EX­PER­I­MENTS IN HAP­PI­NESS

Amazing Wellness - - HERBAL HEALING -

Paula Pound­stone took ac­tion by putting both her not-so-Olympic body and sharp ob­ser­va­tional wit to the test in her get-happy book. The key find­ing in her seven-year, hands-on joy quest? “The truth is,” she notes, “the only thing that re­ally makes peo­ple happy is ping-pong.”

She’s jok­ing, of course. At least in part: Her tome’s new pa­per­back edi­tion adds ta­ble ten­nis to her lineup of 14 get-happy ex­per­i­ments—which in­clude get­ting or­ga­nized, get­ting quiet, get­ting earthy, and get­ting warm and fuzzy—that the some­times cheeky comic earnestly un­der­took. “Ping-pong did make me happy,” she says. And a day-long tour­na­ment kept her so, even as she em­barked on “a hor­ri­ble er­rand hav­ing to do with fam­ily drama that night. I lit­er­ally went from play­ing ping-pong to go­ing to the air­port, and I still had a bounce in my step un­til the morn­ing.”

Sus­tain­able hap­pi­ness be­came the gold stan­dard in her ex­pe­ri­en­tial pur­suit. “It wasn’t a mat­ter if I en­joyed do­ing some­thing. It was a mat­ter if that thing gave me an up­lift or some sort of um­brella for the in­evitable on-and-off rains of one’s daily life. That’s the real ques­tion,” says the wry pan­elist of NPR’s hit quiz show Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me. And the an­swers? “If I had thought about build­ing to a crescendo of hap­pi­ness, I would’ve saved the Get Fit ex­per­i­ment un­til the end.” To this day, in fact, she con­tin­ues tak­ing taek­wondo.

En­gag­ing her heart via real-life in­ter­ac­tions has kept her light on her feet with um­brella in hand, at times like a Mary Pop­pins for se­niors. Two years af­ter wrap­ping her Get Over Here and Help ex­per­i­ment, the au­thor still vol­un­teers twice weekly at a nurs­ing home—in part as a trib­ute to a lively but lonely, and, sadly, now de­ceased, res­i­dent whose fun and funny ways she chron­i­cles in her book. “Ev­ery­one de­serves to have some­body that you look for­ward to see­ing and that re­mem­bers you,” Pound­stone says. And as she keeps giv­ing, she still re­ceives. “I feel bet­ter ev­ery sin­gle time I visit. Some­thing al­ways hap­pens that I’m not ex­pect­ing—a con­nec­tion.”

At times, the path to bliss takes cre­ative ex­per­i­men­ta­tion. Pound­stone was her own glee-hunt­ing guinea pig, find­ing ac­tiv­i­ties to put her on the path to those feel-good feel­ings.

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