Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Women and Happiness

Do you know what makes you happy? Let's see....I'm happy when I feel the sun on my face, especially after many cloudy/rainy days in a row. When I get to about page ten of a new book and realize I've got a delicious winner on my hands. When I'm laughing with a friend or friends and enjoying time together. When I wake up at night and feel my partner snuggled up close to me. When I have a happy purring kitty in my lap or by my side. When I see the waves rolling on shore at the Oregon Coast and smell the wonderful ocean air. When I successfully hook someone up with "the perfect book." So, if I know what makes me happy, why aren't I happy all the time?

In her latest book, Bluebird: Women and the New Psychology of Happiness, Ariel Gore conducts an exploration into the history, science, and experience of women's happiness. As part of that study, she kept a journal in which she recorded the happiest moments of each day, and she asked other women to do the same.

She was prompted to embark on this study in part becaused she noticed a growing disconnect between the things she imagined would make her happy and the things that actually did. She also began to notice that the vast majority of people conducting happiness studies were men.

"We are told what will make us happy, as if we were all the same woman, as if we all share a single heart, as if we can't all be right when we realize our disparate desires."

She found that a lot of women are resistant to focusing on their own happiness. "As women, we have been taught that thinking of ourselves is intrinsically selfish." But as the women kept their journals, they found that focusing on their own happiness and recording moments of joy can be very powerful. Just paying attention to happiness every day can increase it.
And just what is "happiness," anyway? According to Ariel, happiness isn't the same as pleasure, or the fake cheerfulness of Madison Avenue; it's more complex than that. The opposite of happiness isn't unhappiness or depression, it's anxiety. A big part of happiness is about the ability to rejoice in the midst of suffering

Did you know that the ancient Greeks attributed happiness to being favored by the gods? "Their fatalism is captured in our language: the English words for happiness, happenstance, haphazard, and hapless all derive from the same root -- the Old Norse happ, meaning 'luck' or 'chance.'" I had no idea!

Come learn more about women and the psychology of happiness when Ariel Gore reads from her new book tonight at Broadway Books at 7 pm. The event is free, and you just might find yourself happier when you leave -- especially if you leave with a great new book or two!

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