Increasing happiness quotient more important than ever

For a great many farms, 2019 won’t actually fade into the rear-view mirror until the harvest is finished in spring.

That’s definitely not how the plans were originally drawn up. People will likely be getting tired of talking about 2019 and how difficult it was. Having said that, I’ve observed that quite a hangover remains and is showing its impact on farms and farm families in different ways.

A normal sequence would see a very busy harvest and fall season that leads to freeze-up, and then onto planning for the next year.

It can be hard to get feeling good about things, about thinking about next year, when black clouds are hanging overhead.

January can be a tricky month in the best of times. Dr. Cliff Arnall, researcher at the Cardiff Center for Lifelong Learning in the United Kingdom, developed a model that identified a specific Monday in January (blue Monday) as being the most depressing day of the year. The metrics he used in his model included debt and weather, both factors that will be realities for farms through 2019 and into 2020.

Through various and relatively recent discussions, I’ve come to think about farm families in business and where they were at in terms of their happiness, which I thought could be expressed through a happiness quotient.

I’ve learned that the notion of a happiness quotient is not original thinking. I searched online and found numerous references to happiness quotients.

One article, written by Jacqueline Whitmore, cited five ways to increase a person’s happiness quotient:

  • check your thoughts
  • create a gratitude journal
  • volunteer
  • do random acts of kindness
  • get physical

I think some of them could be used by farmers and farm families in situations where they could benefit from a boost in their happiness quotient.

Check your thoughts

As difficult as it may be, it will help to think forward to next year and beyond. It generally helps to talk about difficult situations. This could be family, a friend, a neighbour or perhaps a professional. If the 2019 hangover includes financial challenges, they likely won’t resolve themselves. Talking to your lender or creditor soon will be helpful.

Create a gratitude journal

In general, farm families could do a better job of celebrating past accomplishments or situations where things have gone well and have resulted in successful outcomes. It may help, in a situation where the happiness meter is trending lower, to take time and write down a list of the positives. The positives can be drawn on to support efforts to work through the difficult situations.

Volunteer/do random acts of kindness

Both will help by switching some of the focus away from the challenges associated with 2019. They can be used to create a different perspective on things. It’s common, particularly when there are some things that are very challenging, for the factors contributing to the challenges to dominate thought processes. A person can find themselves going around and around on an issue with seemingly no obvious resolution. It can help to break free of those thought patterns.

Get physical

Along with proper nutrition, getting physically active will help. For many farmers, physical activity is not an issue. However, it’s true that physical activity helps to engage the mind and from there, one can begin to develop a plan.

Planning is another form of activity, admittedly not that physical, but beneficial just the same. Planning can help a person break free from challenges that dominate thought processes, perhaps such as those emanating from 2019.

It can be relatively easy to fall into a cycle of inactivity when it comes to planning, when situations are challenging and where there appears to be no good alternatives or outcomes. If you’re in a situation where you’re dealing with some 2019 hangover symptoms, start taking steps toward developing a plan forward.

Planning in any format speaks to something that will happen in the future. Future outcomes are always unknown so there are no guarantees. However, actively planning will increase the odds of a preferred outcome and will work to give your happiness quotient a boost.

Terry Betker, PAg, is a farm management consultant based in Winnipeg. He can be reached at 204-782-8200 or terry.betker@backswath.com.

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