Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Roadblocks to Happiness

The Science of Happiness experiment began yesterday and already I've hit some problems.

The task I was given was to do something nice for someone else every day. That sounds so easy. I can't imagine a day when I don't do that already and I'm guessing that's true for you too, given that the suggestions include
complimenting someone, giving a friend or loved one a small gift, sending a helpful email, donating to those in need, or just contacting someone who would enjoy hearing from you
So, does it count if it was something I would have done anyway?

Let's say that I ignore that and just make sure that I count one good deed a day towards the experiment. Now here's the crunch. If I email you because it's my one good day of the day, how does that make you feel? I'm not sure I'd like to be someone else's charity project. The experiment is like a little bit of grit in all my relationships, causing me to ask myself "Am I doing this because I want to, or because it's my good deed of the day?"

I know what makes me happy. Walking in the sun somewhere with lots of greenery, petting my cats and playing clarinet.

I didn't expect the happiness experiment to be this hard. How are you finding it?

10 COMMENTS:

Adam Heine said...

I've been reading a lot about Mother Teresa lately that applies to this. She said if you expect something in return, then it isn't love.

That's depressing, but she also said, "We don't need to look for happiness: if we have love for others we'll be given it. It is the gift of God."

So I guess the answer is to do nice things for people in order to love them. Doesn't help much for the experiment though.

McKoala said...

oh my. Well, yesterday I looked after my friend's two sons, although I was feeling significantly grotty, mostly because she has done so much for me and I hated to let her down. I wonder if that counts?

For the record, her boys, although normally difficult, were angelic. It was Princess and Soccer Boy that played up!

I don't think I've done anything particularly good today. #happinessfail?

Bevie said...

"So, does it count if it was something I would have done anyway?"

Absolutely! What better way to achieve a goal? Forget all about it and then find out you were doing it all along?

Sorry. Saw the opening and had to take it.

Seriously, though, you pose an interesting question. Here you were, doing various things which made you and others happy. Then you sign up for an experiment which calls for you to do the things you were already doing, and now you wonder why you're doing those things, which is taking away your happiness.

Solution: Don't include the people you really care about in the experiment. Treat them the way you always treated them and you'll be happy - they'll be happy - and the world will be a better place. As to complimenting someone, just send the Prime Minister a "Good job. Keep it up." note.

Sorry. Maybe my solution isn't so grand after all.

fairyhedgehog said...

Adam, I suppose I'm not aiming at love. I can't imagine doing something and not getting anything back, even if only the satisfaction of a job well done. I'm no Mother Teresa!

McKoala, I think looking after other people's kids definitely counts! I'm glad they were good for you. I don't think failing to do something good is a #happinessfail, but maybe an #experimentfail if that's your task for the day.

Bevie, your idea is brilliant. I shall find some people to compliment that I wouldn't normally talk to and that can be my good deed for the day. They won't care what my motives are!

sylvia said...

So that's your assigned task for every day ? I can see your issue with it although I do think Bevie's solution is very clever.

I'm making something every day for the month although I'm not sure how this is going to work out. :)

fairyhedgehog said...

sylvia, that sounds like a tricky assignment. I'll be interested to hear what you come up with.

I think it's for a week not a month. I hope so!

Robin S. said...

I think doing the nice things you already do, and counting them for the purposes of this experiment, would be just fine!

fairyhedgehog said...

Robin, I may just do that. I'm not sure how it will affect the experiment if I don't do anything more than usual! I'll see how I go.

stacy said...

I don't know. I'm skeptical that counting up good deeds makes for happiness (although I know that's not exactly what you're doing.) I've tried this experiment myself, and so far, while I do in general feel happier, I'm often surprised at how people take me to be insincere. I must admit I'm a shy person trying to grow out of her shell, so maybe I come across that way. Don't know.

fairyhedgehog said...

stacy, I think the intention is to do deeds that you wouldn't normally do. It must be hard to be shy. I'm lucky because I'm fairly outgoing these days and talk to everyone I meet. I've never thought about whether I seem sincere or not.

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