A few years ago I heard on the radio an interview with a 102-year-old woman. She said that there are some days when she wonders why she still wants be here, but then she looks up at a blue sky and says to herself, “Ah, that’s why!” For her, the blue sky is one of those little things that bring a burst of happiness to life. We all love the grand moments, such as weddings, once-in-a-lifetime vacations, the birth of a child, but in truth, it is those brief moments of “happy” that keep us going…that give every day its shine.
I think of this "blue sky” comment almost every day as I go about my life. Like all of us, I just want to be happy. I know that there are genuinely sad times in all of our lives and I am not saying we can “Pollyanna” those moments away, but hopefully, most of our lives are spent in the ordinary times. Those are the times when we can influence our own levels of happiness.
First, the why: happiness is good for us. There are many of scientific studies that prove the health benefits of being happy. Just Google “happy” if you want the research, but basically, happiness is like a super pill - it improves our mind, body, and spirit in every way. It helps us recover from surgery faster, makes learning easier and a 2013 article in Psychology Today even links happiness to preventing dementia.
So how does one bring more happiness to life? It happens by simply looking for the small nuggets of wonder and joy that lie all around us everyday…the blue sky. Those nuggets are different for each of us - what brings on my happy may be different from what brings on yours, but I guarantee, if you look, you will find it.
Best of all for those of us moving into the next chapter of life, being happy gets easier as we get older. According to a joint study by Tufts and Stanford Universities, even during a time when factors, such as mobility, health, and social isolation can make looking for our blue sky seem more difficult, older adults are more adapt at finding the happy moments in a situation. In addition, a 2011 Michigan State University study showed that simply reminiscing about things that make us happy to the point of smiling had the same health benefits as the original moment.
Since hearing the radio interview with the 102-year-old, I started keeping a list of the small things that make me happy. I pull it out every once in a while and add new observationsIt’s almost like reading a diary in that I can tell what else was happening in my life by what was bringing me joy, and just reading it makes me happy.
Here are a few things on my list:
* Watching tomatoes turn red in my garden
* The first sip of coffee in the morning
* Homemade vanilla ice cream
* Seeing mature couples holding hands
* The smell (and taste) of honeysuckle
* Getting a handwritten letter in the mail
* The sound of crickets on a summer evening
* Learning something new – particularly at The Learning Center
* The anticipation that rises when the lights start to dim at a movie theater
* Roaming through a book store
* Winning my bet with my Gator friend when Tennessee and Florida play football
* The blue of the Smoky Mountains
* Finishing a crossword puzzle
* And, of course, a blue sky
As you can see, the list isn’t full of grand things but I’m smiling! Start identifying your list now and while you don’t have to write it down, I encourage you to do so. You can bring it out when life is cloudy to bring on your own blue sky.