The Happiness Project: Part 1

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

A few months ago, back in December during my yearly book review, I wrote to you about a book called “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin. I fell in love with the book because it isn’t your average self help book. It’s an ordinary woman who is just trying to get the most out of life in a totally doable way. Best of all – she uses to-do lists, and I love to-do lists. So back in October, after I finished the book, I started my own happiness project strongly based on hers. This is my half year review.

October Boost Energy •

☑ Go to sleep earlier
Before October, Chris and I had been going to bed somewhere between 1-2AM. We had to get up at 7:30, which left us both pretty grumpy. Now we’ve been going to bed at 11:30 and waking at 7:30, which gives us the perfect amount of sleep! Sleep makes such a difference in mood – it’s crazy.

☑ Exercise better
I vowed to walk the 2.5 miles to and from work (5 miles total) as much as possible. I can honestly say the only days that I haven’t walked has been because it was raining like crazy or I had to stay. In January I started running and that was going great, but fizzled out when Chris was unable to run.

☑ Toss, restore, organize
This one was particularly fun for me. Over the course of the October weekends Chris and I got rid of everything we were hoarding: old clothes, random boxes, weird gadgets and gizmos. When we were done the closets were clean and sense of accomplishment was amazing.

☑ Tackle a nagging task
Gretchen recommends making a working list of all of the nagging tasks that you know you have to do, but tend to put off. If you actively go after 1 of them a week, they get done quicker than you ever imagined. I now have a 401K, Zipcar account, went to the dentist & doctor, and sooner rather than later I’m going to be taking the test to get my California state driver’s license.

☑ Act more energetic
The logic here is that the more energetic you act the more you actually feel energetic. Brilliant. I find this one to be particularly helpful in the morning when I really don’t want to get out of bed. My Fitbit, that Chris got me in February, has also been extremely motivational on this front. You see the numbers and want to walk more! Yay daily statistics!

November Remember Love •

☑ Quit nagging
Before November, I’ll admit I had a horrible nagging problem. Once I get home I can be super lazy and it’s much easier to ask “Hey Chris, can you grab that for me?” even though we’re equidistant from said ‘that’. Now, when I catch myself mid-sentence saying something like that I clamp my mouth shut and do it myself. The hardest is when it comes to chores. I love cleaning and Chris does not, but he does appreciate a clean house. I needed to realize that he cooks dinner most nights and it’s actually pretty fair that I do most of the cleaning.

☑ Don’t expect praise or appreciation
Gretchen refers to this as “waiting for gold stars”. As selfish as this sounds, you need to do things for yourself – not for others. This one was a huge revelation for me as well. I was constantly waiting for gold stars. I would do things for friends and expect them to have this grandiose response – when it didn’t happen I would get super upset. I started thinking of things more in the lines of “I am going to do [this] because the act of doing it will make me happy” and I’m much happier.

☑ Fight right
Chris and I don’t really fight, but when we do we have always managed to keep level headed. I love this about our relationship. I’ve learned to use some of the techniques Chris and I use when fighting with others and I haven’t had an escalated fight in a very long time.

☑ No dumping
Another huge one for me. I used to have the very bad habit of coming home and just going off about everything awful that happened that day. You can imagine that can’t be good for a relationship when all the other person hears is how awful everything is, when truthfully it wasn’t all that awful – you’re just honing in on the awful parts. Stop dumping on your partner and friends. If you’re upset about something, say it once (preferably to the person involved) – get it out of the way, and forget about it. Walking home has helped me immensely with this. It gives me time to cool down from the work day before I get home, so when I arrive I’m much happier.

☑ Give proofs of love
Seems silly, but everybody loves getting reminders that you love them. Even if it’s just a sticky note or saying “I love you” every morning.

December Aim Higher •

☑ Enjoy the fun in failure
Trying and failing isn’t the end of the world, it just means you have a new experience under your belt and you can try again!

☑ Ask for help
There’s always this stigma that asking for help is a sign a weakness, but asking for help is the best way to open the door to friendships. At work I’ve been asking my boss, Sam, and co-worker, Michael, for help using programs that I’m not familiar with – like when I have to make a presentation in keynote. They’ve been so helpful and I’ve learned a lot from them.

☑ Work smart
Figure out how you work best. I liked John Cleese’s thoughts on the matter and have been trying to follow his advice. Even though I don’t have a quiet room, I do like to plan out my day into 2 hour work sprints with some small relaxing time in-between. I also ever eat lunch at my desk.

☑ Enjoy now
Don’t live in the future. The “I’ll be happier when…” syndrome. Focus on being happy now – today – this minute. For me it was “I’ll be happier when I’m skinnier” or “I’ll be happier when I’m off this project.” The problem with focusing on happiness in the future is that once you get to the ‘future’ you may have achieved those initials goals, but by then you’ll have new ones and you’ll never be happy. Work towards your goals, but focus on living in the now.

December was a particularly hard month for me. It put my happiness training to the test. I pulled many late nights at work (including my first Odopod all-nighter), almost totally missed the Odopod Christmas Party, and I threw a Christmas cookie party that only 3 friends showed up to. Even though I did get upset, I focused on the positive – the work was great, I did get to go to the party, and 3 friends showed up!

January Lighten Up •

☑ Sing in the morning
I love singing in the morning! I started by singing in the shower… but now I sing to get Chris out of bed and while eating breakfast. It’s such a great way to start the day!

☑ Acknowledge the reality of other people’s feelings
When someone comes to you upset or hurt, even if you think the reason is silly or you can’t put yourself in their position at all – acknowledge that they sincerely feel those emotions and react sensitively. Too many times I doled out bad advice or laughed something off simply because I just couldn’t put myself in someone else’s shoes. Not anymore! All feelings are real and should be treated as such.

☑ Be a treasure house of happy memories
I like to think of this as a way to combat dumping. If somebody is stuck in a negative funk and all they want to do is talk about how bad things are, have an arsenal of happy things to combat the negativity. Most of the time they just need to talk about something else to forget about it.

☑ Take time for projects
In January I took my very first knitting class and made time to knit after work and on weekends after the class was over. I’ve finished 3 scarves now and I really love it! I just signed up for the Hats 101 class with Tori in May.

February Be Serious About Play •

☑ Find more fun & ☑ Go off the path
I combined these two writing my new ‘SF Adventures’ portion of the blog! Every weekend Chris and I go on an adventure in San Francisco to somewhere we haven’t been before. It’s been so much fun going off the path – we always find something new and exciting.

☑ Take time to be silly
Not a problem.

☑ Start a collection
I started a Pinterest account… I consider this a new age collection. I’ve started collecting design inspiration, food, cute animals, hair cut ideas, and clothing styles I like.

March Make Time for Friends •

☑ Remember birthdays
I try my best to keep up with my friends, but time flies and next thing you know it you haven’t talked to your friend in a year. I know this is something that I’m not the best at, but I’m working on it. I need to fully realize that even if my message/card is belated, it’s better than never sending it at all.

☑ Be generous
I kind of took this one as “Say yes.” When someone invites you to something, say yes. Even if you don’t know them that well, even if you really wanted to be lazy and sit on the couch at home – say yes. If your friend needs your help with something, say yes. You won’t regret it. For awhile Chris and I were in a funk where we just wanted to go home… I feel like a lot of people get into that at our age. I’ve started saying yes to friends and we’ve done so many fun things and hung out with so many great people.

☑ Show up
As someone who plans events I can’t stress this one enough. If you say you’re going to go to something – go to it. Don’t call 15 minutes before (or after) the event starts and say you’re not coming. The person planning the event really wants you to be there – guaranteed.

☑ Don’t gossip
One of the hardest to-dos out of the whole program. It’s unbelievably easy for a conversation to slip into gossip. I’ve been working on realizing when that shift is happening and cutting the conversation short by offering another topic. I, of course, haven’t mastered this – but I’ve come leaps and bounds from where I was before and I believe this is one of the key factors to happiness.

☑ Make three new friends
3 new friends! Julien Schléret, Laura Chan, and Kyle Scollin!

•★•

I’ve starred (★) the ones I found most helpful in finding everyday happiness. Before you ask – yes, I feel happier overall and I don’t let little things bug me as much as I used to. It’s fantastic. At this, my half year review, I still can’t recommend this book enough.

Linzi

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