Staying Busy and Practicing Happiness

evergreen sprigs I love making evergreen wreaths. Evergreens  are a symbol of rebirth and I am anticipating the arrival of Winter Solstice the longest night of the year.  Each wreath I make is made from different combination of materials and has a different theme.   I use cedar boughs primarily but I also use Douglas and balsam fir, spruce and pine. The cones, holly, mistletoe,  and ivy as well as  ribbon and small ornaments  I add make each wreath  unique.

Decking the halls with evergreen boughs in anticipation of the upcoming spring is among the oldest of northern mid-winter traditions. But there were times when this pagan ritual was not observed by Christians.

When the Roman Church decided in the fourth century that Christmas should be celebrated on December 25, some of the pagan celebrations of the Roman Saturnalia (celebrated at the same time of year) were carried over, such as feasting and exchanging gifts. But others were too controversial to carry over…. Using the clippings of evergreen shrubs from the landscape to decorate houses, a common practice during the December celebrations of Saturnalia, was strictly forbidden by the Church.

The tradition of decorating an evergreen tree at Christmas started in Livonia and Germany in the 16th century.   But it wasn’t until Queen Victoria’s reign that Christmas tree decorating  became  a Christmas tradition in England, thanks to the influence of Prince Albert (see The Christian Calendar: A Complete Guide to the Seasons of the Christian Year, Cowie and Gummer, p.11).  Not coincidentally, Prince Albert had been born in Germany. — —  Christmas Tree Decorating: The History of the Christmas Tree

Stay Busy – Stay Happy

wreathEarlier this year the results of some interesting research was published in Psychological Science.    Christopher K. Hsee, of the University of Chicago, and his colleagues found that people who have something to do, even something pointless, are happier than people who sit idly. The findings  reinforced our proposition that humans concurrently desire both busyness and a justification for busyness.  Such decisions are rooted in evolution, because expending energy throughout the ages without reason could jeopardize survival. — Hsee in Idleness aversion and the need for justifiable busyness. Psychological Science, 21, 926-930. doi: 10.1177/0956797610374738

“In Greek mythology, Sisyphus’ punishment, imposed by Zeus, was to eternally roll a rock toward the top of a hill, never to arrive there,” the authors write. “Our research suggests that Sisyphus was better off with his punishment than he would have been with a punishment of an eternity of doing nothing, and that he might have chosen rolling a rock over idleness if he had been given a slight reason for doing so.” —  Stay Busy, Stay Happy

The Science of Lasting Happiness

wreathCount your blessings every day? Staying in high spirits is hard work. Through controlled experiments, Sonja Lyubomirsky explored ways to beat the genetic set point for happiness.

Lyubomirsky found through experiments that exercises in gratitude, kindness and optimism can make people happier–but only if they keep doing them.

Lyubomirsky, Sheldon and another psychologist, David A. Schkade of the University of California, San Diego, put the existing findings together into a simple pie chart showing what determines happiness. Half the pie is the genetic set point. The smallest slice is circumstances, which explain only about 10 percent of people’s differences in happiness. So what is the remaining 40 percent? “Because nobody had put it together before, that’s unexplained,” Lyubomirsky says. But she believes that when you take away genes and circumstances, what is left besides error must be “intentional activity,” mental and behavioral strategies to counteract adaptation’s downward pull. — The Science of Lasting Happiness

yuleWinter Solstice Contemplation

As the the shortest day and longest night of the year approaches part of our life must be discarded to make way for a new beginning.   This is the time to evaluate what you have  endured and have survived and open your heart to prepare for the spring to come.  This is the time to prepare to welcome the light by remembering the gifts of darkness.

Dedication

This a post is dedicated to two bloggers who remind me that to experience genuine happiness we must practice it every day.

Zeenat has published My 33 Spiritual Laws of Happiness which is an inspiring compilation of personal spiritual laws that I think of as happiness exercises.  She currently working on an ebook on the same topic.

The book will cover each Law in detail, with personal examples, insight , affirmations and practical simple ways of incorporating each in your life to truly BE happy.

Sandra Lee  has published Happiness Is An Inside Job in her series: A Simple Guide to Inner and Outer Harmony.

If genuine happiness arises from a sense of inner peace, as the Dalai Lama proposes, then – like any other task in life – we need to identify its causes and conditions and set about cultivating them.  He defines two conditions which contribute to inner peace:  our attitude and our actions.

Discussion:

Are you keeping busy and happy?

36 thoughts on “Staying Busy and Practicing Happiness

  1. Hi! I have really enjoyed this post and reading some of your other posts as well. I love to learn about how traditions evolve and this was most interesting. I look forward to reading more in the future and will be back to browse around.
    warmest regards for the festive season and a very blessed 2011
    Cindy
    @notjustagranny

  2. Wow…I’ve been so busy singing and working, I haven’t been able to read your terrific articles.

    I love wreaths too. Besides being another disguise of the Great Wheel, they smell so good.

    I haven’t focused much on working toward happiness. I have a genetic predisposition toward general positivity. I’m aware this is a great gift, and many others suffer and struggle to perceive the good in life. I think the spirit of generosity and fecundity is the same one whether it’s named Odin, Gaia, or Santa Claus. Whatever’s the source of that energy, I’m trying to be a conduit to make it more accessible on Earth.

    Happy Midwinter!

  3. Lots of interesting stuff in this post TiTi.Your wreaths sounds beautiful – I wonder if you make them as gifts?
    I love evergreen wreaths and have a large one on our front door, made of holly and decorated with tied bundles of cinnamon sticks, dried orange slices and a big red bow. But I have to admit to purchasing the whole thing ready made from a local garden store!
    I tend to be busy most of the time – not always happily so as I do overload on the work front and get myself into real states of anxiety.
    However, for the last few weeks, like you I have been happily busy preparing for Christmas. I adore being in the kitchen baking and ‘pickling’ – and not a computer in sight!

  4. Duh?! It took me this long to figure out there was a different kind of Titi.. :( But, now I found you!! Yay!
    Awesome blog, how can one person have two awesome blogs, I wonder.. :)
    Hope to learn how to be happy Titi!! Thanks, you rock!
    Rachana

  5. i’m a believer. i stay busy. i can’t remember a time when i was bored and had truly nothing to do. there is always something on my list of things that i can’t wait to have some free time for. and i stay happy most of the time. i always thought it was because i got my happiness from inside and didn’t let the outside circumstances affect it. i’ve never actually considered that staying busy contributed. interesting look into staying happy. i guess since it’s working for me, i’ll just keep staying busy and not try to see if being bored makes me unhappy :)

  6. “The tradition of decorating an evergreen tree at Christmas started in Livonia and Germany in the 16th century. ”

    Have to say there is still the German tradition of decorating the house with freshly cut evergreen boughs. I My dearie’s mother right up to her death and before she went into a nursing home, enjoyed doing this.

    Dearie also remembers in his childhood, his parents using REAL lit candles on live Christmas tree indoors! Yes, there was mini-fire one year on tree..

    This past summer, I went to Germany where I went to several museums with German medevial and rennaissance art paintings and wood sculptures. The liturgical art, often had Christmas colours of green, red and brown though the theme /story was not necessarily always about the birth of Christ. you can see some of my blog posts, feature photos of this artwork. Probably because the making of colour pigments might be from natural substances, perhaps?? Same stuff that …probably inspired our present day Christmas cards! :) It was my first exposure to German art from those time periods. We seem to get exposure more to Italian and French art from those areas in North American. (Except maybe for Albert Durer’s rabbit drawing.)

    But it was beautiful artwork that I saw, regardless of its religious imagery.

    P.S. My partner and family were originally from Germany…which explains all these German references.

    1. @Jean
      Your trip must have been awesome. I have seen some of the photos you took in your blog so I know what you are referring to when you mention the colors. Without the church I imagine that many of the most valued artworks of all kinds that have endured centuries may not have been created.

      I hope you are bundled up warm and send you my love.

      1. Likewise, TiTi. Hope it’s not too rainy out there. I bought a pair of knee high fake fur lined boots here and nearly freaked out over the price. It’s been over 8 yrs. since I’ve bought a pr. of winter boots knee-high. I need them.

        Admitttedly since knowing my dearie and with his cultural Christmas celebrating habits added onto my existing ones, it does altogether add up to more Yuletide feel to the holidays.

        Merry Christmas.

  7. Now I get this thing right. Stay busy, stay happy. Of course, you are right. A tremendous post with lots of insight, though I am little bit inclined towards religion, but should mention here that, what you described in your post is excellent and refreshing. Thank you so much for sharing this beautifully written post!

  8. For me, being busy vs. idle is somewhat akin to ‘highs’ feeling higher after experiencing a ‘low.’ Though I don’t like to be idle for long periods, after I’ve been really busy it feels so wonderful to sit back and relax. As with most things in life, for me it’s a question of balance.

    1. Hi Janene,
      I hear what you’re saying and identify with it. When busy this cycle ends on New Years Day the pressure on us will diminish. The next cycle will be the tourist season. So come January and February I do intend to relax and enjoy some slack time. I hope you have a relaxing and happy holiday but do expect to chat with you throughout.

  9. Well TiTi, it seems you have made some wonderful friends during your blogging experience. It’s serendipitous that you can make your own meanings, individually and together.

    I’m always overly busy, I think. There’s never enough time in a day to do all the creative things I want to do. And I’m often in flow. Yet I do feel pressured to keep up, and I guess that’s just another part of my personality that is a little anxious and ill-at-ease with having a lot of commitments.

    I agree that you have a wonderful ability to not only stay focused, but to gather information and tie it together into a cohesive and meaningful article.

    It’s very refreshing to come here and find the level of quality that I find in your posts.

    I wish you wreaths of happiness at solstice and all year through.

    1. Lynda,
      Yes, I’ve made wonderful friends in the online world and you are among them. I tend towards being overly busy in a cyclical pattern due to the cyclic nature of our business. When the fibro is flaring I have trouble focusing but I’m currently well. Thank you so much for your compliment on my article. It means a lot to me.

      I wish you creative flow experiences without end.

  10. It’s interesting that we often find ways to make us happy and then neglect to continue doing those things. I don’t know if it’s a sign of inherent laziness or whether it’s a sign of not being vigilant against the many distractions that take us away from what we know we need to do in order to stay happy.

    As you prepare your wreaths and your decorations, I hope that you are blessed with an enjoyment of the peace we all strive to find during this season.

    1. @photodiction
      When we are children we all paint spontaneously and enjoy doing it. Looking back I recognize that painting has always been an activity that has brought me pleasure. Now that I’m expressing myself in abstract painting I do feel like a kid again.

      Thanks for reading and commenting on my post. Have a wonderful and peaceful holiday season.

  11. I love that you say ‘practicing’ happiness rather than ‘being’ happy. It IS an effort and it IS a choice. Every situation can be looked at as either good or bad, and it’s amazing what it does for your spiritual health to seek the good.

    Well thought out and well written as always, TT. :)

  12. Timethief reminds us all to enjoy the beauty and simple things in life. For my family it is nature, we walk our dog, feed the ducks at a local sanctury park and observe the colorful butterflies in our area.
    We all need to focus on the positive in life.
    Stephanie Dolen

    1. Hello Stephanie,
      It’s the simple things in life like the time we make for one on one conversations with those we love, and doing the things you recount above like appreciating nature and our place in it that are the most important of all.

      I welcome all my life experiences both positive and negative as I have a history of learning from both of them. I chose not to reject the negative in my life for two reasons:

      When I do use my energy to reject negativity in the form of thoughts, people or circumstances it backfires on me, and I fail to learn the lessons I could have learned by simply being with that rejection, witnessing it, without holding onto it.

      I have discovered that negative thoughts, negative people, and negative experiences are best dealt with in the same way that I deal with any negative thoughts that may arise during meditation. I let them just pass on through giving them no recognition and/or response at the time of their manifestation.

      I hope you have a fabulous mid-winter holiday and an exciting New Year too.

  13. time-thief,

    This post is so rich. I love the way you weave your personal experience and research. I want to learn more about the genetic aspect of happiness and will definitely follow the link. I also really enjoyed hearing about the pre-Christianity traditions around the solstice.

    You are right – staying in high spirits takes time and dedication! This is such an important point to bear in mind: “Lyubomirsky found through experiments that exercises in gratitude, kindness and optimism can make people happier–but only if they keep doing them.”

    Thanks for regularly sharing your wealth of ideas for living a more meaningful life with us. And thank you for acknowledging me. I’m very grateful for our connection. I have learned so much from you thanks to your blog and am deeply grateful.

    1. @Sandra Lee
      It’s so wonderful to make friends online like yourself. Sharing out thoughts, experiences and challenges as well as the practices we use to overcome them creates a very close bond between us. At this time of the year I recount all the dark experiences of the year and I contemplate what I learned from them. In fact I do write them all down in my private personal journal and then I print them out and on Solstice Eve I burn the print out. See One Red Candle and Seasonal Favorites for the second part of ritual I practice.

      All my love always,
      TT

  14. I love this post, TT, a lot of good stuff to chew on. In Camus’ book, The Myth Of Sisyphus, he claims Sisyphus is happy because he has his task in life, some goal to endeavor towards. I think the problem is not so much idleness as boredom. Most people when they aren’t occupied get bored quickly, they don’t know what to do with themselves. They start thinking all sorts of unpleasant things, often self-deprecatory thoughts. They feel guilty for frittering away their time and not achieving anything. People like that ought to keep busy because, in fact, if they’re not they will be unhappy. In my case I’m perfectly happy being idle, in fact I prefer it. I feel very peaceful and at ease not having any plans or goals. I love just being.

    1. @NP
      I agree 100% with what you have said. In the online environment I believe many instances of trolling and online battling are a result of being idle and bored. It’s a shame that so many people aren’t comfortable being alone and are making the choice to be occupied. When we become occupied we can become inspired and when that happens we can open ourselves to creative flow experiences.

      Yesterday I got lost in wreath making and when I surfaced I was amazed how much time had gone by. The wreaths I made were lovely and I’m not bragging when I say that. I visualized the people I was making them for and sent them loving thoughts and the next thing I knew I was emerging from a flow experience. :)

      Thank you so much for being my friend. I appreciate your aphorisms so much as they are insightful and provoke me to think deeply.

      Have a fabulous holiday!

  15. Your great mind reveals itself in your every writing. To be able to draw references from all sides and to write about a lot of ideas with enough foresight to keep them coherent is a talent. I agree. Doing nothing can drive one crazy. Inspiration and a sense of purpose keep us alive.

    1. Hi Baxter,
      If we want to take responsibility for our own help and healing then we must use what’s available to us. I have research skills and an inquiring mind. I’m drawn to creative artistic and musical pursuits and I’m drawn to seek out the tools I can use to keep me happy and well.

      I can’t imagine why anyone would choose to think that “rolling around in heaven all day” ie. doing nothing forevermore is state they want to be in. That state is one that leads to many negative thoughts and can send one into the pit of despair in no time flat, so I don’t embrace it.

      Instead I choose to remain busy with creative projects that help me release emotions and express my dreams and hopes for a brighter future.

      I hope you have a great holiday and will be thinking of you on Winter Solstice.

  16. Darling TiTi,
    I love this..and thank you…I feel so honored to get such a beautiful heart warming dedication. You truly are the bestest!

    I have also loved Sandras series on happiness…it just gets tot he core of it all.

    My experience in writing the book is so full of joy…I cant wait to finish it an share it with the world soon. But you know..books take time…so if all goes well, i should publish it in the beginning of 2011 :)

    Thank you for putting smiles to my face all year long…and for many years to come..I’m so glad to call you “my friend”..you truly are a gift..and bring me immense happiness. Just know my heart glows every time i encounter your words.

    This is indeed a time for new beginnings. Many new surprises in store fro my blog and me too :)
    Lots of love and happy hugs,
    Z~

    1. @Zeenat
      All my online friends mean a lot to me and inspire me in different ways.It’s not easy for those of us who suffer from chronic pain and depression to rise above it. But, we do get by with a little help from our friends and there’s a wealth of insight and encouragement in your blog and in Sandra’s too.

      I’m thinking about what you two have shared and what research reveals about happiness as I make my wreaths. It would be wonderful if we could meet face-to-face and I could give you each one. However, creative visualization must suffice.

      May you have a wonderful holiday.

      Love and peace,
      TT

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