Cut Out the Unhappy

Today my friend sends me the results of a study that suggests older folks–in their 80’s–are the happiest.  The report published in the American National Academy of Sciences claims that as we age, we “become more selective with how we use our time, focusing more on doing things we enjoy and cutting out parts of life that make us unhappy.”

It seems like such a simple prescription:  Focus on what we enjoy, and cut out what makes us unhappy.

While I’m not sure it’s possible to simply “cut out” what makes us unhappy, I wonder what life would look like if we did indeed focus more on doing enjoyable things.

And what if we stopped doing things that make us unhappy?  Not getting enough sleep makes me unhappy.  Drinking too much caffeine makes me unhappy (why do I keep doing this?).  Not exercising makes me unhappy. 

And what if we learned to turn unhappy circumstances (the ones we often cannot change) into moments of flair?  

So (of course), I ask my students to tell me one thing that makes them really happy.  Diet Coke, travel, musical solos, penguins, driving with the windows down on a warm night, watching Hello, Dolly!, playing the game Angry Birds. . .

It’s a nice reminder to enjoy life today.  It’s a challenge to stop doing what makes us unhappy.  And when we cannot change our circumstances, we learn to find the flair.  Maybe it is that simple. 

Journal:  What makes me happy?  What thing that makes me unhappy can I stop doing? 

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  1. Today I really cleaned my floors. I do it often because my rescue dogs not all being house trained but today, as I waited for the vet to come, I swept, then mopped, then used my Shark to deep clean. I LOVE it when things are clean – but I am not a neat freak by any means 🙁 – I err on the other side. But when I do the floors, I use my abs, my core, keeping my body in alignment to best use my muscles as I enjoy the work which really doesn't take that long. It was my Flair for the day :).

  2. I expect that at age 80+ they also know life is too short, giving the ability to prioritise, take risks & let things go. Perhaps we could all live with more flair if we valued each day more, not knowing how many more we'll have…

  3. I definitely agree on the drinking of caffeine and dropping exercise. They're two thinks I that make me unhappy but there are still enough days when I just cant't fight the urge for a cup of really good espresso with a lot of milk.

  4. I am not yet 80 but definitely older than you, Heather. I can say that from my youth I learned a truth from God's Word that has stood me in good stead all these years. “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.”Psalm 37:4 By focusing on God's character and His desires for me, I can find joy in things that I cannot change but must do. Doing them for His pleasure makes me find delight also. As Ruth Graham said about washing dishes, “Divine service rendered three times daily.” It really changes my attitude to think that way. We seldom can actually avoid doing unpleasant tasks, but as you point out we can perhaps choose to do the best and leave some things undone that are not necessarily bad but of less importance. We do get to choose more than we acknowledge. Love to read your posts.