What Makes you Happy?

Monday, February 20

One of my Patients recommended that I read "The Happiness Project" by Gretchen Rubin.  After Pete spoilt me and gave me a Kindle for Valentines day this week, I made this my first Kindle purchase.  I am loving the book and I was going to write about something else this week, but decided to rather write about a few points from her book.

Gretchen is a lawyer turned writer from New York who dedicates a year to try to make herself happier.  She starts by saying that prior to beginning the project, she is not unhappy, she has a great life, family and job, she just wants to see of she can become happier.  I think that why I am enjoying her book so much, is because I think that so many of us are at this point and can relate to her story quite well.  Not unhappy, but perhaps with some room for improvement on the happiness front.  She is also quick to say that she is exploring happiness versus unhappiness and that depression is in a spectrum of it's own.

My recent health dramas have made me really re evaluate my every day and how much I enjoy it. Part of me thinks 'cliche cliche' as I type these words, 'life changing realisations', 'exploring and finding yourself' blah blah blah.  But I am honestly enjoying my days more.  I am getting more satisfaction from work and spending more time doing what I like and what makes me happy.  I think that so often we are only just keeping our heads above water and surviving each weeks work and domestic commitments.  We are so busy completing the tasks that society expects of us, that we forget to take a moment to assess if we really are living life at our optimal happiness level.

Anyway, back to Gretchen's book.  She says that studies have proven that an individual's happiness is determined by three different things.  50% is down to their genetics.  I think we all know people that are just more cheery and optimistic than others and that's how they were born.  She says that the next 10-20% of someone's happiness is down to their life situation; including income, ethnicity, gender, marital status, occupation and religious affiliation.  The remaining 30 to 40% of how happy one is, is a product of how one thinks or acts. So everyone has an inborn disposition that is set within a certain range but you can boost yourself up or down the happiness scales by your actions.

Each month she takes on different tasks, behaviours or attitudes that she thinks may make her happier.  She continuously acknowledges that her own happiness directly affects her family's happiness too.  Gretchen also says that everyone's happiness project would be totally unique as we all enjoy different things and naturally perform better in contrasting areas.

In the month of May, part of her mission is to find more fun.  This made me really think.  She talks of doing something that brings you happiness, something that you look forward to, enjoy doing and then afterwards when you reflect back you fondly remember that you enjoyed the activity.

I called one of my best friends - Jen, "Name five things that make you really happy," I said to her.   "Something that you eagerly anticipate, enjoy doing, and then think back on it as having made you happy.  And tell me if you have done any of these in the last week, month or year".
"I'll think about it and call you back," she said.

I then thought about a few things that make me happy and listed some of them here and when I last did them;
(In no Particular order)

Books on my Bookshelf

1. Books (Week)
I LOVE reading and have done so in reams since I was a child.  I enjoy browsing in bookshops and discovering cheap treasures in charity shops.  I like buying books, reading them, discussing them, sometimes re-reading them and recommending books to others that I think that they may enjoy.  I also love my book club.

2. Breakfast with Friends (Week)
Since my surgery I've been a whole lot more healthy and not having many late nights.  I like going out for breakfast as it feels like one of the healthier meals to go out for and it gets me up and out of the house earlier than I would usually do. It's also a brilliant way to catch up with my friends.

3. Blog (Week)
This blog is only a month old but I enjoy thinking about what to write as I learn new information and then I enjoy writing it.  I also love the responses that I get from people afterwards.

Arts and Crafts Attempt

4. Arts and Crafts (Month)
I enjoy planning a project, carrying it out and surveying the finished project.  Often the end product is nowhere near as great as I've dreamed up in my head, but I enjoy the process anyway.

5. Feeling like I've made a difference to one of my Patients (Week)
I love the buzz of happiness that I feel when a patient thanks me for having helped them or their child through attending my Physio treatment sessions.

I then bought a note book and have carried it around with me for the past few days.  Everyone whom I have caught up with this weekend has had the compulsory summary of 'The Happiness Project' explained to them, and then I've got them to write down, anonymously, their top 5 to 8 happy things, and when they last did them.
Most people have had a number of things on their 'done in the past week' list, and a some in the past month.  And then there have been a few 'done in the past year.'  After each person wrote down their list, they were free to look through the book at other peoples lists.

People's reactions to this question have been very enthusiastic and no one has hesitated at my request to write down their list in my book.  I think most people have been pleased at how many 'in the past week' activities have been on their list.  I also think that it has stimulated all of us to try to to carry out the 'last month' or 'last year' with more of a concerted effort.

Make a list now yourself... think about how happy you usually feel and how you can optimise your happiness.   I really recommend reading her book too!  Please email me your lists if you would like to share them and I will put them down in the book (anonymously) and next time you see me you can have a look through the book too:)


On Sunday I did one of my favourite fun things and went out for breakfast with friends.  I had Poached eggs with spinach and salmon.  Spinach and Salmon are considered super foods and this week I'm going to focus on Spinach.

-Widely available all year round.
-Relatively inexpensive.

Health Benefits:
-High in Vitamins A, B6, C, K and E
-High in folate, fiber, manganese, magnesium, iron, riboflavin, calcium, copper and antioxidants
-Good source of thiamine, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids.

Multiple studies have proven the benefits of eating spinach.
Spinach Reduces:
  Cardiovascular disease including stroke and coronary disease.
  Multiple cancers including colon, lung, skin, oral, stomach, ovarian, prostate and breast cancers.
  Age related macular degeneration.

Raw or Cooked?
Best to eat a combination of both cooked and raw spinach.  Raw spinach has higher Vitamin C and Folate, and cooked spinach liberates the carotenoids and makes them more bioavailable.  Cooking also boosts lutein.

What’s in a cup of Spinach?
Calories: 41 (173 kJ)
Protein: 5.4g
Total Fat: 0.5g
Saturated Fat: 0.1g
Carbohydrates: 6.8 g
Fibre: 4.3g

Ideas to add Spinach to your diet from Drs Pratt and Matthews in Super foods:
-Layer cooked spinach in a lasagne.
-Steam spinach and serve with fresh lemon juice and parmesan cheese.
-Add a handful of spinach to your soups.
-Dress leftover greens with balsamic vinegar dressing and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
-Add chopped spinach to an omelette along with chives, tomato, peppers and onion.
-shred various greens in a salad.

I read somewhere (but now can't find where I read it), that if you were to take a tablet that included all the goodness of a serving of spinach - the tablet would be so large that you would have to hold it with two hands!


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