Graphic text: 2020 Year of Happiness
Setting and working toward goals that are personally meaningful to you can enhance your lasting happiness and well-being. That journey begins in 2020, The Year of Happiness.
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In 2020, learn to be happy for years to come

Published on Monday, January 6, 2020

By: Ruth Cummins

Finding the time to organize what’s collected in her attic has been elusive for Kristy Womack.

It might be because she’s working late, or tired on the weekends. But, attacking the attic will bring her happiness. “I want to get something accomplished at my house,” said Womack, a registered nurse and care coordinator at University Heart.

That’s part of her overall goals for 2020. She’s resolved to begin the new year not with lofty aspirations, but smaller ones that will lead to more lasting happiness.

Woman opens file while another looks over her shoulder.
Kristy Womack, left, a registered nurse and care coordinator at University Heart, works with patients in the adult structural heart program. She's pictured with registered nurse and care coordinator Rhonda Jennings.

“I want to do things for myself. I’m going to stop staying late at work,” Womack said. “Once you’re here, it’s so easy to say that you have to finish this or that. I want to leave at a certain time so that I can go work out and be happy. It’s my therapy. It’s my time.”

There might not be an app for it, but there’s a plan for achieving lasting happiness from the University of Mississippi Medical Center Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior and the Medical Center’s Office of Well-being.

It’s dubbed The Year of Happiness, and it calls for boosting your happiness by setting and working toward goals that are personally important and meaningful to you. It springs from scientifically proven ways to enhance your happiness and well-being.

Portrait of Dr. Daniel Williams

“Research shows that 40 percent of happiness is under our control,” said Dr. Daniel Williams, division chief in Psychiatry and Human Behavior and associate director of the Office of Well-being. “We want people to make 2020 their Year of Happiness, and to do everything in our power to make ourselves happy. We deserve it.”

Psychiatry and Well-being are teaming to share key concepts with UMMC employees and students. Throughout 2020, they will impart tips for creating not just fleeting happiness you might get from a great buy on a pair of shoes, but lasting happiness all year ‘round.

You’ll find the research-supported information – each month will have a different theme or goal – on the Intranet homepage and in emails sent from the Everyday Wellness email address.

The idea for The Year of Happiness comes from Dr. Julie Schumacher-Coffey, professor of psychiatry, and Dr. Scott Rodgers, professor and chair of the department. Psychiatry has an annual book club in which employee read a selected book, then gather to talk about it at the end of the year. This year’s book, The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want, was discussed in December.

“We said, ‘Why hog all the happiness in Psychiatry? Let’s spread it across the Medical Center,’” Williams said. “We want to invite everyone on campus to join us, and there are things that you can do on your own in addition to activities we are beginning on campus.”

Here’s the January plan for getting started on your Year of Happiness:

  • Make your happiness goals, and it’s OK if you need to keep setting goals and working toward them. That’s because we quickly get used to good things achieved by meeting a goal, and they no longer equate to lasting happiness, Williams said.
  • Break your goals down into small, manageable steps, using the acronym SMART. That stands for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timed.

Just saying you’re going to eat healthier isn’t specific, measurable or timed. It is, though, if you drink bottled water instead of sweet tea or soda for the next two weeks. If a goal is to read 20 books in 2020, which books, and when and where will you read them, and at what pace?

As you achieve success with your initial goals, you can gradually add more goals to make the current goals more challenging.

  • Plan ahead for obstacles that crop up. Think of the acronym WOOP – your goal wish, the outcome, the obstacles and your plan to overcome them.

If you set a SMART goal to exercise for 30 minutes, five evenings a week, but find that hard because you’re too tired after work, you might plan to exercise before work instead.

“Each month, we will create a short article on the science of the topic that creates happiness, and we invite anyone on campus to engage with us,” Williams said. “We will have a link to a website with happiness resources and more in-depth explanation of activities that people can take part in to tap into the scientific principles.”

In keeping with this month’s topic, Dr. Josie Bidwell, associate professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine, will lead a goal-setting activity at 12:30 p.m. Jan. 21 in Classroom 5A. All UMMC employees, students and volunteers are invited.

So often, “our perceptions of things that will make us happy aren’t really accurate,” Williams said. “Let’s practice evidence-based happiness this year and make an impact on our happiness and satisfaction.”

Womack’s happiness goals will get her out of the house in addition to tasks that will equate to more time at home. “I want weekend getaways. Twice a month is my goal. It doesn’t have to be big. It can be a night in Biloxi or Natchez.”

“And, I’m going to work out. It might not make me skinny, but it makes me happy.”