Wednesday, October 22, 2008

How to stay sane. And/or happy.

The Times (London, not New York) reported today that scientists have come up with five simple things you can do to maintain your sanity throughout your life. Well, at least that what the paper called the article. The actual list, however, was "Steps to Happiness:"

Developing relationships with family, friends, colleagues and neighbours will enrich your life and bring you support

Be active
Sports, hobbies such as gardening or dancing, or just a daily stroll will make you feel good and maintain mobility and fitness

Be curious
Noting the beauty of everyday moments as well as the unusual and reflecting on them helps you to appreciate what matters to you

Fixing a bike, learning an instrument, cooking – the challenge and satisfaction brings fun and confidence

Helping friends and strangers links your happiness to a wider community and is very rewarding

I have no qualms with this list, except for the "fixing a bike" part, which I believe would send me over the edge. However, I do find a couple of interesting points. First, the apparent equating of "sane" with "happy." Perhaps the reporter just got a little carried away in these times of financial insanity and hoped that the reference to "sane" would draw people in faster than "happy" or "fulfillment." (Hey, it worked on me, right?) The second thing I find interesting in reading the reader comments are the discussions about God (mostly from U.S. readers) and the bigger question of happiness being the be-all/end-all.

Staying connected, active, and curious (boy, am I curious), giving to others, and life-long learning are surely ways to live a happy, even sane, life. Each of these is subject to interpretation, of course (my unhappiness with bike-fixing, for example). For those of us who do believe in God/Allah/Supreme Being, that belief threads itself through each of the five categories, just as non-belief doesn't threaten any of the steps listed. In other words, that the study didn't mention a belief in God specifically doesn't trouble me - I get what's being said and can work my own belief system into it. No conflict.

Here are my questions for you:
1. Does sanity = happiness/happiness = sanity?
2. Is being "happy" (not slappy/sappy/happy, just mostly contented with a good dash of "joy") what we ultimately strive for?
3. Would you add something to the list? Take something out?

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