Monday's Food for Thought

Monday’s Food for Thought: 12 Things Happy People Do Differently

new food for thought

A friend of mine recently sent this article to me, and I enjoyed it so much I thought you might also. I wonder what life would be like for all of us if we practiced any of the happiness habits listed in the article on a regular basis? Would it change the world we live in?

Do you practice any happiness habits not listed in the article? If so, would you be willing to share them below?


Doing it Together (both in academia)

A Happy Life

                                                                                    written by Angie, a current graduate wife and student

“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

So remarks Leo Tolstoy in his opening to Anna Karenina, and it seems his observation applies to graduate students, too. The happy ones usually have the same reasons for being happy— they find what they’re studying interesting to them, they have nice comradeship with other students, they have helpful supervisors, they make good headway on their work. But the unhappy postgraduates are unhappy for all sorts of different reasons— they lose interest in their research topic; they feel lonely and isolated in their work; they feel homesick or stuck in a town they don’t want to be in; their supervisors are unsympathetic, unhelpful, or unavailable; they feel paralyzed by the mountains of reading and writing to do; they have writers’ block; they get intimated by the academic world and its intense competition and pride; they have financial struggles and burdens of loans or family financial sacrifices, and a constant questioning of whether the money spent on their education is justifiable; they have a hard time being present to their families; they have a constant sense of not having enough time; they have loss of vision and vocation and wonder why on earth they ever thought it was a good idea to start those degrees.

My husband and I are both PhD students, and between us we’ve felt most of those things. At the moment I’m more in the happy-student-camp, while my husband has been fighting off a flood of factors making him an unhappy student. Even though we’re doing the same degrees in the same university, the same department, and even the same area (Old Testament studies), we’ve had really different experiences. Maybe it’s because I’m a year ahead of my husband that I have more hope— I can see some glimmer of not being a student anymore!— but our experiences have made real to me how different each graduate life can be. All sorts of factors can make it enjoyable or miserable, and each person has different understandings of why they’re studying and how that study fits into the wider work they feel drawn to do.

But I think Tolstoy may have been off in his assessment of happy families—they actually are happy in different ways, too. And so, I must now qualify, are graduate students. It’s possible to be happy in the graduate life for different reasons, and there are healthy and unhealthy ways of finding that happiness. Some postgraduates base their happiness on their success in the eyes of the academy (how many publications, conferences, accolades they have under their belts), and they have their self-worth wrapped up in their achievements as academics. This seems to be the most common form of unhealthy happiness in academia— I see a lot of students fall into that trap, and it’s hard to get out of. But at the end of the day, it won’t give a lasting happiness, as all success is relative. It hardly ever is enough. My husband and I have had a long haul of learning that our work is not who we are, though the two things are related. Even as our work is part of our passions and interests and callings, it does not determine our worth, nor can we base our happiness upon it.

So we’re learning instead to seek out the deeper reasons for being happy in our studies, knowing why we’re studying, how our work might be formative in making us into the persons we’re called to be. What I’ve learned most these past six years of postgraduate life is that how one studies matters. A theologian I’ve been reading, Karl Barth, taught me that, as he said, “The real value of a doctorate, even when earned with the greatest distinction, is totally dependent on the degree to which its recipient has conducted and maintained himself as a learner. Its worth depends, as well, entirely on the extent to which he further conducts and maintains himself as such.” Learning, whether as a graduate student or as any other calling in life (including the calling of being a wife!), is a deeply personal act, an act that involves not just the mind and specific practices, but even more so the soul of the learner and the kind of life she goes on to lead.

And so, what we’re seeking on this graduate journey is in all things to journey in our hearts towards becoming the persons we are called to be. The writer of Psalm 84 puts this well, as he says, “Blessed are those whose strength is in You, in whose heart are the highways.” It seems the psalmist is saying that those highways are not the roads of particular situations one is traveling upon, but rather, the groves of one’s heart that are being worn as one lives, the ways one’s heart is heading in all things. What matters most is the way one is journeying and growing in her heart. A heart of highways that is ever striving towards more lasting and beautiful and broader things— that’s something needed for all of us caught up in this graduate life, happy and unhappy alike. And with those hearts of highways, we may come to find ourselves, wherever we are and however it’s going, somehow happy and at home.

In your graduate wife journey, how are you finding your journey of happiness?

Expectations · Family · Inspiration · Marriage · Moving · Patience

The Glad Game

                                                                                                                       written by Stephanie – a current graduate wife

The movie Pollyanna has forever been one of my all-time favorites.   Pollyanna played “The Glad Game,” and her eternal optimism infected everyone around her.  Even in the face of adversity, she believed that there was always SOMETHING you could find to be glad about.  I think we could all learn a little something from Miss Pollyanna Whittier. As a graduate wife, I have tried to adopt this philosophy as best I can.

My husband Josh is now amid his second year of medical school at St. George’s University in the Caribbean.   His first year was spent in Newcastle, England as part of the Global Scholars Program.   We had been married for only 4 weeks when we boarded that international plane to the United Kingdom.  Talk about a whirlwind first year.  It took me months to feel connected to anything and anyone in England and by the time it started to feel a little bit like “home,” it was time to uproot and move again, this time to the 22 mile long island of Grenada.   We will leave Grenada in May 2012 headed for hospital rotations in the States, but we won’t know exactly where we are going until weeks before we go.   Two years of rotations, God willing in the same place, will only be followed by a residency that will more than likely move us yet again.  I try to take each day as it comes, because thinking too far into the future only gives me a panic attack.  Not having a place that I can really call “home” is challenging.  I sometimes envy the graduate wives who get to, at the very least, stay in the same place for the duration of their husband’s schooling.

GLAD:  At only 25 years old, I am GLAD that I have had the opportunity to do this much traveling so early on in my life.   I’m GLAD that I get to experience all of these exotic places with my best friend.  It’s not a vacation like so many assume, but it IS a once in a lifetime experience.

Medical school is no walk in the park.  Josh studies ALL the time and there are many nights where I eat alone, watch romantic comedies by myself, and go to bed solo.  Date nights are often canceled because there just aren’t enough hours in the day to study.  Many holidays and birthday celebrations have to be put off because finals are only days away.  I do all the cooking, cleaning, laundry, and grocery shopping.  I manage our finances, keep up with the financial aid paperwork, and stay in contact with our families and friends.  On my worst days, I feel like leaving and going home to California because after all, besides not having food in the fridge, a home cooked meal, or clean underwear, would he ever even notice I was gone?

GLAD:  I am GLAD that Josh is pursuing his dream of becoming a doctor and excelling in his classes, in part due to my support.  I am GLAD that having so much alone time has allowed me to take up hobbies that I always hoped I’d have time for.  I scrapbook, read, send letters to friends and family, exercise, participate in volunteer work, and started a blog

Most days of the year, we are thousands of miles away from our family and friends.  Last year we missed Thanksgiving, 4th of July, Easter, birthdays, friend’s weddings, family vacations, and so much more.  We see our families through Skype more often than we see them in person.   On top of that, we have nobody to run to when we are upset with each other, and nobody’s house to go to in order to get away for a little while.

GLAD:  There are times I am GLAD that we can’t run to anyone else when we are struggling with each other in our relationship.  It has forced us to work through our issues without the interference of our family and friends opinions.  When you live half way across the world from everyone you know, the only person to turn to is God and each other and because of that, our relationship has grown immensely this past year.

I didn’t go to graduate school.  Admittedly, this has been the hardest part for me in being a graduate wife.  There was a time when I was not going to be the graduate wife.   I was going to be the GRADUATE STUDENT.   I did all the work leading up to actually going to school.  I got my Bachelor’s Degree in Kinesiology.  I did over 2,500 hours of work in the field.  I applied to more than 15 doctorate programs, wrote 13 essays, got the recommendation letters, filled out the applications, took the GRE, paid the money to apply, and went to the interviews.  My hard work paid off.  I got in to a Doctorate of Physical Therapy program in Southern California.  I even paid the deposit to hold my spot for the August 2010 class.  But when Josh got into school and the decision had to be made whether or not to follow my soon-to-be husband to England, or to go to school myself, I made the decision to follow him.  Unfortunately, there are times when my resentment creeps up.  Moments when I think to myself, “What if I was in school right now?”  “What if I wasn’t following Josh around the world?”

GLAD: I am GLAD that I made the decision I made.  While being a physical therapist was my dream career, I reasoned that school would always be there if I wanted to go back, but I could NEVER get my first few years of marriage back.  Being on this journey with Josh has allowed us to become closer to one another than I ever could have imagined.  We are growing together.  Every week, I see subtle changes in us, changes that, if we weren’t physically together, would seem HUGE later on.   While my career aspirations might have thrived while I was in school, my marriage would have suffered.  And so I am GLAD that I’m here, on an island, growing and changing together with my husband.

Sometimes, as a medical school wife, it’s really challenging to find the GLAD in any given situation and on any given day.  But it is there.  It’s always there.  It might be a really small thing to be glad about, but if you look hard enough, you will find it.  If you can at least find a little bit of GLAD then it helps make the bad not so bad anymore.  Try to find the “Pollyanna” in yourself on a daily basis and I guarantee you will be a happier graduate wife because of it.

Do you ever find yourself playing “The Glad Game” in order to make dark days seem less dark?  If so, what do you find to be GLAD about?