Yesterday I got up early to write. I've made a deal with myself that if I'm up by 6, I can have cream in my coffee instead of milk. That's been doing the trick, but I've noticed something else.
I felt great. I felt like my life was great. I felt happy, and capable. I felt like I do when I get off the elliptical trainer - a little high. Endorphins, baby.
And that got me thinking about the brain and pleasure centers, and the ways we push that button to get the little dose of happy, just like a rat in a little maze. All day, I noticed the things I was doing to press that Happy Button, and I solved a mystery. I really want to share it with you.
Every day I clear the cache in my internet browser, irritated at the sheer number of websites I've been to. Many of them are not work-related (you know who you are!) and therefore I know they are detracting from my productivity, which is ultimately contributing to the level of stress I feel. I don't just mean the few minutes I take for my lunch, it's more than that. So why am I drawn back to them? Why do I feel such a need to connect with friends and other writers, even to the point of checking the same blog more than once a day? Why do I have that stupid habit?
Because it's a Happy Button! Because I'm here at my desk, probably annoyed, or bored, or worried. I want to feel better. I want a fix. I want to press my Happy Button - so I click a link. Just one. And one more. (I can stop any time I want to!)
And before I know it, I've wasted maybe ten minutes. Maybe more. And I do this any number of times during the day. And I know I was not as effective, efficient, and productive as I could have been, and I end up feeling unhappy about that.
So I eat chocolate. Another Happy Button! Yay! Like the little rat in the lab, I go for these artificial doses of "It's all right" and "Life is good." And now that I see it I feel so stupid. It seems so obvious now. Am I the only one here? Do you have these things too?
Today, I woke *before* the alarm went off at 6. My coffee was made, my computer was on, and I was clacketing away at new words (850!) before the kids were up and we all had to get ready. I am happy, and I think I'm on to something here - a more authentic happy. A more productive, effective happy. And if writing can give me that, I'm in!
Knowing this, I'm most of the way to beating it. I'm not pretending I won't browse my favourite hangouts while I'm eating lunch, but I won't mistake artificial amusements for real occasions to feel good. Recognizing what I'm doing when I'm lost and rattling around, I'm ready to change that. It's a simple formula, after all. Productivity -> Accomplishment -> Happiness.
So keep an eye on your happy buttons too. They're sneaky!