Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Happiness: A 2010 Project

I had seen a blog posted on Slate this past year called "The Happiness Project". I had read a few post here and there, but didn't really look into it in depth. Of course, at year's end, I finally took a closer look. Gretchen Rubin started the blog about trying to increase personal happiness. She has her own website with a whole happiness toolbox. Quite a few people have joined to work on their own personal happiness. In fact, she is even recruiting people to get involved with a more specific happiness program in 2010.

I thought this was quite interesting, especially as we approach the new year, when everyone starts working on those dreaded New Year's Resolutions that most of us fail at time and again. If you think about it, all New Year's Resolution are about increasing our personal happiness. Whether our resolution is to lose weight or spend more time with family or spend time on "me"- the end result should be in our being more happy about ourselves. Of course, we almost always "fail" or lapse in our resolutions just a few weeks or months into the new year. We make all sorts of excuses - the most common one being "I don't have time."

I think it is pretty sad that we are essentially saying "I don't have time be more happy." What a way to go through life, huh?

Ms. Rubin has a "Happiness Manifesto" on her website and encourages others to create their own manifestos. Of the several points in her manifesto, these stood out the most to me.

To be happy, you need to consider feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right in an atmosphere of growth.
I like this because it doesn't buy into the fallicy that being happy means that you don't go through those tough days. You will have bad days. Also, it stresses that feeling happy and feeling right are not necessarily the same thing. One can be right and not feel good about being right. One can feel good and be very wrong. The point, I believe, is that being aware about your feelings and why you are feeling them provides you with a window into yourself. This will help you to deal the the bad days better, provide you with a guide for how to feel good, and check that your feelings are what you think they should be.

You're not happy unless you think you're happy.
Ms. Rubin uses this as a "fake it til you feel it" motto. That is all well and good. I think this goes more to awareness. I think we've all been in situations where we may have started out in being unhappy and suddenly realized that we were happy.We've also had those situations where we suddenly realized "I should be happy right now, but I'm not". Both of those situations require awareness.

The days are long, but the years are short.
Yes, we've had those bad days that seem to go on forever and ever and ever. We often dwell on them - bemoaning our wretched state, lamenting our mistakes, rehashing the sordid details until they are mush. But, we turn around one day and all of a sudden we realize "Wow, it's been 5 years since...." "Where did the time go?" "Has it been that long?" So, is it really important or necessary to dwell on each detail of the day? Or do we shake it off and look ahead? Like Anne Shirley (of Anne of Green Gables for those who may not know) says - "Tomorrow is always fresh with no mistakes in it."

Think about yourself so that you can forget yourself.
Put in the time and energy on you when you need to and then you can just let go and be you. You aren't sitting there stressing about what you are doing wrong, what you should be doing, etc. This is SO much easier said than done. I think women especially have problems with this one.

Ms. Rubin talks about setting goals but she believes that they should be specific goals if you really want to increase your happiness. So instead of saying "I want to spend more time with my family", you might say, "I will set aside the 1st Wednesday of the month as Family Night." Instead of saying "I want to exercise more", you might say "I will go for a 10 minute walk before lunch everyday." These are much more manageable and more concrete. You know very clearly if you have achieved the goal or not.

To that end, here are my goals that I have set out for 2010 in an effort to improve my happiness:

Do a blog post at least 1x per week - even if it is just one line.
I have gotten all worked up over not having done a blog post for a while. I've also done the "I have nothing to write about" lament. By doing at least one post a week, I will no longer feel bad about not doing a post. By allowing the post to be one line if necessary allows me to "not have anything to write about".

Do a major cleaning (ie overhaul) of the house 2x this year - one in the spring and one in the fall.
I have complained for years about the how messy the house gets. We get those Asian Lady Beetles everywhere. The dust bunnies add up. We are visited by rodents. I will beat myself up for not doing a better job with cleaning (even though I do clean every week). I have realized that sometimes my cleaning is more lax than other times. Also, there are some chores that I have a tendancy to not do. By setting up major cleaning sessions (and doing them), I provide myself with the time to devote to those tasks. I ensure that I will have at least 2 times during the year when I can look around the house and not lament its state of cleanliness.

Work out times for visiting family.
It seems that Husband and I always feel like we should be spending more time with our family. Since doing so requires a lot of time and travel, I think we need to work out some times in order to do so. I know I feel much better when I have a schedule and a plan on how to get things done. I know it is nice to simply "drop in" sometimes, but I will admit that doing so happens too rarely.

What about you? What would be some of your goals towards increasing your happiness in 2010?

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