As dedicated readers of this blog know, I had a eureka moment in January, when I said to myself: Finding a guy isn't suddenly going to make me miraculously happier. I need to take a time-out from dating [not that I actually did that] to make my life happier happy--and then, once it is happier, if I find a guy, so be it. And even if that doesn't happen, at least I'll be happier on my own terms.
That's a long way of saying I'm quite interested, these days, in pro-active ways to add satisfaction to my life. (And no, that is not just a slant-wise reference to my vibrator. Not just.) As such, when I came across an op-ed piece in today's New York Times about all what makes us happier, I read it with interest.
Frankly, the story started off in a somewhat depressing way, with the columnist extolling the research-backed benefits of a good marriage and sex. (We need him to tell us this? We need research? Oy vey.) He also seemed to be hinting that women would be happier if they sacrificed ambitious careers for good marriages, rather an narrow-minded view on his part, considering he is (a) male and (b) probably rich enough so that his wife doesn't have to work. But then he went on to say that----if you leave sex out of the equation--the daily activities most associated with happiness are socializing after work and having dinner with others.
What's more: "According to one study, joining a group that meets even just once a month produces the same happiness gain as doubling your income."
I found that tidbit especially interesting; since I work from home--and spend way too much time alone--I've been considering a number of non-daterly thing I can do to help me interact with people while learning a new skill or making the world a slightly better place. Since it's taken me a while to even come up with a list of things I might do, I figured I'd share them with you in the hopes that might be inspiring.
1. Lend a hand at a hospital. Studies have shown that helping other people improves how satisfied we feel with our lives. And how could you not feel like a saint if you give your time to people who are sick and suffering? Hospitals need people to do all kinds of work, from greeting visitors and doing clerical work to actually spending time with patients young and old. (When I was thirteen, I spent a few months in Columbia Presbyterian's Children Hospital, and I still distinctly remember--and feel grateful to--the nice volunteers who helped me with my homework while I was there.) And you never know: The old granny in a wheelchair whom you help roll around might have a cute grandson for you!
By simpling Google-ing the name of a hospital near you and the word "volunteer," you'll most likely find your way to helpful information. Otherwise, you can just call the hospital directly and ask for the volunteer coordinator.
2. Volunteer with the National Park Service. Check their web site for all sorts of opportunities in your area, from helping to maintain trails to giving public tours.
3. Take a class. Find out what kind of courses the Continuing Education department of your local college offers. Learn a new language. Call your favorite independent bookstore and ask if they can recommend a writing class--or sign up for one of the online writing courses that MediaBistro offers.
4. You could check out Habitat for Humanity and help build housing for people in need.
An added benefit for those of you who are unemployed: This stuff will look great on your C.V.--and may even lead more directly to work with the organization you're assisting, or through people you meet as a result.
If you already have a job and just need a little more social time, consider starting a book or supper club.
Do you nice people have any other thoughts on group activities that will help make our lives happier?