Happiness is…

Jun 27

learning imageI am a lifelong learner. It doesn’t mean I am taking college courses although I have in retirement. It means I like to pursue knowledge on a variety of topics and in a variety of ways.

Fortunately, I don’t have to leave home to attend classes. The Elderhostel’s Lifelong Learning Institute at Charlestown  or ELLIC as we call it offers programs with outside speakers as well as residents who are experts in their field.

I do most of my learning through reading, webinars, podcasts, and online tutorials. Did you know that learning can make you happy? I am all for that. Researchers indicate it is good for us especially as we age. Professor Stephen McNair, a semi-retired National Institute of Adult Continuing Education research fellow, has spent half a lifetime’s research proving it’s better to be happy than rich— a state some say is best achieved through lifelong learning.

Along with learning comes happiness. Is that a surprise? Not so much. Several studies  show that older people are happier. When I have aches and pains I may argue with that premise but overall I am happier now than in my younger years. Did you know that there is a Happiness Alliance?  I didn’t until I started researching happiness. It turns out that there is a Worldwide Happiness Index  with the United States turning up in 13th place. Our country has focused so much on acquiring stuff as a measure of success and happiness. We then discovered “stuff” does not make us happy. Okay, maybe for just a minute or so. But it fades quickly.

Some things  do help our happiness. The Huffington Post offers 7 Questions You Should Ask Yourself at the End of Each Day:

  1. How do I feel?
  2. How did I make others feel?
  3.  What can I do better tomorrow?
  4. What am I grateful for?
  5.  How much stress did I experience?
  6.  What made me smile?

Our experiences become out measure for happiness rather than “stuff.” I didn’t understand that until I got older. I would rack my brain trying to buy the perfect gift for my parents when they were in their eighties and nineties. Many times they never used the item. In hindsight, I now understand that ordinary experiences were what they enjoyed. It was a two-day drive to travel from Georgia to Maryland to visit them until we moved here four years ago. They always wanted a ham and pineapple pizza when we came. We would sit around the living room with paper plates and my mother would exclaim, “Isn’t this great!” Yes, mom, it was.

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