Happy Harmony

By the UUCA Happiness Team

Mahatma Gandhi noted that happiness is the harmony between what you think, what you say, and what you do. Our Happiness Pledges encourage each of us to live our UU values by committing to make one change in our lives that strengthens ourselves, others, and the earth. To prepare for our next round of pledges coming up on May 2, the Happiness Team checked in with the nearly 200 people who pledged in 2009, to see how it’s been going. Fifty people shared their experiences with us via an online survey.

First, people told us how their pledges related to the seven areas of focus in UUCA’s sustainable living initiative (most chose more than one): physical health & well-being (42%), mindful eating (38%), healthy relationships (36%), spirituality of abundance/spiritual growth (32%), sustainable living in daily life (28%), strong neighborhoods/communities (28%), and enlightened shopping/money use (16%).

Some people started or re-committed to activities such as meditation, journaling, or walking as a way to increase personal wellbeing and spirituality. Others reached out to family, friends, or community, and have experienced the joy of making or deepening connections. One person wrote: “My brother and I committed to calling each other every Sunday, and are actually doing it! I also schedule lunch or dinner with one of my friends a couple of times a week. It has been great.” Another individual brought happiness to dogs, connected with neighbors, and re-purposed newspapers, all through one activity: “I volunteered to work at PAWS Atlanta, and I have been walking dogs as well as collecting newspapers from my neighbors to take to the shelter; they shred it and use it as dog bedding. It is gratifying to be working with the dogs, and they almost all seem so grateful for the attention.”

Many people pledged to change how they obtain and prepare food as a way to improve health and live more sustainably. For example, one person committed to “give up fast food for the year.” Eating mindfully can bring happiness in many ways, as another individual explained: “Meals are more special because the food is fresh…which enhances the time together as family! Thinking before buying something or going out to dinner often helps us make better, wiser choices that we appreciate more. And we have saved some money!”

Others have committed to living sustainably through activities such as reducing energy use, conserving water, carpooling, using public transportation, and recycling, which should bring Mother Earth great happiness and well-being!

Challenges have emerged along the way (such as gardens that didn’t grow or tempting Thanksgiving turkey), and a few people found it difficult to keep their pledges due to personal circumstances. Most said their goals were important to them and vowed to keep trying. As one person stated, “Making the pledge was a good way to make a commitment to myself, and I will continue to try to fulfill it.”

Many people expressed interest in face-to-face gatherings with others who have made similar pledges, to share ideas, provide support and build community. So the sustainability teams are working on ways to make this happen. In March, we sponsored a Mindful Eating potluck that we hope will become a quarterly event. A meeting on Sustainable Homes and Communities is coming up on Wednesday, Apr. 21, at 7:30 pm. We’re also making a video celebrating last year’s pledgers, which will be shown at the Apr. 25 services. So be thinking about YOUR 2010 Happiness Pledge—how do you want to strengthen yourself, others, and the earth—and find the happy harmony that Gandhi knew?