Friday, January 11, 2013
I was reading a book on healthy eating last week when I came across an interesting observation. It said that one should never get more than 10% of the total joy in one's day from food.
Say we each have 100% of our total allotment of joy for the day. If we find maybe 40% of it dependent on the food we eat, we are giving food an inordinate amount of power to make us happy. And we all know that if you get the majority of your happiness from food, your life is kind of lacking and you probably are overweight. The way to handle that, says the author, is to deliberately find other sources of joy to enliven your life so food plays a lesser role.
I digested that, pardon the pun, and then I decided to expand the author's thesis. All the experts in stocks and investments say the same thing - diversify. Don't put all your eggs into one basket, because then if you drop the basket, you've lost everything.
How about we diversify in our sources of joy? Expand the food idea. What if you get 80% of your daily every day from your spouse? On the one hand, that sounds like a great idea. It is certainly better than getting half your joy from food. On the other hand, what if that relationship goes sour? Or what if that person dies? All of a sudden we are bereft because we've dropped the basket and have little else to fall back on. (This is why relationships thrive on shared experiences, as not only do comforting memories bring you joy in years to come, but you may even choose to keep those activities when you are on your own as a continued source of joy.)
Let's say you find 75% of your daily joy from knitting or playing an instrument. (Another good choice. I've always been a fan of creativity.) One day you may lose the dexterity in your fingers or your eyesight. You have little else to give you pleasure to compensate.
Diversifying our sources of pleasure, of which food is just one, makes us interesting people. It rounds us out, makes us balanced. I never really thought of it before in this way. Here's an experiment: Make a list of the things/people/experiences you have discovered bring you joy - major ones like your family, and small ones like bubble baths. Then scatter them around your life. I can see my precious new grandbaby born this week, experience unspeakable joy, then come back home and find joy in being with my husband, sewing an apron for my mom, blogging, reading, playing the harp, looking through some old photos that make me smile, doing the crossword puzzle, talking to a friend, watching the new season of Downton Abbey, interacting with my kids and three other grandkids, writing a check for a charity, and, yes, enjoying one of my favorite flavors of ice cream. The key to happiness in life, I'm beginning to believe, is joy in all its forms, liberally scattered throughout every day. That way if Downton Abbey is canceled (no! no!), I still have much joy in other places. This is not to say all joys are equal, by any means. I would never put Downton Abbey in the same category as my grandchildren. But our souls crave joy - the big joys and little joys and everything in between. And don't forget the joys of giving to others - joy is not all take and no give.
I have heard of people who had their joy tied up in their careers, then lost them. I've heard of others who had their joy encased in their houses or cars, then lost them. (I remember an elderly lady we met years ago whose husband had left her for a Sunday School teacher. All her joy in life was embedded in him, and when that happened, she never recovered. Every visit we had with her was spent listening to her bemoan her unhappy fate. She was depressing to be around and nothing we could ever say or do made her feel better.) Even healthy sources of joy such as sewing or gardening or playing an instrument or singing or hiking or swimming can be detrimental if we are so dependent on them as our only source of joy that if they were to disappear, all our happiness would evaporate with them.
This week I want to celebrate joy in all its varieties. Life has so much joy to offer; why limit ourselves? The key is finding our sources of joy, then incorporating them on a regular basis. It is not good to get more than 10% of our joy from food - and it is just as unwise to let other people or things or experiences define our joy. If we depend on outside sources for our happiness, things are bound to mess up. Look inside your soul, define your joys, and watch your life fill up with bliss!