Comparative Happiness

Studies have shown (some study somewhere always shows something) that happiness is relative, by which I do not mean your relatives make you happy. I mean that your happiness with an experience depends on what you’re comparing it to.   Is right now not as good as the best time in your life or is it much better than the worst time in your life?  There’s your relative scale for happiness.  I’m wondering if that’s why older people are so often reported to be more content.  We’ve lived through such hell that a stretch of relative calm and well-being seems like nirvana.  My personal approach is to look at anything that’s making me unhappy and think (1) Can I fix/solve/stop this? and (2) If I can’t, is this worse than the worst time in my life?  It’s never worse than the worse time in my life, so happiness returns.  

How did you find comparative happiness this week?

48 thoughts on “Comparative Happiness

  1. I’m trying to avoid the news and the internet this weekend (obviously, without complete success). Celebrated the equinox yesterday in a very low-key and limited fashion with my best friend, and although I missed doing a larger group thing, it was way less work. Put together (with said friend) the exercise bike that I bought a month ago. Apparently they only work if you take them out of the box. Go figure.

    Completed a giveaway on my blog and was happy when Rafflecopter’s random pick a winner thing picked one of my longtime followers and supporters and I was able to message her with the news.

  2. Well, my weekend has been good. I’m performing, I went to a show and to the Renaissance Faire.

    I pretty much keep myself happy on weekends doing fun things. As for the work week, I kinda give up there. I agree on the 1 and 2, but unfortunately I can’t say that “happiness returns” once I remind myself that yeah, it’s been worse. It’s more of a “shut up, Jennifer” reminder to do that.

  3. We’re into Day 3 of a power outage. Violent storm on Friday took out a sub-station and many poles. We’re got lots of books to read, Ice in the cooler and cold running water. We all went for a walk last night – can’t remember the last time DS joined us.

  4. Yep, I’d say I’m content. I’ve lived alone for so long that I’ve learned to take care of myself, to treat myself to enjoyable things like a massage, a movie, or shopping. Little things that get me out of the house and moving. Things I can enjoy alone. That doesn’t mean I don’t have times that are a bit bleak, I just now how to work through them.

  5. Right now I’m in line for a David Tennant photo op so I’m happy. And nervous. And hoping I look okay in the pic. I will update later.

      1. Yeah! My picture looks good, his panel was awesome, I’m having fried chicken for supper, it’s a good day.

  6. I am relatively happy. It’s Sunday, and I’m nearly always happy on Sundays, because this is my o-fficial Dining Out with the Daughter day, followed by Retail Therapy. I have a very short list of “acceptable” restaurants that meet the dietary requirements of a low-sodium menu. The only “fast food” place on the list is Five Guys. Outback, Ruby Tuesday, and Longhorn Steak House made the cut, with Ruby Tuesday the best – under 800 calories, under 800 mg of sodium for the Cajun Ribeye with grilled zucchini and steamed broccoli.

    I am relatively happy because I woke up alive again today. I suppose it’s *possible* that waking up dead would create relative happiness, but I’m not ready for that experience.

    I’m relatively happy because I found the twenty-five digit Product Key Code for my installation CD of MS Office 2016. There’s an aggravating story dealing with my new(est) computer, but I’m not going there, and Office 2016 will solve it anyway.

    I’m relatively happy because I recovered a lot of the files I thought were forever lost with the old computer.

    I’m relatively happy. 🙂

  7. Feeling happier and happier about the house I’m buying as I gradually feel less exhausted. Everyone’s delight has made me happy, too.

    Have also been enjoying sitting in my flat in the sun – it’s been a windy, dramatic week, but there’ve been some spells of sunshine.

    And I sold another copy of my garden book! The first this year – I’m not expecting to sell any, since I haven’t marketed it, and really want to transform it into an epub format I can sell on Amazon. It was someone in my art class, and she really liked it.

      1. I wish you were closer! I am absolutely looking for someone I can pay to help me figure out what to do with my yard to make it pretty and functional and low-maintenance!

      2. Actually some people do work as landscape design consultants. After she sold her P R firm for a reasonable amount of money that is what a friend did until she ran away to France and moved in with her lover. Some how my retirement does not look like that.

  8. This week is what I will hold up in the future as, “well, was it better than the week of 9/17? Yes? Then we’re doing well.”

  9. Compared to this time last week, I’m very very very happy. I was ill and needed antibiotics. I’m done and so far am not in need of another course.

    Compared to the last few weekends, I’m 80% up-to-date with work. Marksheets and report comments are done. Admin will print. The other 20% is paperwork in the realm of written records, filing, dates, prep. My worst kind. But trying.

    Compared to September last year, I’m emotionally resilient. And compared to the previous September, the hoard is significantly reduced.

    Just writing those last two made me feel so much happier! Now here’s something to journal! 😉

  10. I don’t often compare myself with others and it’s something I like about myself. I mean, it’s not always a great in every situation. I know I come off as eccentric sometimes b/c I do my own thing. At least a pleasant eccentric, not a scary one. 😉

    But I have a resolute downright stubborn sense of self. I feel like I know what is best for me (for better or worse!) and what will make me happy. I’m pretty good at looking at what other people have or even other times in my own life and saying “this is what’s working for me now.”

    Honestly, the worst feeling for me is not knowing what would make me happy. I’ve had that a few times when going through life changes. B/c I rely so much on my internal sense of who I am, that’s the worst kind of unhappiness.

    What’s specifically making me happy this week is a rainy day with a good book, a short run, a reasonably clean house, and my husband suddenly deciding that he is going to make all my gardening dreams come true. I think he likes the actual research and sketching out the plans on a notebook. He’s going diligently back and forth to Ace and Home Depot.

    He does *not* like yard work or gardening (generally) and I’m slightly worried this combo of ambition and lack of experience will come back to bite us. But even it all blows up in our faces, I’ll shrug my shoulders and be happy. That’s just me.

  11. I’m not the most nauseous and miserable I’ve been after chemo, so that’s a happy. Plus, my husband took video of our adorable nephew playing with science stuff which made me genuinely laugh.

    Nothing but good times, and strong meds, ahead.

    1. Mine went well also. Just one day really feeling like I had the flu. Will start in October the second chemo and things might get worse but feeling good enough today to get a pedicure! Hang in there. Sending you all kinds of good thoughts.

  12. I ‘ll be having lunch tomorrow with my besties. I’m leaving in one week for 12 days in Italy with hubby and thinking about all I need to pack in a small suitcase. It’s good because I know I can do it. Last week I spent time with my younger daughter who is in grad school and doesn’t have much free time. Also older daughter officially sold their house and bought a new one. Now if only the weather will stay nice & in the upper 60s.

  13. I’m pretty much accepting that the next two-ish weeks will NOT be happy (full of stress related to an event happening over Columbus Day weekend), but that the long weekend will be happy (especially a visit with friends on the way home from the event), and after that weekend, I’ll be able to move on with things that WILL make me happy.

    Among other things, I’ve decided to join a friend in taking a “gap year,” beginning in December or January. In her case, it’s between retirement from a high-stress career in December and then starting up whatever she decides to do with the rest of her life after the gap year. In my case, it’s the gap between finishing a long commitment to a patient advocacy group and starting whatever will be the future recipient of that time/energy. So I’m planning 2019 to be the year of me, me, me. I’ll still work on my writing career (and much of that — the writing at least, if not the publishing aspects — makes me happy), but in the “other” time, it’ll be all about what makes me happy. Like quilting (just for myself, no recipient in mind) and playing with kittens and reclaiming my gardens and I don’t know what else.

  14. I just finished the comments and realized that one of the things that makes me very happy is the comments on the Sunday posts, especially Jane’s house and RanchGirl’s and Bethany’s not-so-bad chemo. Jane isn’t in the house yet and not-so-bad is still bad, but relatively speaking, I’m glad the Argh People are my relatives.

    1. I’m a pretty private person and I was a lurker for a long time. But this group is so caring and I feel safe in being open about my issues. There is a really great bunch of people that belong to this blog. Thank you to everyone who has sent me such good wishes and are so supportive to those of us dealing with bad issues. It really does make a difference!

  15. Work sucks, but my birthday was this week, so there have been several days of flowers, cake and chocolate. My husband and my parents gave me tickets to future events, so I get to have several weeks of happy anticipation as a bonus.

  16. Hvac system installed (took three weeks!) and awaiting inspection for turn-on. Order sheet turned in for native California plant sale, the big local celebration happened, Maltese got shorn and now he looks and acts like a new dog, wine-pairing dinner went well, at annual church fete we nabbed our annual cheese ball, during this morning’s tea and vintage hat modeling I somehow acquired three hats. It’s okay, I cleaned out my hat stash yesterday in prep. Robert Galbraith’s newest, Lethal White, is pulsing over by my reading chair awaiting tonight. Our order of New Mexico sparkling wine arrived. Indulged in a massage. Best of all, I have adopted the Crusie Standard for Happiness. This explains why, although there’s a lot more occurring, since I can’t fix, solve or stop the goings-on, you’ll be treated to none of it.

    So happy for Jane, Bethany and RanchGirl.

  17. Jenny, you’re so funny and illuminating at the same time! I watched an interesting documentary about classic movie actress Hedy Lamarr who invented technology that’s used in WiFi and Bluetooth. They said she became a recluse partly because people would cruelly say things to her like, you used to be so beautiful. She got an award for her invention and sent her son to accept it because she didn’t want people to see her. I was thinking that it was terrible for people to make her feel that the best was behind her and why do people never say things like that to male actors?

    I love the idea of comparing to the worst of times instead of the best of times. I read a study of people who live to be 100+ and it said they all adapt well to loss because of course if you get to be 100 you lose a lot along the way. They must know not to focus on the losses and to remember when times were worse. I’m feeling inspired to do that now. Thanks Jenny & Argh.

  18. I like to remember times in my life that were difficult and remind myself that if I survived them, I can deal with what I am facing now. It doesn’t produce solutions, but it does make it easier to have faith.

    Today I was on the way to spend a lovely afternoon in the sunshine with my family when a friend who I had tried to get to visit me for 4 months called and said, ” How about tomorrow?” What a great afternoon. The weather was gorgeous, the lake was like an enormous. glittering jewel, and we walked for hours.

  19. My dogs make me happy every day.

    My big dog, who still hasn’t figured out that coffee tables are supposed to be off-limits for dogs. She likes to lie as close to me as physically possible, up to and including oozing all 60 lbs of herself into my lap, in a stealthy-but-not-stealthy fashion. I love the grumbling sound she makes when I wake her up by petting her — she is not happy about being woken up, but very happy about ear rubs, and it comes out as this huge, sighing moan that sums up all the joys/hardships of being a dog.

    My teenage dog, who is constantly galloping past, mouth full of toys that she urgently transports from room to room according to some mysterious puppy plan. She is the most vocal dog I have ever lived with, and I occasionally want to gag her just for a little quiet time…but then she suddenly pauses, gazes up at me with her soft bright eyes, places her paw on my forearm, and hoots softly at me to remind me that little dogs need ear rubs too.

    This isn’t the worst time I’ve lived through, and may not be the best, but I have the best worst dogs.

  20. My dogs are my reason for being now that the kids are all in college and beyond.

    My oldest and I are halfway through our road trip across America. We haven’t killed each other yet, although rolling into the hotel at 11 pm last night it was a near thing.

    We got in at 9 pm tonight and it was much better.

    I’m happy to be halfway home.

    Callan’s dog, who is taking the trip with us, is on my bed, which hurts Callan’s feelings just a little – but I think it’s because I’m closer to the air conditioner and we’ve been driving in the hot sun all day.

    I’m happier now than I’ve ever been in my life, partly because I know what makes me happy now – and it’s not some other person. It’s very freeing to be responsible for my own happiness.

    1. YES. And not to be responsible for the happiness of somebody else who is NEVER going to be happy. It’s like getting out of prison (or what I imagine that must be like).

  21. My happy at the moment is that I’m loving the new job. It’s not easy, but I’m doing something that I haven’t done before, so I’m learning new things, but I’m also using my current skillset which is great.

    I’m also happy that it’s much easier to keep my house organised and clean, because I’m happy at work, which is something that I didn’t realise was connected.

  22. I got though l through today’s workload and now have nothing urgently due, which makes me so happy that I’ll probably take it easy tomorrow. And then I’ll be back in argh territory by the time my next deadline rolls round. I know, there’s a lesson there. But right now I’m sitting on the couch, my nine year old snuggling beside me, my 10 year old loading the dishwasher without complaining. Tomorrow can worry about itself, right now is awesome.

  23. Hmmm, comparative happiness … at one time we were training for national championships, and that made me happy; right now I am (slowly) learning a little bit of jazz and (slowly) getting better, and that also makes me happy. Relatively.

    Not long ago I aspired to having a lovely native garden in my front yard, now I’m just happy to have dug up another two square feet of the verkakte grass.

    Unalloyed happiness was finishing first draft of Novel #5 and having my beta reader tell me that a sentence I loved was her favorite thing I’ve written to date and that Part I was “fantastic.”

  24. This might possibly be the best time of my life. I have a day job I enjoy that compensates me very, very well. Between my sister, who is my best friend, and our dogs, our home might possibly be the most nourishing cave of love on the planet. I’m writing again, every day, and that makes me very happy. I’m ridiculously wealthy in friends, something I treasure. I sang in front of strangers for the first time last night and it wasn’t a pitchy disaster. (It was only two strangers, another voice student and her father, but still, strangers. I sang “What’ll I Do?” if anyone is wondering.) I have a wonderful therapist who’s helping me heal from all the hurt laid on me during my childhood and marriage.

    It’s very good right now.

  25. Our new router is finally working, and the last AT&T rep was wonderful.

    Otherwise, this past weekend was Doors Open Milwaukee. I had a blast wandering through places like a decommissioned water tower, a century-old warehouse turned into lofts, and a replica of the Taj Mahal. Especially cool was a library tour featuring ancient maps…right there, open for viewing, woodblock printed and hand-colored, someone’s work from 600 years ago!


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