Tuesday, November 11, 2008
I lead a Religion and Ethics discussion group at Quail Ridge Books. It is the longest running discussion group at the store; we've been meeting once a month for over ten years.
Several months ago, News and Observer columnist, Peder Zane, came to store owner Nancy Olson with the idea of having a panel discussion on the topic of happiness. Last night he moderated the discussion with two panelists: author Eric Wilson and UNC professor Ben O'Neal.
Over one hundred people came--it was standing room only. At the beginning, Peder asked those who considered themselves "very happy" to raise their hands. Then he asked those who considered themselves "happy" to do the same. A total of approximately half raised their hand.
Peder did a fabulous job, and Ben and Eric were very knowledgeable on the topic, both personally and professionally. The diverse audience was engaged and raised many interesting questions.
Peder asked Ben and Eric about the future of a happiness pill and the effect it would have on society. This brought up an intriguing question for me: I had raised my hand as "very happy" but given the chance to take a happy pill? I would, without a second thought. I asked the question if we ever thought we were "happy enough." I'm still thinking about that and how we already use artificial means to make ourselves happy: legal and illegal drugs, alcohol, food.
Toward the end of the program, Ben provided ten things that have the capacity to make us happier:
1. At the end and/or beginning of each day, recall three blessings in your life. These can be immediate or past blessings.
2. Take risks.
3. Give yourself permission to be fully human.
4. Be a "merit finder" not a "fault finder."
7. Culivate strong, healthy relationships.
8. Practice self-disclosure in those relationships.
9. Practice being present and mindful. Do not live in the past or future.
10. Practice forgiveness of yourself and others.
It was a great night.