“Nine” lists: positive psychology

Years ago, a friend gave me the book 14,000 Things to Be Happy About, by Barbara Ann Kipfer. The 1990 version was a 612-page list of things like “catching a robber,” “footed bowls” and “press secretaries” (p. 247); also “couriers,” “wild violets,” and “hill climbing” (p. 381).

At the time, I was taking a high school composition class that required, among other things, regular personal journal entries. The black book I selected eventually included the requisite pithy quotations and reflections on teenage angst, as well as a random collage or two. (At right, two pages I papered with the final words of headlines ending in “!” from one issue of National Enquirer: “chopping block!” “TV/VCR Repair!””dads!” “fiddle!” “awful singing!” “goats!” A few complete headlines made it in too: “A Cat Jumps on the Bed!” “Crow swipes old lady’s teeth!” and “Captured dolphin has HUMAN ARMS!” Apparently a slow week for humans.)

14,000 Things inspired me to begin keeping my own lists as part of my Language and Comp journal. Back in March 1992, favorites included “Aunt Merilee’s mints,” “the scent from clothes dryer exhaust vents,” “fruit juices in glass bottles,” (seriously large) “hoop earrings,” “gum after lunch,” and, because I was 17, “soulmates” (as well as the more accessible “old jeans and a T-shirt with a guy in them”). I’ve come back to the practice at various points in the years since then and have found the process surprisingly satisfying, especially during moments of crisis or stress. In the spirit of holistic positive psychology—as a happiness intervention and a quick way to begin blogging about things more personal to me—I’ve decided to post a series of lists on this site. To see them, check the blog category “Nine Things I’m Digging This Week.”