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what I learned from track your happiness
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I have been participating in the track your happiness project. Every sixth months, I start getting surveys three times a day for a couple weeks. They ask me questions like:

How happy do you feel right now?
Do you want to do what you are doing?
Do you have to do what you are doing?
Are you outside?

I don't know what they do with the data for the study as a whole, and I'm not particularly interested in or surprised by the charts they produce for me--I am quite happy dancing, a better night's sleep makes me happier--but I have been intrigued by things I've realized while answering the questions.

1. I am not happy all the time.

There should be a no duh factor to this, but really, my self-image is of a happy person. I think there's nothing wrong with thinking of myself as happy, but it's a good reality to check to see when the kids are fighting me, when I'm stuck in traffic--nope, not happy. And in fact, most of the time, I am fine--not super happy, not super sad. It's just fine seems happy compared to many people I know whose baseline is much lower.

2. I usually don't have to do what I'm doing.

This fits right in with what Lauren was saying in the comment on the "that's not fair" entry. If I really think about it, most of the time I don't have to do what I'm doing. I don't have to play a game with Rose, read a book to David, even be caught in 10 mile an hour traffic in the rain in order to get to my job 35 miles away. I'm choosing to do these things because of my values. Acknowledging my choice in the matter, does, as Lauren pointed out, make me feel less like a victim or martyr; it makes me happier. (Lauren why aren't we at a coffee shop having this conversation over cookies, big warm chocolate chip cookies?)

3. Work makes me happy.

I am one of the extremely lucky people in the world who do work that I love. I love to help people find their voice. I love to help people attain skills they need for their life goals. I love to apply what I know about writing and interpersonal skills. It's not that the work is always easy, though recently it has been, it's that is challenging, meaningful, and successful. So, maybe I should apply for that teaching job. On the other hand, maybe I like work so much because my life is in balance. Too much work might not be as fun. Lots 'o grading, hmmm. . .

4. I'm not outdoors as much as I thought I was.

Again with the self-image. I think of myself as outside lots. There's the 45 minutes in the morning walking to and from school. Sometimes the same in the afternoon. And definitely a good half hour while the kids run around the playground. See, that's over an hour a day. Which, when compared with the other fifteen waking hours, ain't much. That's why the survey rarely caught me outside. I know being outside is good for my mental health, so I'm taking this as a reminder to up my game. I'll be walking to the drug store today.

5. Taking care of my children is not the happiest part of my life.

Dancing is the happiest time in my life. I am pretty much unequivocally happy dancing. Taking care of my children is way harder than dancing and leads to some frustrating, aggravating, and down right miserable experiences. Stopping David from playing with cat poop, ordering Rose to bring her coat, referring as they fight over t.v. time--not happy times. On the other hand, hearing David practice the four questions, bringing Rose a cup of tea because her throat hurts and having her drink it, snuggling with them both--happy in a slow deep way.

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