got my attention early on in that thought process was that all of keywords are verbs; they direct the reader to take an action.

Organize, Prepare, Establish, Pray,
Fast, Faith, Learn, Glory, Order

But how do you do this?

From the footnotes in my scriptures, study notes jotted in the margins from past religion classes and Sunday School, more study now, prayer, and lots of thought I've come up with the following list of specific actions I can take in my own home.
  • Manage finances to meet current needs and plan for the future.  Work to free myself from being a slave to debt.
  • Magnify my Church callings within the home.  Show respect for those called to authority positions, do my Visiting Teaching, welcome my Visiting and Home Teachers into my home as treasured guests, hold Family Home Evening, hold family prayer and scripture study.  (Those last 3 need some tweaking since it's just me... but you get the idea.)
  • Keep a clean and orderly house.
  • Come and go in the name of the Lord.  Pray for peace and safety for guests and family.
  • Have uplifted hands always.  Go about doing good and looking for ways to help my fellow man.
  • Cease lustful desires.  Learn to be happy with what I've got, because it's really quite a lot!
  • Stock my home with good books and other media.  Refuse to let the bad stuff in.
  • Have food storage on hand as we've been asked to do for decades now.
  • Get to know my neighbors better and seek ways to serve them.  Let my actions teach them the gospel.
  • Read from the scriptures daily.
  • Display pictures of the Savior, Temples and scripture quotes in each room of my home as visual reminders of what I hold most important.
  • Play uplifting music.
  • Pay tithes and offerings.
  • Pray over everything.
  • Be a good citizen.  Be involved in the community.  Make my values known.  Make them count.
  • Attend Church and Temple services.

In some ways that seems like a daunting "To Do" list doesn't it?  And, yet, in others it's just plain common sense for any Christian who is truly living what they believe... things we should all be doing already.

Maybe that's the problem.  These are all things that sound good and right and worthwhile.  But it is just so hard to fit everything in with jobs and family and everyone having a different schedule and there's never enough money to satisfy what everyone thinks they need.  And pretty soon all that stuff that sounded so good on Sunday isn't getting done in the hubbub of daily life.

Guilty, here.  2013 and 2014 saw my finances spiral out of control.  Yes, I had "help" digging that pit but it's still a deep hole that I allowed myself into by placing trust in the wrong person.  And I haven't done a real good job with those other things in any recent time frame, either.  It's way past time for me to get myself together and get it done.  And trust me... if I can do it, so can you!!

And I'm going to do it!  No more excuses here.

Join me in the challenge?

Monday, October 27, 2014

Welcome To My Home

I wrote a short poem today.  Well, actually bits and pieces of it have been floating around in my head for a couple of weeks, but today is the day I got all the parts down on paper and decided it said what I wanted it to say.  And actually I'm kind of proud of it!  One of my great grandfathers was a superb poet and I always wanted to have inherited a latent poetry gene...  Maybe I got lucky and that wish came true?

Welcome To My Home

Welcome to my humble little home!

It’s not fancy, just some sticks and stone.

It’s known poverty and a bit of wealth,

And sheltered me through sickness and in health.

I've filled it with thoughts and people and things I love

As I begged for God’s blessings from above.

I’ve tried to learn from the bad to simply enjoy the good

And found it’s not about could, or should, or would…

But taking whatsoever I do have and sharing,

That is the best way to show my caring.

So come on in - you're fine just as you are

Friends always welcome from both near and far!!

My plan is to print it in a pretty font and put it in a $1 store frame that I've decorated with flowers and ribbons and such to make a rectangular wreath for my front door.  I think it's the perfect accompaniment to my 2015 goals, don't you?