Have you ever wondered if or how you could be happier?
One rainy afternoon, while riding a city bus, Gretchen Rubin asked herself, “What do I want from life, anyway?” Her answer? “I want to be happy” ~yet she realized she spent no time thinking about happiness. In that moment she grasped two truths about herself: she wasn’t as happy as she could be, and her life wasn’t going to change unless she herself made a change. Her epiphany of, “the days are long but the years are short” made her realize that time is passing quickly and she wanted to focus more on things that really mattered. Thus, she dedicated an entire year to the study of happiness. Her book, The Happiness Project, merges the wisdom of the ages with current scientific research. Gretchen Rubin’s idea for a happiness project is no longer just a book or a blog; it’s a movement.
She dedicated each month in a year to an important happiness concept; I chose 5 of my favorites to introduce to you.
“The Happiness Project”
Acting energetic causes you to become more energetic.
Research shows a virtuous cycle: being happy energizes you; in turn, feeling energetic makes it easier to engage in activities like socializing and exercising, which, in turn, leads to increased happiness, and so the cycle continues. Studies also show that when you feel energetic, your self-esteem rises. Feeling tired, on the other hand, makes everything seem arduous. Go to sleep earlier.
- Exercise better.
- Toss, restore, and organize.
- Tackle a nagging task.
- Act more energetic.
BE SERIOUS ABOUT PLAY
- Find fun.
- Take time to be silly.
- Go off the path.
- Start a collection.
Studies show that the absence of feeling bad isn’t enough to make you happy – we need to find ways to feel good, and play is one of them!
Fun falls into three categories: Relaxing fun, challenging fun and accommodating fun. I love Jerry Seinfeld’s quote, “There’s no such thing as Ã¢â?¬Ë?Fun for the whole family.'” Going to a family holiday dinner, even going to dinner and movie with friends requires accommodation. It strengthens relationships, build memories and its fun ~ but it takes a lot of organization and coordination.
Research shows that challenging fun and accommodating fun, over the long term, bring more happiness because they are sources of they are the sources of the elements that make people happiest: strong personal bonds, mastery, and an atmosphere of growth.
MAKE TIME FOR FRIENDS
- Remember birthdays.
- Be generous.
- Show up.
- Don’t gossip.
- Make three new friends.
By acting friendlier, we feel friendlier. Acting in an outgoing, talkative, adventurous or assertive way makes people – even introverts – feel happier. One conclusion is blatantly clear in happiness research: everyone from contemporary scientists to ancient philosophers agrees that having strong social bonds is probably the most meaningful contributor to happiness. We need close long-term relationships, we need to confide in others, and we need to belong. Having strong relationships lengthens life, boosts immunity and cuts the risk of depression.
A big part of friendship is showing up. Unless we make consistent efforts, our friendships aren’t going to survive.
It’s easy to say to yourself, “I don’t have time to meet new people or make new friends,” but usually that’s not true, and making a new friend is tremendously energizing not enervating. New friends expand our world by introducing us to new experiences, interests, opportunities, and can be an invaluable source of support and information. You can play the same role for them!
One strategy this author adopted for making friends was that any time she entered a social situation where she was meeting new people; she set herself a goal for making three new friends. Having a numerical goal seemed artificial at first but it helped her change her attitude from, “Do I like you? Do I have time to get to know you,” to ” Are you someone who will be one of my three friends?” Somehow this shift made her behave better: it made her more open to people; it prompted her to make more of an effort to get to know others.
BUY SOME HAPPINESS
- Indulge in a modest splurge
- Buy needful things
- Spend out
- Give something up.
Money alone can’t buy happiness. But money can help buy happiness when spent wisely. Whether rich or poor, people make choices about how they spend money and those choices can boost happiness or undermine it. We can all do a better job of spending money in a way that boosts happiness.
Think about spending money on things that help you to stay in closer contact with family and friends; to promote energy and health; to live in a more serene, organized environment; to work more efficiently; to eliminate sources of boredom, irritation or conflict; and to have experiences that will enlarge you.
Instead of grabbing a bagel for lunch because it’s inexpensive and quick, think about spending more on a nutritious salad or soup and fruit in order to do something for your long-term health.
CONTEMPLATE THE HEAVENS
- Read memoirs of catastrophe.
- Keep a gratitude notebook.
- Initiate a spiritual master.
People assume that a person who acts happy must feel happy, but although it’s the very nature of happiness to seem effortless and spontaneous, it often takes great skill.
One of the passages in Story of a Soulby Therese is most compelling in the view of happiness research. She observes that “for the love of God and my Sisters, I take care to appear happy and especially to be so.”
We can set out to imitate Therese by doing a better job of acting happy when we know that our happiness would make someone else happy. We don’t want to be fake but we can make more of an effort to be less critical. We could find ways to be authentically enthusiastic about new foods that aren’t necessarily our favorite, activities that aren’t our first choice, or movies, books and performances with which we could usually find fault. Usually, we can find something to praise if we make the effort to do so!
For the love and family and friends, let’s appear happy and, especially, to be happy.