Shot of Happiness

What is a shot of happiness?  Other than a recipe for what seemed a very sweet drink with liqueurs and pineapple juice, I found no answers from a Google search. I found a couple of Facebook business pages, a blog with this title, but no definitions.

I believe in shots of happiness.  They serve as little pick-me-ups through the day so I wrote a definition.

A shot of happiness is an event, an activity, a thought, or a feeling that brings a smile, a state of contentment, a moment of pleasure, or a sense of satisfaction.  A shot of happiness is usually self-initiated but it may other-initiated. It results in feelings of well-being, serenity, and happiness.

 There is no single method for finding a shot of happiness. Each of us can engineer shots of happiness by understanding what things make us happy, what thoughts bring on a smile, and what activities bring mental sparks.

When we choose happiness, we know that it’s an attitude, a way of thinking, and an expectation of how to face the world.  I don’t think happiness is all-encompassing; rather happiness comes from little shots of happiness peppered through the day.

The First Shot of Happiness

Morning routines provide the first shot of happiness to shape the day.  Many bloggers have written excellent posts with ideas for morning routines.  Most involve getting an early start, exercising, meditating, and eating breakfast.  Happiness gurus like Gretchen Rubin recommend making your bed as an essential morning routine that increases happiness.

There’s no question that routines help to provide a shot of happiness that sets a positive tone for the rest of the day. The happiness may come from an acknowledgement of gratitude — gratitude for waking up, for a good sleep, for the gift of another day.  It may come from movement — a deep stretch, a few ankle rotations, or a back bend.  It might come from a smile from your spouse/partner or a nuzzle from a beloved household pet. It might come from a caffeine jolt or a hot shower.

Getting up every day with  feelings of happiness about the prospects for the day is a gift each of us can give ourselves. Whatever works for you should be part of a morning routine that nurtures feelings of happiness.

My own morning habits include savouring a good cup of coffee, taking a walk, playing with my cats, doing some yoga stretches, and enjoying conversation with my husband. Re-connecting in the morning is a great relationship tool as it helps each of us to stay present in our relationship. This is a relaxed time for planning the day ahead and confirming individual and mutual priorities for the day.

Productivity gives a shot of happiness

Mark Twain wrote that eating the frog early — or getting the worst task completed first — means that nothing worse will happen.  A shot of happiness comes from feelings of  productivity once a difficult task is accomplished or, in Twain-speak, the frog is eaten for the day. Twain’s idea has encouraged many to tackle a daunting task and complete it when energy levels are high.

Staying productive is a challenge for many retired people. A change of perspective is necessary when feelings of accomplishment become illusive.  Making progress on something that is important to your life leads to a feelings of satisfaction or shots of happiness. Completing certain personal chores may lead to feelings of productivity for some; for others, it’s playing a hard game of tennis, spending time as a volunteer, visiting a sick friend, or mastering a new skill.

After every  exercise class a gym friends says, “It’s done and now I can feel self-righteous for the rest of the day”.  For him, the exercise class is the equivalent of eating a frog. The feeling of accomplishment from exercise gives him a shot of happiness.

Goofing off

Goof-off time is just as important as productivity. In retirement we no longer need to experience or measure success in terms of goal achievement, profitability or key performance measures. Instead, we can have some fun every day.

Retirement means not having to make an excuse when doing nothing or when wasting time on frivolous pursuits.  With no deadlines to meet we can give ourselves a shot of happiness when we take time for playful activities, for napping, or for day-dreaming.

North Americans are notorious for treating rest and relaxation as a privilege and not a necessity. This may be a throw back to childhood when good behaviour meant getting a reward. We’ve absorbed a cultural norm that having fun or simply resting is a form of goofing off or wasting precious time. But, why should the need for fun or rest be earned?

Taking time for fun or day-dreaming or simply doing nothing can give a shot of happiness.

Bedtime Habits

At the end of the day, good habits and routines for bedtime set the stage for the next day’s happiness.

Morning shots of happiness are easier and more plentiful if I cultivate good habits before going to bed.  By spending a few minutes tidying up my workspace (usually my desk — sometimes the kitchen)  and setting priorities for the day ahead, I wake up knowing what should happen next. My husband sets up the coffee before bed so whoever gets up first just needs to push a button. Other routines include time to brush and floss while watching the late news followed by a few minutes of reading.

For some lucky people, restful sleep comes easily.  Others need to relax with a hot bath, meditation, stretching, or soft music.  Some people need a special pillow, absolute darkness, and carefully controlled temperatures.  Whatever the unique rituals you develop, winding down at the end of the day promotes healthy sleep thereby setting the stage for the next day.

Everyone deserves several shots of happiness in their day.  Shots of happiness may come from good habits, from exercise, from a sense of purpose for the day, from goofing off, or from something to anticipate. Developing effective routines for giving yourself shots of happiness takes some self-knowledge.

Shots of happiness won’t always come from the same things nor will  they come in familiar ways. When we learn to recognize fleeting moments of happiness we can savour these moments.  We can give ourselves a shot of happiness as we appreciate that simple pleasures  can delight us as much as those infrequent moments of ecstasy.

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