Saturday, 10 November 2012

Ser y Estar

In Spanish there are two different verbs for 'to be'.

Which, when you first hear that, might seem a little odd.  Being is just being isn't it? Why on earth would you need two different ways to say it?

But I think the Spanish are really on to something here.

Consider the difference between:

She is cold


She is cold.

You're right, not much. On the face of it.

What about this:

She is cold

She is a cold person.

Or this:

I am happy

I am a happy person.

One is state, one is trait. There's a big difference.

What's this got to do with my Spanish lesson?

Ser means 'to be', always, as a character trait, as part of your make up. Estar means to be, right now, right here, in this moment, as a state.

So what?

What I love about this is that the Spanish are able to express the difference between being happy right now, and being happy as a way of life in a way that the English just can't.  I'm not even sure half of us have even considered there might be a difference in the first place.

But what the Spanish or indeed the rest of us might not know, is that the more I can say "estoy feliz", the more I am able to say "soy feliz".

Regularly feeling happy in the moment, breeds happiness for life.

So, 'salud' to that!

A happy hobby

Hobby: an activity or interest pursued for pleasure or relaxation and not as a main occupation.

Which is why, when I heard happiness described as a 'hobby' on the happiness weekend I attended, it stuck with me.

I've often seen happiness referred to as a habit, which work as well, but, paradoxically, the word 'habit' seems to drain all the happy out. Habits are a bit grunty and run of the mill aren't they?  The point of a habit is that you do it so much it ends up being almost unconscious, involuntary.

But the science of happiness tells us that being present, conscious and mindful are all important ingredients in our happiness stew which, for me, leaves the habit pie feeling a bit tasteless.

Hobby, on the other hand has some lovely parallels with lessons from positive psychology. A hobby is something you actively choose to do; happiness is a state you can actively choose to be in.  A hobby is something that brings you explanation needed there.  A hobby normally involves mastering some skill or other; mastery is another happiness ingredient. Mastery involves an element of practice and we could all do with practising where happiness is concerned. Regular practice gives us some kind of structure to our time and structure, regular practice breeds happiness. I've talked about the concept of 'flow' on here before and if ever we're to get lost in flow, it's whilst we're busy with a hobby.  According to Csikszentmihalyi being in flow and happiness go hand in hand.  I could go on, but I think the point is made.

I just really love the idea of choosing happiness as a hobby, setting aside time to practice it regularly, recognising it as something you need to work at and keep up in order to get better at it. It's brilliant.

So, that's my new hobby. Being happy.