"Chicken Wing Partners, the Peacefulness of a Baby Falling Asleep on You...and 1000 Other Things."
Posted Apr 15 2010 10:04am
From time to time, I post short interviews with interesting people about their insights on happiness. During my study of happiness, I’ve noticed that I often learn more from one person’s highly idiosyncratic experiences than I do from sources that detail universal principles or cite up-to-date studies. I’m much more likely to be convinced to try a piece of advice urged by a specific person who tells me that it worked for him or her, than by any other kind of argument.
I can’t remember how I heard about Neil Pasricha’s blog 1000 Awesome Things , but I was so happy to find it. Each day, there’s a post about an awesome thing. It’s thought-provoking and whimsical -- and it really does boost my happiness, by reminding me of all the awesome things out there. These aren’t traditional choices like “Rainbows” but more unexpected little things, like “ Wrong colored foods .”
You can get a great sense of the book and the blog from this incredibly charming, sweet video -- which, I confess, brought tears to my eyes:
1000 Awesome Things is a wonderful example of an unconventional, fun gratitude exercise. Gratitude is a frame of mind that’s so important to happiness, but that I, at least, find difficult to cultivate on a daily basis. It’s so easy to take things for granted and to forget all that’s awesome! I was very curious to hear what Neil had to say about happiness.
Gretchen: What’s a simple activity that consistently makes you happier?
Neil: Ha ha, it’s gotta be talking about awesome things!
I love talking about the cold side of the pillow, waking up and realizing it’s Saturday, or getting called up first to the dinner buffet at a wedding.
I guess I just honestly love sitting around eating chicken wings late at night with friends and having someone suddenly perk up and go on a hilarious rant and say: You know what’s awesome? When you find your perfect chicken wing partner. When you find that special someone who likes the exact same hot sauce level as you but the exact opposite type of wing. You like baby drumsticks? Perfect, they like flat pats!
I like when they point their sauce-smeared fingers like a university professor and squint their eyebrows under the fluorescent Coors Lite sign like they’re giving an important lecture.
I love it when everybody laughs and when we all chime in with our own awesome little things in life. It’s a pretty addictive high, Gretchen. Sometimes I can't get enough.
Is there a happiness quotation that has struck you as particularly insightful?
A teacher of mine once showed me a Starbucks coffee cup that had her girlfriend’s quote written on the side of it. I kept the cup and really love the quote:
“The irony of commitment is that it’s deeply liberating -- in work, in play, in love. The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress itself up and parade around as rational hesitation. To commit is to remove your head as the barrier to your life.” -- Anne Morriss
This thought always reminds me there’s nothing wrong with diving right in, jumping in the deep end, and just going for it. Because doing so absolutely fills you to the brim with your own positive push to move forward, move on, and test yourself out. You give yourself permission to be you and love it.
If you’re feeling blue, how do you give yourself a happiness boost? Or, like comfort food, do you have a comfort activity?
Well, maybe it sounds strange, but I guess I just love remembering how lucky we are to be alive. I let my mind float into outer space and remember that we’re the only species on the only life-giving rock out there capable of so many beautiful things -- whether it’s architecture, agriculture, horror movies with monsters or guitar jams at concerts. We’re the last in a long line of survivors who had babies for hundreds of thousands of years so we could be here. And we get a short run on a pretty cool planet to fill our lives with beautiful little things.
I mean, I feel like 99.9% of our days are filled with little things. They’re filled with thank-you waves on the highway, slipping through a door that’s shutting without touching it, and hitting a string of green lights on the way home from work. They’re filled with the smell of frying onions, the peacefulness of a baby falling asleep on you, and the rush of waking up the next morning and realizing you’ve got an hour left to sleep.
And sure, we may save our cash up and go on a dream cruise for a few days, but even that cruise is about the red sun setting on the horizon and the sweaty hand you’re holding on the deck.
Have you always felt about the same level of happiness or have you been through a period when you felt exceptionally happy or unhappy? If so, why? If you were unhappy, how did you become happier?
When I started 1000 Awesome Things in 2008 I felt like the world outside and inside my window was in a pretty tough place.
I mean, melting ice caps, natural disasters, the exploding economy. On top of that I lost the two closest people in my life at the same time: my wife told me she didn’t love me anymore and my best friend took his own life. It was in those sort of doom and gloom days that I wanted to talk about the smell of gasoline, the last day of school, and snow days.
So I guess to answer your question it’s honestly just thinking and talking about what makes life sweet, even if you’ve been to a place where bad news brings you down and hurts you hard.
I’ve had letters from schoolteachers saying they’re giving homework assignments for kids to write about awesome things. I’ve got letters for folks who were depressed or were dealing with a rough illness who say that awesome things bring them smiles on dark days. And I get messages from folks just saying, “Hey, thanks for the smiles.” I guess I'm saying maybe spreading the awesome around can help a lot of folks be happier.
I know it’s certainly helped me, anyway.
Gretchen, thanks so much to you and your readers for the chance to chat. It’s an absolutely pleasure and delight. I truly love The Happiness Project and congrats sincerely on your success! I'll be reading! [Awwwww, thanks Neil! You're...awesome!]