Best of 2009: Gwen Bell blog challenge

Today: What’s an article that blew you away?

Easy. The Atlantic magazine article titled What Makes Us Happy?

The article was one input to a long blog post about the puzzles that we all are. I found myself thinking about the article, and the study, long after I read it this summer. I refer to it constantly and circulate the link a lot.

The article describes a longitudinal study of 268 men over 72 years, whose goal was nothing short of understanding what contributes to happiness. What I took away from the article is that happiness is in our reactions. It is not driven by what we have, what we are born with, or even, to a large degree, what happens to us. It is by what we do with those things, and, even more specifically, how we respond to challenges and setbacks. The article’s conclusions are much more nuanced, of course: read more detail here.

Fascinating, inspiring and daunting in equal measure, I’ve returned again and again to this premise this year. May 2009 be the year I decided I needed to grow up and learn a bit more about resilence. I think the happiness of my life depends on it.

8 thoughts on “Best of 2009: Gwen Bell blog challenge”

  1. I am so looking forward to sitting down with this article (bookmarked).

    And – I've already gleaned much from what you said – it's more in our responses, our reactions, that the key is to be found. Probably not in some magic ratio of work/family/friend/travel/etc. (I'm certainly guilty of treasure-seeking that ratio!)

  2. I will also take some real time with this reference. I'm tired right now, and I don't think it would process.

    I will say I think some people are born to be "happier" than others. I have seen this in my sons. One gravitates towards challenge in all things, and often puts obstacles in his own path. He is happy, but his requirements for (self) happiness are rigorous and always moving.

    My younger son has a contentment that radiates from inside. It's been there from the beginning. He needs less materially; he is a quieter spirit, yet no less curious. He is self-happy, very differently.

  3. I must go and read this article now. Happiness is about reactions. How true. And yet, also, how scary. Because we can't often control how we react, can we?

    Thanks for pointing the way, Lindsey.

  4. I hope to get around to reading this tonight. Although even your "Cliff Notes" raised an interesting point about what makes us happy. I see it in my own world where my mom reacts negatively to EVERYTHING. She sees the dark instead of the light in anything. It makes it almost impossible for her to be happy. I have always seen the bright side and my first instinct is a positive reaction… which for the most part has kept me quite happy (unrealistic sometimes, but still happy!)

  5. Thank you for bringing this article into my world!! LOVE it! Such a gift of knowledge and information. Truly shows that happiness is found in our individual thoughts and perceptions to the world around us.

  6. Learning Resilience.
    Take a cue from your children. Look to them for light more than they look to you. For even one day. And you will see the birth place of resilience.

    My best friend has a new baby. Her first. He is a month old. She remarks during each phone call about the responsibilities of parenting. Of raising a little being. Of making sure that you are doing everything the way you should. Of the RESPONSIBILITY.

    I don't know if it is due to the fact that I was young and dumb when I had my first (unplanned) child and she is older and more stable than I was when she had her (very planned) child, but I never had anxiety about the responsibilities of parenthood. So what I offered up to comfort her today was the topic of resilience. Your child is more resilient and more giving than any other human being you will ever meet or come in contact with. I can only force myself to remember this when I, too, am having a tough day and finding the "sad" in everything.

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