In Feb of 2020 I decided to be an adventurous mom and book a VERY last minute trip to Disney World – The happiest place on earth (or so they say).
I had a 4 month old and a 3 year old, and I was trying to pack as much magical family togetherness in before maternity leave ended. Covid-19 was still something we only heard about on the news in China, and my body was feeling pretty good. So I used my United points and Marriott points and off we went on a surprise hurrah before life took a crazy turn.
What I didn’t know at the time though, is how Disney world was NOT like it was when I went as a kid… People spend MONTHS planning their family escapades to walt’s work of art, using specialty Disney travel agents, getting the ins and outs on how to get on the best rides without waiting in line, booking special meals months in advance… but I was being spontaneous – a cool mom! … and even though my background is in event planning, I didn’t even have the foresight to get us magic bands **Emoji** (IYKYK).
We ran into stumble after stumble. Line after line. Meltdown after meltdown. It was hot. We were hungry. Rushing from one hour long line at Peter Pans flight to another hour long line at Pirates of the Caribbean, without a real plan.
In my mind, it was kind of a disaster… I failed to create all the magic I had envisioned.
Luckily all Michael Jr. really cared about was getting to high-five Buzz Lightyear who gave him a space-ranger sticker *Score!* (I snapped a pic and that’s how the whole trip will be remembered in posterity).
But – it taught me a few valuable lessons:
Even at the happiest place on earth, happiness is something that takes planning
In our own personal quests to bring more happiness in our lives, there’s likely more questions than answers until you start to ask yourself the simple questions of “what makes me happy” and once we know what makes us happy, then planning to actually bring more of that into your life.
Happiness is contagious
It’s really hard to be grumpy when your kid is jumping up and down with so much joy after they meet their heroes. But even more so, the people you spend your time with effect your happiness levels too – according to this study.
Mindset is everything
Ya know who had the best time on our trip? My husband. When we got home and I was lamenting about all the things I thought had gone wrong, his response was, “What are you talking about, I had a great time, I got to hang out with you guys. That’s all I ever want.” His perception of how the trip went was completely different than mine – his reality of the very same trip was drastically different than my own. By understanding his version, it changed the whole way I remembered the trip too.
TRY IT YOURSELF
So what can YOU do to start to bring more happiness into your life? A few things, actually:
- Anticipate Your Next Vacay. Research shows that the most enjoyable part of an activity is not the activity itself, but it’s the anticipation of the activity that boosts happiness. Just THINKING about your next vacation can raise your endorphin levels by 27%. (I totally missed out on this boost by taking two days to plan my trip!)
- Make a “Happiness” plan: It turns out, there are a specific set of “happiness skills”, that if we make a plan to cultivate in ourselves, can drastically increase our happiness levels. Check out this overview to learn how you can make your own Happiness Plan.
- Give A Gift: Ever notice how sometimes it’s more fun to give than to receive? It’s because giving and generosity increase the oxytocin in our brains. The monetary value doesn’t even matter.
Humans have been talking about how to find happiness for eons. Here’s some great additional notions to explore:
Watch This: Ted talk by Robert Waldinger : “What makes a good life? Lessons from the longest study on happiness”. A solid quick hit to help remind us of the important things in life.
Read In “Before Happiness”, Shawn Anchor says, “We can perceive the same situations, problems and challenges in my different ways. Our resulting maps of reality may all be equally accurate, but some are more beneficial to us than others. By looking at the world from new angles and causing on different facts, we can perceive reality in ways that are more conducive to happiness and success.” Which is basically the difference in how Mike and I both viewed our Disney trip, but with way more research packed into it.
Get academic: Want the research? Check out this research from the Journal of Social Psychology on how Acts of Kindness and Acts of Novelty Affect Life Satisfaction.
Next week we’ll be diving deep into Perfectionism. (Anyone else a recovering perfectionist?) Until then, remember to be intentional about what you pay attention to,