I handed my co-worker a torn tab of paper. "Look," I said, "easiest study ever--all you need to do is answer some questions about your mood and they pay you." The email and phone number were from the university. "All you need to do is not be clinically depressed."
"Oh," she said, and handed it back.
I am a happy person. I don't take credit for this: I'm lucky enough to not suffer from crippling chemical imbalances, I have a strong network of family and friends, and I haven't even encountered any major disappointments or setbacks in my life (knock on wood). But sometimes I think people think I'm faking it or over-the-top, but I really do walk around with a smile on my face all the time. I generally love my work, my friends, my life.
That's not to say I haven't had rough times: I've have "off-days" and "down days" and when I first moved to Austin I was definitely less than chipper about the life transition (I don't do life transitions particularly well, generally). But, man, I'm generally happy. In fact, sometimes the worse things are, the happier I am, because it's a more intense experience and funny story to tell.
But here, generally speaking, are the things that make me happier than usual:
1- sunshine. When the weather's bad, I'm far more likely to have a "down day" than when it's sunny, which is funny, because I love a good rainstorm and I tell myself that Portland, or St. Petersburg, is my ideal weather. I think that it's all about moderation, but there's definitley a pattern of happy and sun for me.
2- working out. The more stressed I am, the less time I have for exercise, the more panicky and busy, the more I need to work out. It clears my mind and, as a happy perk, I may have the lowest threshold of "runner's high" ever. As some of my friends can attest, there is often dancing after (or during) a good race, and even if I'm just pleasantly exhausted rather than straight-up giddy, I feel at peace.
3- talking with people. Especially my family, especially my good friends, can give me such perspective. Even when I'm just griping at them and not really getting solutions or advice, I always feel better that there are people who will listen to me break down a little. Even if it's not a stressful dumping, but just a checking in or checking up, I feel much better with regular chats.
4-living the life I've always meant to live. Okay, this sounds intense, but it's not. It's just about fulfilling expectations, even if they're low. When I was going to sleep before reporting to the MTC, I thought about how I'd make scrambled eggs as a missionary because they're quick and tasty and cheap. And every time I made scrambled eggs on my mission I was a little happier, because I was "living the dream." Ditto with any of the weird expectations and goals I've had for my life: reading academic books in the pool last summer, meeting with my adviser at a coffee shop this semester, driving my cute little car around, briefly owning a parakeet named Bertie Wooster, going skiing during Christmas break... if I set an expectation and fulfill it, I feel like a million bucks.
What's kind of satisfying is that many of these things have been clinically proven to help lessen depression, so I guess my getting happy off them is not really a shocker. Still, it may explain why sometimes I'm just skipping through the daisies with a big smile some days.