Year-Long Happiness Pledges

Part of UUCA’s congregation-wide Sustainable Living Initiative includes each of us doing small, simple things that will increase happiness for ourselves and the larger world. Seven areas we are focusing on include: sustainable living in the home, healthy relationships, mindful eating, strong neighborhoods, enlightened shopping, a spirituality of abundance, and physical health and well-being. In April, during Earth Day Sunday, Rev. David, with the Care of Earth Team, will be inviting people to make a year-long pledge to focus on ONE of these small, simple, happiness-creating things.

Here’s what Dana Boyle, Care of Earth Team member, says about her year-long pledge:

For my family, travel is one area that has much potential for improvement. My husband has precious few vacation days, with even less this year. He is in the Army Reserve, and will be called for active duty for three months in September. We need to maximize our time to get what we really want: relaxation and a deeper connection with nature. Past vacations have left us and our bank account exhausted! So our challenge for the year will be to vacation in state and national parks. We begin by going to Fort Mountain State Park this month with UUCA Families Together!

Kimberly Ferlauto writes:

For my happiness pledge, I have decided to get involved with community gardening. I will volunteer my time to help develop the garden which is planned for my own neighborhood, as well as exploring opportunities to volunteer in existing gardens that serve needy communities. I have fond childhood memories of helping my father in his vegetable garden and remember the sense of wonder I felt in watching our food grow. I would like to reconnect with that sense of wonder and appreciation of nature’s bounty and help other people experience it too. I have also been looking for a way to give back to those in the community who suffer from hunger or poverty, and community gardening seems like a great way to do that, bringing beauty, freshness, and healthful food into all our lives.

Pam Kilmer writes:

I have enlarged my vegetable garden and intend to grow more of our vegetables this year…. I find working in my garden (flower and vegetable alike) to be good for my mental and physical health. The extra exercise is obviously a good thing, but it is also a good way to relieve tension and can be a contemplative time too. Pulling weeds, thinning seedlings or most other garden chores take physical effort, but not much mental effort – thus allowing me to think about things. I try not to jump into decisions or confrontations because I have had very bad results from doing that and I’m not an aggressive person by nature. So working in my garden allows me to mull over situations and come to (hopefully) good decisions.

Sally Joerger writes: My happiness pledge is to write a letter (on my handmade pressed flower cards) once a week.

As a source of more ideas, please also take a look at the Better World Handbook, on sale at the UUCA bookstore.

What will your year-long happiness pledge be?

Previous Weekly Happiness Challenges (to spark creative thinking about what your year-long Happiness Pledge might be)

Jan 18
This week’s challenge is to pick a community issue that you’re passionate about…whether it’s potholes, failing schools, crazed drivers, hungry children… whatever it is, make your voice heard! Call the appropriate local official to discuss the issue…or write a letter to the editor…or talk to your neighbors.

Jan 25
We trade the most valuable thing we have – our moments on this earth – for money. So this week’s challenge is to spend a small amount of money to spread joy. Give a large tip to the shuttle bus driver at the airport…donate to a charitable organization…buy the hungry guy on the corner a burger… use your money for some random act of kindness and increase the total mass of happiness in the universe.

Feb 1
This week’s challenge is to call someone you haven’t talked to in awhile. Maybe communication has been difficult or elusive or you just let too much time go by. Commit right now to call one person and just say hello.

Feb 8
This week’s challenge is to reflect on the abundance surrounding us. Read Alan AtKisson’s article about the Swedish concept of “lagom” – which means roughly “I have everything that I need.”

Feb 15
This week’s challenge is to learn about our industrial food system and think about how you might create a more sacred relationship with the creatures that nourish your body. Read Michael Pollan’s letter to the Farmer in Chief, [link http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/12/magazine/12policy-t.html?em]. Or check out Morgan Spurlock’s video “Supersize Me” to learn about the issues surrounding fast food.

Feb 22
This week’s challenge is to take care of yourself by slowing down and living in the moment. Do one thing at a time. Be present for the people around you. Escape the Tyranny of the List – pick a few things to do each day, take your time, do them well. Breathe.

March 1
This week’s challenge is to take a walk – alone or with family or friends – every day or just once this week – pay attention to the leaves, the sky, your legs.

March 8
This week’s challenge is to share an organic food with friends and family…some vegetables…fruit…or maybe chocolate! Think about the sun…the soil…the farmers…the astonishing Circle of Life.

March 15
This week’s challenge is to try a daily gratitude ritual. When you first wake up and as you drift off to sleep, say to yourself “Grandmother, Grandfather, thank you for this day.” Think about the moments of that day you’re looking forward to in the morning…and in the evening, those that brought you special joy.

March 22
In the Old West they said “whiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting over.” So this week’s challenge is to save a little bit of the water of life. Turn off the water while brushing your teeth…shave a minute off your showers…or catch the vegetable washing water and use it to water plants

March 29
This week’s challenge is to ask a neighbor for help. Ellis Jones, author of the Better World Handbook, writes, “almost everyone is willing to help, but very few people are willing to ask for help. So begin the process of establishing a community of people who can count on each other.”

April 5
This week’s challenge is to think of a product you use a lot of at home or work…it could be cleaners….bottled water … coffee …paper …batteries …whatever. Do a little research to find a source of this product that’s socially and environmentally responsible, as well as affordable, and try a small amount.

April 12
This week’s challenge is to make loved ones a priority – turn off the TV for just one day…or just one week….and simply be with your loved ones instead. Play a game…make up silly words to songs and sing them…or just talk to each other. For best results and maximum joy, do this with children….borrow one if you don’t have one handy, give a frazzled parent a break.