making happy: proairesis

Dear Internet,

There are two main reasons I’m locked in my turret of sorts,

  • Write
  • Figure out what I want from life

The first goal is easy as I’ve been writing every day; the second one, not so much. As someone whose been deeply unhappy for most of her life, trying to find happiness is akin to suddenly becoming a super model. But being happy is definitely an attainable goal (Elite, call me!), but how do you do it?

I decided to research this as much as I could and apply the techniques I found useful without judgement. I had to get over my cynicism that happy people were frauds, shamans to swill their products.  I wasn’t looking for a magic elixir, but there must be something that fit me, that I felt comfortable with, and could apply to my everyday life.


I’ve been following Gala Darling’s blog for a few years now; and was always curious about how she managed to have this amazing life she was sharing with the interwebs while remaining classy at the same time. Sure, there is a lot of woo-woo involved, but the one thing that hooked me into wanting to do her bootcamp, and it pleased the librarian in me, she provided sources for all of her claims. That was huge influence in pulling the trigger and moving forward with the project.

So what is Radical Self Love Bootcamp exactly? It’s a six week intensive course where three times a week she provides an essay on the theme of the week, worksheets to make that theme a habit (or to break that habit), and an interview with someone related to that theme. Because she provides sources for all of her claims, I was able to research further into what she was presenting.

I’m a bit behind in the classes, but the nice thing is I can do this at my own leisure. Additionally, much of what she’s purporting is stuff I already knew I should be doing but haven’t. Things like meditating daily, creating weekly and daily goals, doing positive affirmations. It’s all about retraining the brain, something we’ve discussed in my DBT classes. It’s about self-care, something I’m a huge fan of, and something I need to make happen.

The How of Happiness, by Sonja Lyubomirsky, was one of the titles mentioned by Darling. It provides a scientific approach to happiness and was to promote how you could change your life, aka be happy, by using scientific proven methods. Lyubomirsky has a doctorate from Harvard, and provides qualitative and quantitative research results, so this isn’t all woo-woo. Her approach is that happiness is a 40/10/50 split, which she calls the 40% solution. 50% of our happiness is set (namely environment and genetics), 10% by circumstance, 40% by intentional activity. So is it possible to change your life and happiness structure? Lyubomirsky thinks so. She provides several questionnaires used in the studies to gauge how someone is feeling and then based upon some mathematical equations, you are to work on the top matching activities. Thus, by practicing said actitives, you’re changing your 40% to make you happier.

As this book was recommended by Darling, there is a lot of overlap (Darling modifies the questionnaire and just asks you to choose what you want to work on rather than have you do some complicated maths bullshit). The book, however, I found to be a science-y version of stuff I’ve known for years – great, science has proven that happiness is attainable by using the techniques found in the 40% solution. But the problem I have with this book is that Lyubomirsky thinly veils that deprssed people can simply change their lives by following this technique. Oh she gives the standard, “Consult a clinician before starting this or any other activities, this is not medical advice, etc” but! BUT, she makes the claim that clinically depressed people were able to pull out of their depression by following her techniques. People who are clinically depressed have a chemical imbalance, you can’t woo-woo your way out of it by doing a self-affirmation every day; that’s like someone having cancer can cure it by eating chocolate. With that, I stopped reading.


Another book I found, How To Be Happy, is not actually a book on being happy, but a graphic novel about various vignettes of what could and could not be happiness. At a 149 pages, the art work is varied  and persuasive. There is very little dialogue, but that doesn’t detract from the stories. For the art work and concept alone, this book is definitely checking out.

The techniques I’ve culled from my reading so far are:

  • Saying positive affirmations
  • Building a daily routine/rituals
  • Meditation
  • Building a daily/weekly ToDo list
  • Journaling every day

As par usual, I’ll keep everyone updated.


P.S. I discovered last night that my little book is #82 in Books > Computers & Technology > Business & Management > Biographies. Huzzah! 

This Day in Lisa-Universe:  2014, 2001

on making happy

Medieval Angry Birds, Add MS 42130, f. 145r; via The British Library
Medieval Angry Birds, Add MS 42130, f. 145r; via The British Library

Dear Internet,

Now that my challenge for November of writing every day is over, I decided to start setting additional monthly challenges for myself to see how I will fare with those. For the month of December I decided I will attempt to spend most of my writing time on working out what it means to be happy, which I am sure you will agree, is no small feat. Philosophers have spent lifetimes decoding what the simple phrase “being happy” means and there is almost never any universal agreement. While I do not think I will have it figured out in 30 days, I do want to make an honest stab at what decoding it for myself entails with pure intent, without guile, and without a handful of snark.

That last bit will be hardest to overcome, I am sure.

Lest you be afraid of my cynical heart of getting in the way, I will have some help. I will be using Gala Darling’s DARE/DREAM/DO email seminar which I bought back in October and have not started yet. I do not remember how I found Ms. Darling, but I have been enamoured with her site for quite some time and appreciate how much she posits that to be happy means work. Hard work. She is not shy on giving you straight forward advice either, which also seduced me to her.

As DARE/DREAM/DO was designed to be a one a day thing, I will  be tackling and writing each day individually. Since I am starting this a few days after the first of December, the DARE/DREAM/DO sequence will go over into early January.

Additionally, I will also be looking at techniques from Zen Habits. If you have been following along with my posts on minimal packing, a lot of my inspiration came from Leo Babauta. Lastly, I will be also incorporating any articles, posts, or bits that I have stumbled upon along the way and adding them into the mix.

Because I fear this will be a massive month of writing, as I also plan to do other writing on top the making happy challenge, if you’re interested in following along with me, add the Making Happy feed to your RSS reader or just click on the Making Happy tag to see what is going on and where I am at. And as always, if you have any suggestions for sites, articles, books, or something else entirely you think I should read/view/hear, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

I was partially inspired to shape this challenge by a recent blog post by Theodora Goss and wholly inspired by her entry title, because it was a kick in the pants reminder happiness does not just come to you, it has to be worked for and earned.

But I believe that happiness is different: it’s a day to day, minute by minute thing. Whether I am happy at any give moment can depend quite a lot on whether or not I am eating a cupcake. If I am eating a cupcake, I am happy. (Depending on the cupcake, of course. I mean, I’m picky.) Happiness does in fact depend on things outside ourselves, so to make ourselves happy, we need to change things outside ourselves. (At least, that’s a lot easier than just trying to be happy, which I think is a very hard thing to do. Make yourself be happy, try to produce an internal state of happiness without changing anything external . . . Much easier to buy a cupcake.) Theodora Goss

She then goes on to list the things, simple things really, on what makes her happy. After reading her post, I tried to come up with a list of things off the top of my head in the same vein and found myself struggling with that list, but here it is:

  • Really good, dark chocolate. Sometimes all I need is just a bite to satiate me and make me happy
  • A fancy bubble bath with good smelling soaps and a book to read while I soak
  • Watching my stock pile of Jane Austen and related movies. Fictional, influenced, blatant rip-off – doesn’t matter. My world always seems to be brighter when I spend a few hours with Jane.
  • Wearing something from my collection of BPAL scents. I have a few non-BPAL oils but BPAL almost always wins hands down for selection, price, and smell.
  • I can listen to Elbow‘s entire catalog on repeat forever and never get tired of Guy Garvey’s voice. May I present their rendition of Beyonce’s Independent Woman, as played out by kittens.
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  • Listening to Cabin Pressure, as defined here.

Small list, but a good start.

It should be noted when I went through Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) training for my Borderline Personality Disorder, much of the training concentrates on the purpose of self-soothing techniques for when I go into crisis, of which much of that training seems I have misplaced over the last few years. So this is a good reminder to stockpile those skills because there will be a point in the future when I am in crisis again. But it is also good to have this list of happy making readily available not for when I’m in crisis, but a reminder of what makes me whole.


This day in Lisa-Universe: