"Remember this, that very little is needed to make a happy life."
Marcus Aurelius, huh? Well, I looked him up. He was born in 121 A.D.
I know that Rome was the center of the universe in its time and all, but if we're talking about materialistic living, and our needs and wants-- I'd say, that is a pleasant perspective.
I was inspired by something I came across today while on Oprah's website. Yes, Oprah's. (I don't have cable, so I'm quite behind the times on a few things, mind you.) She has introduced a project that is totally, right up Ferdinand's alley. I like it so much, I'm going to share it with you, too, you know, in case you missed it on Oprah's page.
It's called 30 Days of Happiness. It's a happiness journal. (Oprah is introducing it as a social media thing with Twitter, but I don't tweet.) I'd like to think that the 30 days would extend to forever, but seeing how it is that we get a little squeamish with commitment, well, let's just go with 30 for now. It was inspired by Eat, Pray, Love author, Elizabeth Gilbert, and there's nothing new here. Oprah's interview with Gilbert was in 2007, after all. And it is not so different from those gratitude journals that everyone is doing. More on that in a minute.
So all you do is look for it. The happiness. And when you have it, you write it down. Done. Smiles. Warmth.
Get inspired by watching Oprah talk about it here. Or, a little bit more, below:
So now that I've been inspired, I got to thinking again. Uh-oh.
- I like this better than a gratitude journal.
"Ohmygah how dare you!" Here's why: If you're stuck in a rut, or really angry about something, you might be able to find something to be grateful for, but you might not. Because you don't want to feel like you can't even do a dang gratitude journal right, you might write "I'm thankful for air so that I can breath." But if that rut lasts a little longer-- and if you are so self-disciplined that you actually open your journal to a fresh page, the energy and focus might get lost: you're merely going to write what you wrote the day before, "Air. I'm thankful for air, okay?!"
(Now, those of you who live by your gratitude journals might argue, and I agree, that after being filled with gratitude day in and out, that you actually start feeling thankful for everything, in every moment of your life. This isn't realistic for me. I certainly don't have that kind of time to focus on every activity, and I certainly don't want to answer with that condescending "blessed" when simply asked, "How are you?" Did you just win the gold medal in the London Olympics? Overcome cancer? Won the Showcase Showdown on The Price is Right? More often than not, you didn't do anything really magnificent. It's like you have some special secret--and you might; and I'm happy for you; but really, gratitude can be private. Please don't put yours onto me. Oh, I can hear the arguments coming.)
- With a happiness journal, you have to seek out happiness.
Whereas the gratitude journal is a reflection of your day, the happiness journal is that, plus the motivation to find that which makes you happy, while you're actually living your day. It's focused; it's driven. It's motivated by the journal, just in case you're having one of those days where you can't seek out the motivation within yourself. What are the chances that everyday you'll find happiness in the same exact thing? I don't know the answer to that yet. I do know, that if you go lookin' for it, you'll find it. Sometimes, in the simplest places, you'll find it.
- Teachers: wouldn't this be a fabulous project for students?
I might be overly optimistic about this, but wouldn't this project teach self-awareness and build self esteem for our young scholars? My thoughts are, starting on the first day of school, if teachers "gift" each student a notebook, or have them make their own books, or just use filler paper in a binder, etc., the journal could be used as a personal reflection at the end of the day.
I've been trying to come up with a focused, independent activity for students to do during dismissal routine, and I think this is it! I mean, you could still have them write one thing they learned today, but wouldn't it be more motivating to write down where you found happiness during your school day?
So no matter if this is something that is "tweeted", written in a beautifully bound book, or on scratch paper, I will try this for 30 days. School is going to start in less than that, so that gives me plenty of time to try this out. Hmmm... as for using it as an experiment with students, I'm beginning to like the sound of it. My hypothesis is, that more of my fourth graders will answer "Yes" to the age old question, "Do you like school?" and you know, as their teacher, I might too.