Monday 26 February 2018

Holidays are time to take stock and flourish

John Masterson likes to get some exercise on holidays, before reading some books
John Masterson likes to get some exercise on holidays, before reading some books
Flourishing - which, according to John Masterson, is a surprisingly worthwhile read on holidays

John Masterson

I take holidays twice a year and without them I would probably be a basket case. I need some sunshine, bare feet and the ease that goes with life in a part of the world where they are used to good weather. And I have three simple routines.

First, I do some work. I do the type of work that just has to be done to keep things ticking over. I answer emails and deal with routine matters. I do a little most days, first thing in the morning; 10 hours in the week certainly covers it all.

Second, I get fitter again. I run and swim, and the upshot of it is that even with holiday eating and drinking, I come back in better shape than I went.

Third, I read books that I have been meaning to read for ages. This June, I finally read a book that has been sitting beside my bed, looking at me, making me feel guilty, for the best part of a year.

I would pick it up and read a few pages and inevitably fall asleep a few minutes later. This, I stress, is not a comment on the book, for it is this book that I am now heartily recommending. It might not seem an obvious choice for holiday reading, but I think there is a value to reading it when you have time on your hands to let some of it sink in.

Holidays are ideal for a bit of reflection. You have time to take stock and make a few changes for the better in how you live the rest of the year. You may not read this book cover to cover, but if you take the time to read some of it, mull it over and maybe chat to someone about it, I suspect your break may do more than just recharge your batteries. It is called Flourishing and was written by psychologist Maureen Gaffney

The book is largely about happiness and what makes us happy. Maureen Gaffney takes us on an informative guided tour through the extensive psychological research on the topic. And, thankfully, does it in English with a minimum of jargon.

And from page one you will start applying many insights to yourself.

I would say I am a moderately happy person. I have a lot in my life to appreciate. But very quickly I found myself looking at many aspects of my life, and stages I went through, with fresh eyes.

When you are feeling happy, you are experiencing a goodly portion of a range of emotions – love, joy, gratitude, contentment, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration and awe. She asks a simple question. In the past month, how often have you experienced each of these in life, in your closest relationship/s, and in work? That got my attention. Going through the list one by one was not easy. But it was worth it.

I often hear myself say "I wasn't put on earth to do X" when I am frustrated. But she changes the attention to those times when we are in tune with the universe, and using our talents to the full, doing something we value. That state of affairs she terms flourishing and again I found myself sitting up and taking note. One or two compromises that I have been making, or ruts that I had fallen into, are about to get the bullet.

Her route to getting more of the good and less of the bad is not psychobabble. It is clearly explained practical advice, based on worldwide research over the past half-century.

Flourishing is not the first book that comes to mind for lazing by the pool. But I think many people will find it surprisingly worthwhile.

Irish Independent

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