Question of the Week: The Pursuit of Happiness

John McManamy Health Guide
  • It's Sunday 8 AM. I'm just waking up from a very rare 14-hour uninterrupted sleep. Very rarely am I able to get more than a few hours of consolidated sleep, but this was different. Yesterday I was up at 4:30 AM. I needed to be at Balboa Park in San Diego at 5:30 AM.


    NAMI San Diego was staging its annual Walk. I serve on the NAMI SD board, plus I am on the committee that planned the Walk. I was shooting video of the Walk, and I needed to be there when everyone was setting up. Plus, I brought my didgeridoo and needed to organize a group of drummers I'd recruited for the occasion.


    Everything went off without a hitch. The weather was great, we had a fantastic turnout, my drummers showed up, my didge was a hit, and I got excellent video footage. I made new connections, re-established old ones, and afterwards wound down with outdoor pasta with three good friends.

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    I got home at 5 PM and was out like a light.


    So - I guess there are a number of ways of looking at my day. The one that jumps out and hits me in the face is that by putting in the work I was able to derive immense gratification, one that will stay with me for the rest of my life.


    This is the key theme of Martin Seligman's "Authentic Happiness." Instant pleasure, Dr Seligman says, just doesn't cut it. Challenging yourself, making an effort, is what opens the way to peak experiences. Literally. The mountain climber freezing on an exposed ridge is enjoying life way more than the person vegging out on yet another cop drama in the comfort of his or her own home.


    Yes, we all need to veg out. But we also need to push ourselves. Too often, we tend to look backward, at trying to stay out of the black hole that is our illness. But we also need to look ahead, to climbing those mountains. Even if we are incapable of the climb right now, we at least need to visualize those distant peaks, where we belong, where we embrace life, where life embraces us.


    Question: Any recent or not-so-recent moments of immense gratification? 


    This could be as simple as a few good moments in the garden or the kitchen or as momentous as a gratifying result from a mammoth project. Anything you are working on achieving right now?

Published On: April 17, 2011