An Experiment in Happiness

February 21, 2012

Posted by Deborah Atherton

Does creativity make us happy?

A month ago, renowned positive psychologist Chris Petersen said in an interview with Ben Dean of Mentor Coach that in the early days of his interest in researching happiness, he had kept a daily catalog of his activities on happy and unhappy days, to see what actually contributed to his own happiness.  Since I am always excited about a new list, I decided to keep my own spreadsheet for a month on my happy and less happy days, and what, by the end of a day, in my mind made it a happy one.  Chris Petersen said, to his surprise, that his own happiness depended on the completion of a task—that even finishing a big load of laundry was enough to make him happy.  Ben asked if working on his book didn’t make him happier than doing the laundry. Chris replied, “Not really.  I just like finishing things.”

Well, here I am, thirty days later, and it was certainly an interesting way of looking at your life. Usually, I am focused on my writing, my job, my family and friends, what I’m making for dinner, what’s on TV, what I have to read, etc.  Sitting down at the end of the day, assessing how you feel, and just listing what you’ve done, turns out to be a fascinating personal exercise.   

But just finishing things didn’t do it for me.  I had one highly virtuous day of housekeeping, finishing everything from the laundry to washing the kitchen floor, which left me completely cranky at the end. 

What did do it for me was working on something I consider creative. Which might be this blog, or a short story, or song lyrics, or working on my novel.  Every day I did something creative, I ended the day happy, even if it was a difficult day in other ways, and even if I couldn’t get too far with what I was doing. 

The other thing that worked for me was doing absolutely nothing–throwing the To Do list and all my projects out the window for the day and just ordering Chinese for dinner and reading or watching TV—or playing my favorite new video word game, Word Mole.

Despite my love of solitude, days when I spoke to people I care about tended to be happier, a lesson for the creative introverts and hermits of the world.

Of course, understanding what makes you happy and acting on it are two different things, which is one reason why the field of positive psychology is so popular right now.  But I now know that if I spend even fifteen minutes sitting down and writing a few words, my whole day is happier—it’s like a free painkiller with no bad side effects.  

Whether your key to happiness turns out to be finishing the laundry or polishing your prose, it might be fun to take a few minutes at the end of the day for the next month (or even week) and find out.  I’m guessing that for you, like me, it might be taking a photograph, or painting a landscape, or finding just the right chord to end a song.  Of course, it’s important not to confuse personal happiness with external approval or success—but that is a blog for another day.

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Shine and Play

February 5, 2012

by Leslie Zeigler

This is a second blog entry about Sheri Heller, a colleague of mine who is an Interfaith Reverend and psychotherapist as well as a writer,  playwright and actor.  She is the founder of the Philanthropic Theater Group Sistah Tribe.  Sistah Tribe is a collective of women and men who bring to the theater the  culturally  under-served and disenfranchised.

In my conversation with Sheri, I noticed a thread that ran through  much of what she shared with me – which is her deeply held belief that “when we connect to our creative impulses we are deeply authentic. ”  She goes on to say “creativity teaches us about ourselves.”  In her own deeply authentic voice she says,  “I always knew there was an artist in me,  but I didn’t feel entitled to give her permission and in certain ways was afraid to give her expression for fear of my own power being allowed to shine and play.”

How about you?   ARE YOU WILLING TO  DARE TO ALLOW YOURSELF TO SHINE AND PLAY ?


Our Haiku Contest Winners!

February 1, 2012

We were so completely delighted with the results of our haiku contest, and the brilliance and creativity of our readers, that we will offering the Intuitive Edge Haiku Awards (and, of course, Starbucks Cards) to all of our amazing participants. 

Please enjoy the haiku below:

Marcus Bales

… sugar in your tea?
what’s all these crazy questions
that they’re asking me?

 ecumenical
white, green, and post-fermented,
yellow, oolong, black

Claudia Carlson

First draft steaming hot
dreams fill the cup of the mind
rewrite in the dregs

Warm ink in a cup
steam paints sonnets to the air
send chai to my heart

A measure of sweet
over dry and bitter leaf
serve it to your muse

Eric Ember

cupped in both hands tea.
steam rises, aroma wafts,
ideas percolate

 tea percolating
like ideas from the ether,
creativity

K10ld

TIPPING POINT

If I have more than
a half cup of regular,
the muse freaks; I’m hosed.

Kitpancoast

teaspoon of honey
dissolving in morning tea
twelve bee’s lifelong work

Kimberley Roots

nothing impels me
to write like the slick hiss
of milk being steamed

L. Sylvester

THE PERFECT FORMULA

A sweet aroma,

Driving the pen to paper

Then again a sip.

Our thanks again to all, and we look forward to next year’s contest!

Deborah and Leslie