November 18, 2016

On (well)Being and Baking Scones

This morning I got up and cleaned up a dog-made mess in the living room, then walked the dogs and cleaned their bowls, and fed the dogs, and took a deep breath.

Now, there are muesli scones in the oven (recipe below). The pups are lounging, the husband is sleeping in (it's his day off).

While I wait for the scones to finish, I'm reading a research report out of the University of Notre Dame. It's for my job, but it's more than just work. It's relevant to the application I'm working on this week for a PhD program... And it's relevant to my daily life.

The report is on "Flourishing in Ministry" and the factors associated with well-being for pastors working in a variety of church-based roles. I'm working part-time in a church this year, and my husband works in a church all the time, but even beyond that - there are some good reminders/insights for all of us who value well-being (which I think, hopefully, is all of us).

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Here's what stood out to me:

Generally speaking, in life there are two types of well-being - hedonic and eudaemonic. (YAY, GREEK!)

Hedonic well-being (not hedonistic, for those of you church folks who know this word) is a matter of 'daily happiness,' which includes our moods and emotions plus general life satisfaction. In a somewhat obvious statement, the report says that "we are happier when we have mostly good days," and research suggests "a healthy level of daily happiness is a 3-to-1 ratio of positive-to-negative moods and emotions." Meanwhile, life satisfaction is the extent to which we would say, "My life is close to the ideal," or "I would change little about my life."

But here is something interesting: say, perhaps, you are reading this and thinking, "Oh, I don't think I'm experiencing much daily happiness...at least, not at a 3-to-1 ratio. My life is far from the ideal..." and then you might think, "I need to make some changes, seek some happiness, make things better." Well. I hate to disappoint you, but there is actually an inverse relationship here: "pursuing daily happiness is one of the surest ways to impede or diminish our capacity to experience it." WHAT.

(let's hold that thought)   

Eudaemonic well-being has to do with 'thriving'  - whether we believe we are living a "meaningful, good, worthy life." This includes a sense of meaning and purpose, the feeling that we are investing our personal resources into the pursuit of the things which we value, the knowledge of our own strengths, and the ability to live "in accordance with one's true self." The ability to thrive in this way is intricately linked to having a strong, positive personal identity.

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So. Coming back to my own life.

This fall has been, for me, a hedonic roller-coaster. I have had some great days. And I have had some terrible days. I have no concept of whether that 3-to-1 ratio was present... but I know I've spent a lot of time thinking, Why aren't I happier? What should I be doing differently? I would say my efforts confirm the paradox that seeking daily happiness makes it more difficult to experience.

As I read this report, I realized that my happiest moments this fall have come from moments of strong eudaemonic experience. As we move further through the fostering process. When I decided to apply for a PhD. Seeing the wheels turning during a conversation with church youth about what makes "the good life." Hugging a friend going through difficulty and loss. These are all things I value, things I believe are worth investing in, things that make me feel more me.

I've had more and more of these moments over the past few years, which I believe are linked to the ways I have been intentionally pursuing self-knowledge and healthy self-love (more on that here).

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I'm going to keep baking scones on mornings that start out rough, because they are delicious and I experience a very immediate happiness with them. But on mornings when the dog has pooped all over, or I forgot to do laundry and don't have the clothes I want, or when I have to say no to something I want because of budget restrictions, or the two of us can't agree on an important decision - I want to learn to zoom out. Zoom out and reframe.

I am thriving. I am well. My life is moving towards goals I've cherished for decades (literally). I have the space and opportunity and support to pursue my deepest values. And when obstacles come up (they always will), I have the resources I need to carry on.

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Maybe you can't say the same about your life. Maybe you don't feel like you're able to move towards the goals you cherish, or that you can pursue your values. Maybe you don't know what your values are. Maybe it feels like there's no one around to support you.

That's okay. It's okay to not be okay.

We say that a lot in our home: It's okay to not be okay. Because it is. We all have days (weeks, months) where we are not okay. And generally, we carry on as best we can. We go to work. We find food to eat. We sweep the floors occasionally. We try to sleep.

If this is you, I send a giant hug your way, because it is an exhausting place to be. I also send a scone your way, because scones are magically delicious. And I encourage you, when you have the capacity again - seek thriving. Seek self-knowledge, self-love. Seek friendships that will sustain you. Trust that as you begin to thrive, the daily happiness will come.

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Muesli Scones Mini-Recipe 
(makes 4 scones if you are home alone...double if you have guests coming!)

1 c. flour
1/2 c. muesli (mine was homemade!)
2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp baking powder
2 Tbsp butter
1/2 c milk (scant)

1. Combine dry ingredients
2. Cut in butter until course crumbs
3. Pour in milk. Stir
4. Shape into ball, pat down and cut in quarters
5. Bake at 400 for 10-12 minutes, until edges are lightly browned.