Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Happiness All Over My Desk

I'm staring at the puddle of my former cup of coffee. I had taken my first sip from it. That coffee is now all over my desk, computer, and lap. It was the last drop of coffee in the entire house.

It really felt like a blow. Like this little win, this little bit of happiness, was taken away from me.

Sal and I tend to get into funks. Usually these funks only last a day or two, but this year they seem to be hitting us more often and for longer.

For me, these funks are usually caused by an event. I've been dealing with a ton of stress at work, not getting a ton of sleep, and dealing with friends who don't deserve my attention. I do it with a smile. And then something dumb like an unexpected bill shows up and everything unravels.

Typically, I go through the Stages of Funk, which are similar to the stages of grief.

  1. Denial - That smile I had dealing with all that stuff, that's my stone cold denial face.
  2. Anger - Inevitably, when that bill arrives, I scream a lot of curse words, this lasts usually only a few minutes, but the cats hide for hours.
  3. Panic - I start proclaiming the end of the world and telling anyone who is near what our woes are. 
  4. Depression - I stew, quiet and still angry, thinking about how unfair things are. 
  5. Acceptance - "Yep, we're screwed."
Usually, I can pull myself out of meltdown mode if I get some alone time during step 4. It's when people keep asking me what's wrong or what can I do that I'm thrown right back into step 2. 

So how do you pull yourself out of a funk? How do you bring happiness back and learn to forget that dumb everyday stuff? How do you prevent the buildup of funk?

There was a Ted talk about trying to quantify what makes people happy. It came from one of the scientists that started Track Your Happiness. It's a site built to collect happiness data. You sign up, get a few text messages a day, answer a few questions about what you're doing right now and who you're with, and after 50 surveys, you get a report.

It's interesting where we are happy. The normal goals of money and popularity often make people more miserable. According to this study, autonomy, competence, relatedness, and self-esteem make us more happy.

My happiness report didn't blow me away. I found out that I'm most happy on Thursdays and Fridays, least happy on Monday. I'm most happy when I'm doing something I want to, but don't necessarily have to (autonomy). I'm happiest outside or at a brewery. And I'm happiest when conversing with exactly 2 people, followed closely by 1. Apparently, I don't like groups of more than 3.

But really what I learned from my happiness report is that the small things are really what makes me happy. A good cup of coffee, a nice craft beer, reading, or taking a walk. It's not things like winning awards or getting promotions.

So as I'm wiping up my little bit of happiness that was stuck under my monitor stand, I thought, "damn, how to I fill the void this cup of coffee has left."