I love nonfiction, and Gretchen Rubin’s “The Happiness Project” is one of my all-time faves. It recounts her year-long journey to become happier, with month-by-month goals, and every time I read it, I feel like I’m visiting with a friend.
I chose this book for our book club’s next selection, and have threatened my fellow members that I won’t even set a date for our meeting until they have all actually read the book! (Because *occasionally* it happens that everyone hasn’t read the book. Which usually isn’t a big deal, because *occasionally* we actually discuss the selected title.)
This book isn’t a quick-fix, and not meant for those dealing with serious issues like clinical depression, but instead it’s the story of one woman’s journey to get even happier. And while some may see that as a selfish or trivial goal, I know that my happiness has a direct impact on that of my husband and children, not to mention my coworkers and the students in my class. The author also makes it clear that it’s not reasonable to expect blissful happiness 24/7, but just think: if you can take yourself from 50% of the time to 75% of the time, imagine the difference that could make in your life.
While I’ve read the book several times, I thought this year I’d try to follow along with the monthly goals, and see how my journey compares, and how I can gain more happiness in my life, not just for my own sake, but for the benefit of the others in my life as well.
January: Boost Energy (Vitality)
Gretchen’s goals were:
- Get to sleep earlier. This is certainly one I don’t have to worry about, as it has been a huge priority for my entire adult life to get my sleep. On work nights, I’m in bed between 9 and 10 and the alarm goes off at 6, which seems to work for me. On weekends, I adjust accordingly. I fully believe that getting sleep has a huge impact on mood, productivity and overall health so it’s a very worthwhile goal.
- Exercise better. Again, I find this plays a role in my stress level, and I attribute some of the calm I experienced this past fall with the fact that I was getting on the treadmill regularly. For me, that means 30 means of brisk walking, 4 or 5 times per week. Since weight loss isn’t a goal for me, this meets my needs. Plus, I’m able to watch TV, read magazines or even use my treadmill desk to do a bit of web-surfing while I walk. While that might seem counter-intuitive for stress reduction, there are nights when I wouldn’t be getting on the treadmill at all without the opportunity to respond to emails or edit an article at the same time.
- Toss, restore, organize. Amen! Gretchen needed a lot more help with this than I do. I swear, I get a high from organizing and getting rid of things. My house is pretty much as pared-down as it can be (considering that I don’t throw out any of my daughter’s belongings without their permission. Ish.) In this chapter, Gretchen writes of the joy that comes from an empty shelf, and I find the same feeling from having an empty drawer in my dresser or vanity. So much promise, and definitive proof that that I don’t have too much stuff.
- Tackle a nagging task: for Gretchen, this included getting a light fixed and going for a skin-cancer check. For me, it was getting the bedroom carpets cleaned on the holidays. I’ve been hesitant to go anything with the girls’ rooms, as I couldn’t decide whether to upgrade to hardwood or wait a few years, and then we wanted to get them blackout blinds and I thought we should wait until we redecorate to make sure everything goes together…so nothing was getting done. Committing to cleaning the carpets and living with them for a few more years is a start. I think for the girls’ spring birthdays we’ll let them select new bedding and paint colours, and they’ll be all set to sleep in with new blinds by summertime!
- Act more energetic. Huh? Well, it’s true…sometimes you have to fake it til you make it. And I don’t want to be that annoying person complaining every day about how tired I am. (Again: if you’re dealing with a medical issue and have chronic fatigue, I’m not talking about you.) There’s a big difference between “my child threw up six times last night so I haven’t slept” (which definitely gets my sympathy) and “I’m so tired!” repeated on an hourly loop, on a daily basis. Get to bed!
Something Gretchen didn’t include that I want to try is drinking more water. I’ve read that dehydration can cause you to feel sluggish, and I usually just drink at mealtimes. I’m going to make more of an effort to get that H20 into my body. How can it hurt? (There’s a staff washroom right around the corner from my classroom and the teacher next door doesn’t mind covering for me, so I’m good there.) I’m also trying to remember to take my multivitamin every single night. Lord knows I need it, as my diet lacks several important vitamins.
What resolutions can you make this month to help restore your energy, and boost your happiness?