Happiness is…

“When you eat right, engage in regular physical activity, and get plenty of rest, you have the energy and resilience to deal with life’s hassles and demands.”

 We will now scrape Grace off the ceiling.

I forget what website I got that quote from, which is fortunate for that website. Yes, nutrition, rest and exercise have a place in maintaining adequate health for most people sooner or later, but ye gods… Adopting this approach as a sina qua non of mental health, which is screamed at us regularly both by the commercially motivated (can you spell Nike) and the benevolently motivated, has made me miserable.

I bloody hate exercise, but I do a few miles of walking most days because I don’t want to be a cardiovascular slob, not because it contributes anything to my present happiness. If I had access to a riding horse, I’d probably do that instead because I do love me a pony. I eat a very proper diet—very few complex carbs, virtually no gluten, few processed foods, little sweets, daily fruits and veggies, usually less than 1500 calories daily—and I remain moderately, stubbornly obese.

Plenty of rest? Most days, I don’t set the alarm. I get up when I’m ready to, I go to sleep when I’m tired. I think this is how the beast is supposed to function.

What gives me the energy and resilience to deal with life’s hassles has nothing to do with that pious, simplistic little prescription at the top of the page, and never has. At the points in my life when I’ve been the most vigilant about rest, exercise and diet, I’ve also been the most cranky and unhappy. I suspect I was trying to make somebody else’s canon for achieving happiness work for me because I didn’t feel entitled to have one of my own, or because a bodily prescription for an emotional deficit was all I could comprehend.

What keeps my resilience tank topped up is a) pursuing my passions, b) connecting with the people who love me, and c) knowing my personal rules. For the next little while, I’ll be blogging about these pillars of happiness-according-to-Grace. And if you see somebody out tearing around the Maryland countryside doing six-minute-pace for five miles, that sure as heck won’t be me (and I won’t be standing downwind of them either).

OK, so what do you absolutely have to have to be happy, (as opposed to physically fit, for some of us), and how did you figure this out?

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9 comments on “Happiness is…

  1. 1
    Christina Guza says:

    In no particular order:
    – Coffee.
    – Music – preferably live. Nothing beats a Beethoven Symphony with full chorale from 50 feet away!!
    – Something furry to snuggle with at night.
    – A cup of tea, a fireplace & a good book.
    – Friends to laugh & cry with.
    – A “partner in crime” who you know will do all manner of crazy stunts with you.
    – A bit of good news, no matter how small.
    – A card in the mail from someone you know. You know, the kind with a stamp on it…

    Any of these alone makes me happy. Any combination of these makes me ecstatic. I figure if it brings a smile to my face & it makes me happy, it is necessary for my well being. If I’m smiling I’m in a good mood and it will rub off on others. That is the best feeling and sign of true happiness, that something I did or said made someone’s day a little brighter.

  2. 2

    Christina, I once ran a 10k where long about mile 5, somebody was blaring the finale from Beethoven’s Ninth from their front porch (one purpose). YES!!! Roger Bannister had nothing on me (for a few yards).
    I like your list, and share most of what’s on it.

  3. 3

    I understand the “moderately, stubbornly obese” statement so VERY well. My mother and 2 of my 3 siblings have had gastric-bypass surgery, my other sibling is going through the prep-stages to get it as well. I refuse to go down that path and work very hard to keep the scale from inching up.I wish I could sign up for a genetic study because I know in my heart I work at least twice, if not 3x as hard as other people to stay in the so-so shape I am in. I guess the good thing is I do enjoy working out, it is one of the things that makes me happy. If I miss a work out, I am pretty cranky about it, but still-I would love it if the results were more evident. Ah well, on to other things that put a smile on my face, lift my heart and bring light to my soul:
    – sunny, windy days
    – quiet cuddle time with my husband in those minutes between the alarm going off and the day HAVING to start (or the kids barging in)
    – drinks and chats with my girlfriends
    – laughing with my daughters
    – a good writing jag
    – a shopping trip that results in an outfit that looks great and was a great deal
    – plenty of coffee and time to read the Sunday paper
    – a chair overlooking the lake with a book, and nothing to do but sit, read, and rest (this recharges my batteries like nothing else!)
    – honest compliments (I try to give them as much as I receive them, it is wonderful to make someone else smile and feel good) 🙂

  4. 4

    Melonie, I am grateful that as sluggish as my physical metabolism is, I’m not on the gastric by-pass end of the continuum. When I tell the doc, “I don’t care what I weigh. Get me some more energy, and the weight will take care of itself,” and she looks at me like I’m speaking Swahili. ARGH. So… I like your list too. Especially the honest compliments part.
    Spreading sunshine does seem to provide everybody with a boost.

  5. 5
    jayne says:

    I also hate exercise too Grace. My beautiful Children, my lovely husband, my gorgeous pretty Cat cuddling me, 3 or 4 Good books and Red Wine. These make me happy.I also have to add seeing good friends,and eating chocolate.
    Exercise makes me cranky.

    • 5.1

      The folks with the lowest incidence of heart disease on the planet live in the Armagnac region of France, benefiting supposedly, from the high levels of resveratrol in their potion of choice. Drink a glass of red wine for me!

  6. 6
    Conny says:

    Uuhh, to produce a complete list of things making me happy would go far beyond what anybody would like to read here!

    I am quite happy every time it happens, that small and rather unimportant things can make me so happy!
    It can be a meadow with wildflowers I see or cross or the first blooms in springtime or the colours of autumn, having a mountain hiked up to the top with my husband (and the grand view down from there), something my kids say or do. To see a long-time-no-see friend, the release of the next Grace Burrowes novel (it really is so!), achieving something and if it is only a small progress, and last week it was watching the boy of my fellow student playing with my girls (which somehow made me cry…).

    Basically, it’s all the small and big and special things that account for and form (your own and happy) life and that must not be overseen nor taken for granted.

    • 6.1

      Your comment reminds me of the advice we come across from time to time, to, “Pay Attention.” It’s interesting how the more often you scan the horizon for gardens, the more often you’ll smelling flowers.