This month’s GLAM Blog Club theme is transform so I’m talking about how you can transform yourself into a happier librarian. Find out how to start a happiness project and transform your life…
I’m turning Happier Librarian into a vlog for GLAM Blog Club. It’s time to take my own advice and try new things! Here’s my March vlog on the theme of serendipity and it’s relationship to happiness.
It’s Glam Vlog Club because something I want to learn in 2019 is how to feel more comfortable in video. Enjoy!
As the theme of December’s GLAM Blog Club is End these are the top three things I’ll be ending in 2019. Sometimes you have to quit things that aren’t working or habits that don’t help you in order to be a happier librarian!
1. Volunteering for causes I’m not passionate about: A happier librarian values her time and knows that happiness comes from doing what you love not what you think you should do. I am passionate about libraries, mental health, being an ally for First Nations people and LGBTIQ advocacy. I am not passionate about chairing meetings, writing minutes, strategic plans or policy talk so I need to be honest about how I spend my spare time and what I do with my energies.
2. Reading finance books by middle aged men: What is it with young women and The Barefoot Investor? He’s a smug middle aged, married guy. He knows nothing about being a young, single woman! I’m not reading any more patronising, assuming finance books by men who don’t understand women generally earn less than them, have half the amount in their super and are much less likely to be in leadership roles (or have leadership salaries).
If you want financial advice for women try reading Emily Power’s How To Buy A Home, Cosmopolitan magazine or ask me! I bought my first home in Sydney at 27, I have a budget and make voluntary contributions to my super, I’ve never had a credit card, I paid off all my HELP debt, I have a savings account, an emergency fund and an every day bank account. And although I earn less than $80 000 a year I can still save enough to travel overseas every 12 months and to treat myself to brunch once a week. This happier librarian handles finance #likeaboss! Do I really need to read about it?
3. Comparing myself to other people: I have a friend who is very beautiful, talented and accomplished. Every time I see her I start to shrink inside. The same thing happens when I scroll travel bloggers on Instagram. I feel ugly, stupid and worthless.
Happiness theorists say that comparing ourselves to others is one of the main causes of unhappiness. As Sarah Knight says in her book of the same name, “you do you“. Don’t worry about what other people are achieving or how fabulous they look – focus on being the best you you can be. And this will help you to be a better friend too.
I really hope I can end these three habits for a happier 2019. It won’t be easy but my status as a happier librarian depends on it! What will you end next year?
When I first started reading for my PhD I thought everything I read about happiness research was a ‘fact’. But happiness theory is full of strange studies and less than objective research that in many cases actually has less to do with happiness and more with hegemony, favouring a dominant set of ideas or beliefs. For this GLAM Blog Club theme of strange I’m going to look at the strangest happiness ‘facts’ I’ve read.
I’ve seen these ‘facts’ pop up again and again in library books, journal articles, even Vogue magazine. So it’s time to interrogate the ‘science’ behind three of the most common and yes, strange happiness ‘facts’:
1. Married people are happier than single people: This is a favourite of Martin Seligman in Authentic Happiness. I don’t know the ‘science’ behind it but I’ll bet the research wasn’t qualitative. Clare Payne in her new book, One states that single households are the fastest growing demographic in Australia. You’re condemning a fair chunk of the population to a life of unhappiness and, before marriage equality in Australia, excluding all gay people from ‘happiness’. In some countries believing this study will continue to do so. I think the claim is absolute garbage. And why would you even pursue it unless you had a vested interest in marriage?
2. You can tell how a person’s life will turn out by the smile they had in their class photo: This is another Seligman favourite and was obliterated by Barbara Ehrenreich in her book, Smile or Die. It’s based on a supposed longitudinal study of a graduating class that found people with ‘duchenne’ smiles or ‘smiling with the eyes’ were happier later in life than their classmates. As Ehrenreich revealed no one can actually find proof that this absurd study was ever conducted and so it’s ridiculous premise isn’t even worth deconstructing.
3. You can control 50% of your happiness: This is based on a happiness pie chart that psychologist, Sonya Lyubomirsky drew up. In it she claims that 40% of happiness is genetic, 10% is circumstances and 50% is in your control. As I’ve said before on this blog, I think this is actually a depressing statistic even though happiness theorists laud it as proof of how much agency we have. I also think the theory doesn’t account for the impact of things like war, climate change, natural disasters or colonial invasion where the happiness of a population is so largely disrupted that the 10% of ‘circumstances’ vastly impacts on the other 90% of the puzzle.
These strange ‘happiness facts’ are, of course, not facts at all. Rather they are self serving studies conducted by researchers who are pushing their own agenda. Until we have more diversity in happiness research, more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives and more LGBTIQ+ perspectives happiness theory will continue to be littered with half baked theories and ‘facts’ that only serve the interests of people who are white and heterosexual. Just like politics, journalism and the tech industry what happiness theory needs is diversity.
What does it mean to collect? The theme of this month’s GLAM Blog Club, collect is also the theme of a chapter in Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project. Gretchen says that collections increase our joy and give us a sense of pride. To collect, therefore, is to become happier.
I wrote about my collecting in The Library Collector on the ALIA Sydney blog in 2015. I still collect libraries and it brings me great happiness to see my Instagram account filling with photo tributes to all the libraries I’ve ‘collected’ on my travels here and overseas.
My advice for starting a collection is:
1. Choose to collect something you’re really passionate about. You need to be able to keep it going!
2. Plan ahead how you’ll ‘store’ your collection.
3. Remember that a collection can be digital, it doesn’t have to be made of physical ‘things’. I am currently using Instagram to collect my experiences of living in Brisbane with my own hashtag #imovedtoBrisbane.
4. Collectors are driven by the ‘desire to acquire’ – but don’t get too carried away… even State Libraries have to collect within their budget!
5. Know when to let it go and how. I had a collection of vintage dresses that I had to discard because I moved to a house with a smaller wardrobe. I sold them to a vintage clothing exchange and used the money to help finance my move. I also took comfort in the fact that other people could now wear my years worth of gorgeous finds (and I kept a few of my favourites!)
To collect is to start a happiness project. Your collection will begin small but if you’re patient and invest your time you’ll see it grow. And not only will it bring you happiness but it will also bring happiness to those you choose to share it with! Now, isn’t that what libraries are all about?
I am not creative. I can’t knit, I can’t sew. I don’t draw or paint and I even have terrible handwriting so this month’s GLAM Blog Club theme of ‘creativity’ does not thrill me. But many books I have read state that creativity is an essential part of happiness. We need to be making things and thinking outside the box in order to have a sense of purpose and a sense of fun.
So I broadened the definition of creativity in order to ensure that even someone like me who is born without a creative gene in their body can be ‘creative’ in some form. Here’s my top five tips on how to redefine creativity to make it more accessible to anyone:
- Take a class (and be kind to yourself): I enrolled in a class for making polymer clay necklaces. I was the only person with no ‘creative’ hobbies or experience. I couldn’t follow most of the instructions and while my classmates produced several beautiful necklaces worthy of Emily Green I managed to make only one small necklace with a few simple pink discs, both lopsided and lumpy. The point, however, is I made that necklace! And I continue to make lumpy necklaces for myself and for my friends because now I can!
- Buy some washi tape and decorate your diary: I get a great thrill out of buying patterned washi tape and sticking it all through my paper diary. It’s not the same as being able to draw your own designs but it makes me feel more creative and always brightens my mood.
- Make a scrapbook of your holiday: I don’t buy any of the scrapbooking stickers or fancy paper that craft shops sell but if that’s your jam go ahead! I simply find pleasure in arranging my postcards, photographs and ephemera on neat, ordered pages in plain black scrapbooks. The act of arranging the items is creativity for me and I have wonderful keepsakes for all my travelling memories!
- Learn some phrases in another language: I use Mango Languages app to learn words and phrases before I travel. So far I’ve dabbled in Polish, Czech, Portuguese and Spanish. Mango Languages is free through my public library so that’s why I use it but there are other language apps that help you learn. I find them easier than taking a class in person because you can go at your own pace and learn anywhere, anytime. With next year being the International Year of Indigenous Languages why not go one better and start learning some words in an Indigenous language? The State Library of Queensland has a whole suite resources to help you! Or visit a museum. I recently learnt how to say ‘budjari gamarruwa’ which means ‘hello’ in Gadigal language by visiting the Gadi exhibition at the Australian Museum.
- Cook a new recipe: Cooking is creative. Even if you’re just following a simple recipe you’re making something and you’re exercising the creative part of your brain. Set yourself a challenge to make one new thing a week or pick a daunting recipe and aim to master it by the end of the year. It doesn’t have to super fancy just enough to say “I made this!” and be proud.
So there’s some tips for how to be creative when you’re… not! Creativity is about embracing new things and being brave. What you make doesn’t have to be the best or the prettiest it just has to be made by you.
I’ve just finished reading a book called How To Be Happy At Work by Annie McKee. She says that happiness at work is about having a sense of purpose and meaning. Purpose is tied to passion, the theme of this month’s GLAM Blog Club.
Usually the things we are most passionate about also bring us a sense of purpose. For example, I am passionate about helping people, whether they’re my friends or my clients. I’m also passionate about travel, mental health, Indigenous and LGBQTIA+ rights. Through paid work, volunteering and my PhD study I am following my passions for all of these things and, in turn, I lead a happier, more purposeful life.
My tips for finding purpose through your passions are:
1. Make a list of 10 things that make you happy and think about how you can integrate these into your daily life. They can be as simple as brunch food, Twitter and reading a magazine – just make sure you make room for them and enjoy them.
2. Volunteer! It’s linked to increased happiness and allows you to pursue your passions without changing careers. I volunteered as a mental health community presenter with the Black Dog Institute for five years because it gave me the opportunity to pursue my passion for mental health advocacy while still continuing my other passion of being a librarian (9am-5pm)!
3. This advice is borrowed from Russ Harris’ book, The Happiness Trap but work out what your values are and only pursue work that aligns with them. If you value honesty look for companies with good communication channels and if you value work-life balance choose employers who offer flex time.
That’s my advice, though even I don’t always heed it. I hope if you haven’t found your purpose yet this post on passion will help you get there because both passion and purpose are vital to being a happier librarian!
Believe it or not the theme for this month’s GLAM blog club, control, is a very important part of happiness. Happiness theorists like Sonya Lyubomirsky argue that 50% of our happiness is within our control, 40% is life circumstances and 10% is genetics. Personally I think this statistic is a bit depressing but it does mean that at least half of our happiness is something we can control and therefore, something that can be increased.
Happiness theory states that how happy we are depends on how much control we have over our lives. The more we feel like we’re in control and have a say in what we do the happier we are. For librarians this can be hard – our lives at work are governed by rosters and meetings – things over which we have very little control. We feel trapped, like goldfish in a bowl.
But a wise and happy librarian once told me that the trick is to control what you can and don’t worry about the rest. This is sage advice and something I try to keep in mind to be a happier librarian. It doesn’t help to get upset or anxious about things you can’t control so focus on the things that you can: the coffee you have before your 9am shift on the Information desk, the walk you’ll take on your lunch break, the friend you’re meeting as soon as you finish work on a Friday afternoon. These are all strategies for happiness that you can control. Put them in place and you’ll be a happier librarian before you know it!
This month I am combining my GLAM Blog Club post on watch with a post for #LoveOzYABloggers on the theme of Indigenous. So here are three YA books with Indigenous themes which I think you should watch out for.
- Songs That Sound Like Blood
Songs That Sound Like Blood is the story of a young Indigenous girl embarking on her first year at university and falling in love. Roxy is a musician living in a new city and finding out what she wants from life. She meets Ana, a music journalist, with whom she shares a deep connection that moves from girl crush to first love. This is a great novel full of passion and determination. It is written by an Indigenous author and explores the complexities of being Indigenous, the importance of family and being true to yourself.
2. Clancy of the Undertow
Clancy of the Undertow is written by a non-Indigenous author. It follows the journey of a Bundjalung girl who falls for the most popular girl in school. And she ends up getting hurt. The novel explores the dangers of infatuation and the conflicting social worlds that high school students find themselves navigating. Even though this book is not written by an Indigenous author it tells the story of an LGBTQIA+ Indigenous protagonist whose blinding obsession leads her to isolate herself from her friends and family. Her mother gives her a bookmark with an artist’s impression and the word, Bundjalung on it to teach her about her heritage. Not much is made of Clancy’s Indigenous heritage. It would be interesting to know if the author did any community consultation before writing this book.
3. Becoming Kirrali Lewis
Becoming Kirrali Lewis is also a story of a young girl in her first year at university. It charts the new friendships she forms and her awakening to a world beyond the family she grew up in. Kirrali goes on a search for her birth mother expecting to be united with the Indigenous family she never knew while growing up. Instead she finds out that her birth mother is not whom she imagined and this calls her whole identity into question. A book about finding who you are and standing up for what you believe in. The violence, discrimination and attitudes towards First Nations people in the 1980s is a real wake-up call and shows just how much prejudice they have had to overcome.
These three novels are YA fiction to watch out for as they show the nuances of different Indigenous characters, the struggle for identity and self-knowledge amidst family conflicts and first love gone wrong. Each of these novels is worth reading because they evoke empathy for the protagonists who are learning how to stand up for themselves and how to make their way in a hostile social world.
Reading books about Indigenous characters is one way to increase understanding for First Nations peoples. YA fiction helps us to develop cultural competency and teaches us how to see life from someone else’s perspective. Being able to do that makes you happier too!
#LoveOzYABloggers is hosted by #LoveOzYA, a community led organisation dedicated to promoting Australian young adult literature. Keep up to date with all new Aussie YA releases with their monthly newsletter, or find out what’s happening with News and Events, or submit your own!