Be Happy

Matisse Still Life

This is my birthday month and I’ve decided to focus the whole month toward being happy as much of the time as I can. Why? Because I know feeling happy is a state of mind that I have control over. I can choose to be happy or not and feeling happy has benefits. A lot of other things just seem to work out better. I made a list of 26 things that I feel happy doing. My list includes:

  • Looking at the sky and cloud watching
  • Painting
  • Connecting with my adult children
  • Listening to music
  • Looking at other artist’s paintings
  • Buying art supplies
  • Artist dates

I’ll add more things to the list as I think of them. I’m committed to being intentional about doing at least one thing from my list every day and to pay attention to how I feel as the day goes on because I know I can choose how my emotions impact me. Noticing how I feel is as important, maybe even more important, because it’s so, so easy to let other influences (people, events, circumstances) hijack even the best intentions. I’ve had lots of practice doing just that. Now, I’m going to practice myself into the momentum of feeling happy just because I want to. I’m also keeping a record of good things that happen every day, because noticing the good things that come to me will be fun and it’ll be a reminder of the benefit of a positive mindset.

I took myself on an artist’s date.

Julia Cameron launched the idea of having artist’s dates in her book The Artist’s Way. If you’re unfamiliar with this concept, it amounts to setting aside time every week to do some fun, simple thing: go to a museum, see a movie, visit a garden center. Artist’s dates are time designated for having FUN and maybe also being inspired. These dates often bring insight and teach us things about ourselves as creators.

I went to the Minneapolis Institute of Art and spent a couple of hours strolling through rooms filled with paintings from the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist periods. Some of my favorite art was produced by artists such as Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, and John Singer Sargent.

Paul Gauguin Tahiti

Tahitian Landscape” by Paul Gauguin, oil on canvas, 1891. Minneapolis Institute of Art collection.

Sargent Moorish Courtyard

Moorish Courtyard” by John Singer Sargent, oil on canvas, 1913. Minneapolis Institute of Art collection.

An “aha moment” and why this artist date was so worthwhile.

I’ve seen the MIA collection of Impressionist paintings before but as I stood in front of a piece of art by Paul Cezanne, another of my favorite artists, it dawned on me that an artist’s reason for making art is a game changer. Not all masters are highly skilled technicians. What masters do is use their natural talents, skills, and tools to work out problems. They find solutions that other artists can adopt and because the new knowledge is shared, art advances.

Photo credits:

Still Life with Pascal’s “Pensées”, oil on canvas by Henri Matisse, 1924. Minneapolis Institute of Art.

2 responses to “Be Happy”

  1. I like Artist’s Dates! I had one planned for the Missouri Botanical Garden when I had to cancel it for social distancing reasons. Now, I’m finding ways to have mini dates at home.

    • You might enjoy Michael Nobbs talking about “Tiny Adventures” in his podcasts and books. His podcast is called “One Thing Today.” He put together a Tiny Adventure Checklist that includes:
      – Picking a tiny adventure location (at home or nearby)
      – Setting a date and time (so you can enjoy the anticipation)
      – Packing a bag of provisions to use or enjoy (food, writing or drawing tools,, etc.).
      And of course, make a record of the adventure (writing, a drawing, photographs, a recording).

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