If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap.
If you want happiness for a day, go fishing.
If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune.
If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.
Lately I’ve been reading this amazing book by Gretchen Rubin called The Happiness Project. In this book, she test-drives age old wisdom, scientific studies and common sense on how to be happy. Although I’m probably outside the typical readership, I found many insightful ideas that had a very noticeable effect on my own happiness. One of the biggest and the most obvious ideas (as always) is something that falls under the category of common sense: sleep.
The Chinese proverb at the beginning of the post is not too far off. Although it may not bring a lifetime of happiness, sleep does have a measurable effect on happiness. The way I look at it, it’s more of a necessary but not sufficient condition for happiness (sorry for the logic speak). In other words, if you’re tried, you will be significantly less happy. But at the same time having enough sleep doesn’t guarantee happiness either. I think this is true in many other respects too such as being hungry or being healthy. If you’re hungry, most likely you’re not happy. If you’re sick, most likely you’re not happy. The biggest difference with sleep, however, is that many people neglect to value sleep as highly as the other two (obesity seems to be a growing problem but sleeping in isn’t). But with sleep, I at least have the capacity to be happy (not to mention think clearly and more productively). However, as with most problems (weight loss comes to mind), the problem isn’t understanding the idea, it’s implementing it.
My biggest enemy in this battle was my pre-bed time procrastination full of aimless internet browsing and tv watching in order to, apparently, avoid the dread of my down filled 400 thread count comforter and pillow. I know, not so rational. Although I do get some fleeting happiness from the procrastination, it was nothing compared to how great I felt after a good night’s sleep. It was funny because I was always aware of how much sleep affected my disposition but never thought to make a change of habit. I finally woke up to this fact when I started thinking about how to materially increase my happiness. If happiness is something you strive for and there is something directly in your control to increase your happiness, wouldn’t you do it? Being (sort of) rational, that was enough for me. So I now say: if you want happiness during the day, start with a good night’s sleep.