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Home / Articles / Columnists / On the Bright Side /  Doing What Makes You Happy Makes Everyone Happy
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Monday, December 8,2014

Doing What Makes You Happy Makes Everyone Happy

By Jonna Shutowick. M.S. Ed.  
A great way to get in touch with what truly makes you happy is to think back to when you were a young kid with “nothing to do.” What did you do to entertain yourself? Did you build forts out of furniture and blankets? Did you listen to music and try to sing or play along? Did you draw or redesign your room or closet? Did you read? The activities that made the time slip away without notice are the things that we need to be doing more of in our adult life. If they made our hearts smile back in the day, they are sure to do the same today. Some things are obvious, like reading or singing. If you liked it then, you like it now. But what if building blanket forts in the dining room was your bliss? I suppose today a better idea might be to build something useful, like a table. Or maybe the fort was about the privacy. In that case what’s needed is carving out a space to sit quietly, alone when you want to.

Last month I wrote about how I used to love to pretend I was a teacher. I would grade my coloring books and make my room into a classroom. And lo and behold - I’m a teacher. But what about the activities that don’t translate so clearly?

Obviously I enjoyed playing roles and as a kid I think I spent more time in makebelieve land than in reality. But that’s what’s great about being a kid! My friends and I used to put on shows for our parents. And when we weren’t performing, we were pretending to be on a TV show. I played Laura Ingalls in "Little House on the Prairie" until I was way too old to admit it outside of the neighborhood. My best friend and I played Little House" all the time. If tapping into the things that made me happy as a kid is my key to happiness this one raises problems. Dressing up in a long skirt and a bonnet and riding a pretend horse around would certainly raise a few eyebrows. But if I look more deeply, I realize that I am very connected to that era in American history. I’m looking at my bookshelf as I write this and nine titles pop out to me immediately that all center around 19th century women. The last book I recommended for book club was "The Invention of Wings" by Sue Monk Kidd, which is about the Grimke sisters (abolitionists). I am currently reading "The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert about a nineteenth century female botanist, and I just finished Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina". Now that I think about it, the course I’m teaching this year is called “International History: 1845- 1945.” I’m completely immersed in what I love. My inner Laura Ingalls has merged with my history teacher self, and I’m still playing in that era. Life is good. And it’s not just good for me, it’s good for all the people I interact with every day. I am happy. And that makes me open and available and generous and kind and patient and.... happy. Happiness can be contagious. Imagine if everyone took time every day to get in touch with their inner child and tapped into some of that innocent joy that was ours for the taking when we were young?

It’s as true today as it was 750 years ago when Rumi said, “Let yourself be silently drawn to the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.”

 

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