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Finding happiness during a bad week


Katrina Kibben's Weekly Letter

March 19 · Issue #146 · View online

Every week, I'll write you a letter. A letter about anything, really. My goal is just to make you think.

I had one of those weeks where everything took longer than I expected and was just a little more challenging than I hoped. For example, I carefully picked a parking spot before last week’s blizzard here in Colorado. 
I believe the saying goes, “we can’t control the weather,” and now I remember why. Despite my careful, thoughtful selection, my parking spot was in a snowdrift 4 feet high and 6 feet wide on Monday morning. 
That was Monday at 5 am. Things just got more frustrating and overwhelming every day. 
Whenever I’m having a bad week, I like to read books I’ve already read. Something is comforting about those old favorites. So Monday evening, I started one of my favorite books. It’s called “Hector and the Search For Happiness.” 
The book is about a psychiatrist who feels very unhappy, so he plans a trip around the world to learn the rules for happiness. Hector travels to places where people are very wealthy. He goes to cities where the people are impoverished. He visits families and single people, monks, and atheists to figure out the rules for happiness. 
I love this book because there’s something simple yet intensely complicated about it. The style is simple. There are no complex metaphors or themes to understand. The author will tell you precisely what Hector thinks, even if it’s not the most complementary to our main character. 
The complex part is the concept itself. Woven between the simple observations of this psychiatrist roaming the world are these beautiful realizations about what makes people happy. 
It’s not that simple, though. Humans don’t take happiness lightly. It’s something to seek out, buy theme journals to map, and ask about in deep conversations. It’s a trophy and a mark of a good life. 
When you’re young and naive, happiness is so simple. It’s scratching an itch, getting permission, and having new mind-altering moments. At some point, happiness feels like a destination instead of an experience. Somehow, happiness becomes less straightforward. We don’t find joy in puddles and bugs anymore. 
I can’t say any more. You have to read the book. I refuse to ruin the lessons by posting them here without context. Today, I want to talk about your rules for happiness.
Little did I realize one year ago, in the madness of a global pandemic, that this time would force me to define my own rules for happiness. I can’t imagine I’m the only one who was trying to figure out what it all means when no one is telling you where to be or why you should be there. I had so much free time I couldn’t ignore myself anymore. 
Here’s what I’ve figured out so far. 
  • Happiness is making time to glance at the sun when it rises and sets. Those three minutes only make life a little better, even if I’m three minutes late. 
  • Happiness is when people recognize and know you, even strangers. It’s that text to see if you’re OK. When the barista knows my order. When a friend sends a playlist that fits my mood perfectly. It’s the surprise plant at my door or the candy pinata. 
  • Happiness is two dogs with four ears and kind eyes welcoming you home even when you’ve only been gone for 3 minutes.
  • Happiness is balance and forgiving yourself for all the times you were your own harshest critic. 
  • Happiness is taking time to reflect and focus on your path. Screw everyone else. Comparison is a thief of joy.
OK so that last line is from the book. I honestly can’t recommend it enough if you’re feeling overwhelmed this week or looking for something to read. 
Now, I’m curious. What are the rules for happiness you learned in the pandemic?

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