I’ve been reading a lovely book recently: The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. The book describes her year-long project to create a happier life. I really enjoyed the style of the book (in part, I think, because I identified with some of the personality traits of the author…), and have been recommending it to friends and family alike.
In particular, the book has given me a lot of food for thought as I am just stepping into my second year of travelling, living, and working abroad. It’s provided many more ideas for projects and self-development, as well as providing a great run down of the latest research on happiness.
But this week, I had a ‘happiness experience’ of my own which made me really reflect on one particular aspect of the book – what she describes as the ‘four stages of happiness‘. Rather than happiness being a single event, she suggests, happiness is an experience which actually comes in four stages. And if we think of happiness in this way, it can really extend feeling great for a longer period of time. These are stages where we:
- anticipate with pleasure,
- savor the moment as we experience it,
- express happiness to one’s self or others, and,
- reflect on a happy memory.
1. Delicious Anticipation
My own happiness experience came on Tuesday, when a blog post I wrote and submitted to the hugely popular blog and website Tiny Buddha, was published. As I thought about the experience in terms of the framework, I could see immediately how the anticipation of the event has added to the happiness I’ve experienced.
I submitted the article around a month ago (the site takes unsolicited guest post submissions on one day every couple of months only), and given the numbers they deal with, I hadn’t expected to hear anything for a while. When I saw an email come from them, within a week, my heart sank, as I thought it would be a kind email (of course!) thanking me, but turning the post down. When it was a lovely, friendly acceptance, I was really taken aback, but I was also thrilled. I’ve only been writing creatively for a year, and before this, although I was an avid reader, I never thought I could write. Plus, of course, sharing anything of my own personal experience (you’ll probably be surprised to know given I’ve been doing this for a year now) would have felt really challenging for me. This felt like a tiny touch of external validation from a person and site I really admired and would love to emulate. I hugged the knowledge of the acceptance to myself for a while, knowing that in the world of blogging things get changed all the time, and nothing was a given. But nonetheless, the fact that I had passed the first hurdle provided me with delicious anticipation indeed.
2. Savour the moment
A quick email to me from the site the day before the post was to be published was all the warning, but did mean I started checking the site pretty regularly. When I first saw the post up, my smile was huge. I felt that kind of excitement you get on a first date or when you’ve passed an exam. I’m sure that it wouldn’t have at all created the same sensation for most people, but for me, it was thrilling seeing my words that weren’t just on my own site(s) (which, don’t get me wrong, I get real pleasure from), but in someone else’s website font and style, with my name as author. Of course, the fact that Lori (the founder of Tiny Buddha) had chosen such a gorgeous photo helped too…I think it would be hard not to smile looking at those cute little finger puppets…
3. Share our happiness
On the day the photo went up, I certainly shared my happiness! I used my social media, of course, but I went further than I personally would normally, and used the ‘share a feeling’ button on Facebook. I found the note that said ‘feeling wonderful’ and clicked. And I even told the delegates on the course I was running!
I was also really pleased watching other people, most of whom I’d never met, enjoy the post. Above is a screen shot from Facebook less than 24 hours after the post went up – with 3400 likes and 639 shares. It was exciting and touching to feel what I had written had struck a chord with others.
4. Reflect back with joy
And finally, as I was reflecting on the experience, and thinking about it in terms of happiness, I realised that it had fitted the ‘four stage’ model – and that I could extend that further by writing about it here! And even in a ‘twofer’ by managing to both share the happiness and reflect back! Sublime…
Oh, and the happiness was compounded further when I was trying to find a picture to illustrate the cover of the book, and found an interview with the author of The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin, on Tiny Buddha itself. Talk about coming full circle…
Oh, you wanted to read the article? Well, sure!
Have you ever thought about happiness like this – that one event provides much more happiness than in the moment itself? Let me know in the comments below – it really multiplies out the joy one activity or event can bring!
I wish you all a week filled with both joy and kindness 🙂