Detail from one of my
When I paint the kitchen
it's the excitement and
exuberance of our lives
there I'm trying to capture.
We always have flowers,
bowls of fruit and someone
settling down to a cup of coffee
I teach a course on school success -- a very enjoyable
job. One day in the winter driving to school I realized
that I wanted my class to know how much psychology
has changed in the last two decades, but even more
so in the past ten years. I wanted them to know that
there's been a shift from examining people's flaws, to planning
a present and future life that would be fulfilling -- to each
I had one of my "aha" moments on the way to school and
decided to introduce a new exercise called Ten Reasons to Be
Happy. I explained that in a negative news world, this
whole concept was decidedly radical. But we started.
Each day when we had time, ten people (and towards the
end of the term more) would go to the front of the class
and each student said one reason that she or he was happy,
and related it back to the course.
The impact was dynamic. In fact I've never seen anything
like it in 18 years of teaching. This exercise filtered into
their daily lives as they thought about what they'd talk
about if it happened to be their turn in the class. I picked
the people to go to the front at random, unless they
volunteered, but all were welcome. In my very last class,
the whole class went to the front and it was a delightful
sight to see.
Their reasons were connected to the course, so some were
doing well in school (study skills), some were learning to
love themselves and others (self knowledge), some were
managing their time better (time management). But the
smiles on those faces really blew me away.
Here are my 10 reasons to be happy today:
1. The term is over, and I feel like I did the best job
teaching that I've ever done.
2. I am going to work on a painting tonight.
3. I've started to mark today's exams (time management)
4. We had Jerk Salmon for dinner tonight and it was delicious
5. I have wonderful friends in my daily life, and in the blog world.
6. I washed the kitchen floor yesterday.
7. My sick cat is eating again (salmon).
8. It's the weekend!
9. I'm reading a great book.
10. I'll get to go for a walk with my husband tomorrow in
the beautiful ravine near our house.
You get the idea. The reasons can be small (a good meal), or
big (falling in love). One day last week I called my mother
and I was very upset about something. She started listing
reasons to be happy, unprompted. She said there was a
beautiful bird in the tree outside her window, she could see
sailboats on the river, the weather was warmer, she'd been
asked out to dinner, and I started to cheer up. Maybe she
was my best teacher. I thought if she can be happy, and
she lives alone, and has been a widow for over 20 years,
how can I possibly feel anything but happy, with my wonderful
family and friends around me.
Have a 100-reasons-to-be-happy day.