I recently started reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, and it really got me thinking.  Am I as happy as I could be?  What does that even look like?  How would I even know?  She quotes Collette, “What a wonderful life I’ve had!  If only I’d realized it earlier.”  Will that be me?  Will I look back when I’m 80 and realize I had been happy all along?

One of the things I like about the book is that it’s really supported by a lot of research, so it’s not completely “touchy feely”.  One study showed that 50% of our happiness comes from genetics, life circumstances make up 10-20%, and the rest comes from how we think and act.  That’s pretty powerful.  That means even if we have a screwed up family (who doesn’t?) and have endured our share of hardships (who hasn’t?), we still have the ability to control our own happiness.  That’s huge!

So what now?  Rubin goes through each month, exploring a variety of different strategies to find and create happiness.  If you want to increase your level of happiness, start by trying these suggestions:

Get more sleep

One of Rubin’s friends joked that sleep is the new sex.  She had a dinner party and each person detailed the best nap they’d ever had.  It turns out, aside from tight work deadlines, a bad night’s sleep is one of the top 2 factors that upset people’s daily moods.  Adults need 7-8 hours sleep every night.  We are currently getting an average of 6.9 hours during the week and 7.9 on the weekends, 20% less than we did 100 years ago. Although we try to adjust to feeling sleepy, lack of
sleep impairs our memory, weakens the immune system, slows our metabolism, and just makes you cranky.

I know sometimes, we’ll be sitting on the couch at night, and I can barely keep my eyes open.  It just seems like so much work to walk upstairs and actually get ready for bed.  Once I get into bed, my mind starts racing with all of the things I either need to do, should have done, or will be doing tomorrow.

Whenever my mind starts running away, I do two things:

1.  I ask myself if this is a problem I can solve or do something about right now.  If not, it will still be there in the morning.

2.  If I still can’t stop my mind from racing, I write everything down.  Simply getting it out of your head can really help.

Finally, if you’re room is anything like mine, there are little lights on gadgets and gizmos everywhere.  Studies have shown that even a small amount of light can confuse the body’s circadian clock, so try to keep your room as dark as possible.

Get rid of clutter – both mental and physical

I couldn’t believe it when I heard this – Removing clutter cuts down on house work in the average home by 40%!  Our need for “stuff” has overcome us, evidenced by the fact that the number of self-storage units have
doubled in the past decade.

At any given time, our counters have school papers, work papers, duct tape (it fixes everything) books, cd’s, dvd’s, toys, dead bugs (that Evan has collected – yuck!), and all kinds of other stuff.  It’s amazing how much removing some of that clutter can ease your mind.  Rubin also mentions the psychological clutter that comes from not tying up loose ends or finishing things on your to do list.

While I’m only on Chapter 2, I’ve already started implementing some of these strategies.  Why? Happier people outperform unhappy people in life, love, and work, and they’re just plain happier

What are some of your happiness strategies?  I’d love your thoughts and suggestions.  If you have a moment, let us know how you find and
stay happy!

P.S.  My beautiful Irish Korean 9 year-old stepdaughter’s favorite new  phrase is “oy vey!” (My grandmother would have been proud).  It cracks me up.  And Evan informed us yesterday that girls are smarter than boys.  He’s
brilliant!

11 Comments

  1. Growing up on a farm I remember walking barefoot on recently plowed dirt and it brought a smile! Most recently though, having my 3 year grandaughter fall asleep on my arms! That made me smile too! (still smiling)

  2. I recently read “The Happiness Project,” and it really got me thinking, too. One idea from the book that’s really stuck with me is that we need to keep stretching and expanding our horizons to stay happy. So… as much as I relish sitting on the couch watching a British detective show on Netflix, continuing to take on new challenges (like learning stand-up paddling and launching a blog) probably contribute more to ongoing happiness.

    • Hey Julie! You’re so right. Isn’t it funny how uncomfortable new things can be, yet how much happier they make you? It’s kind of like exercise for me. I don’t want to do it but always feel better when I’m done 🙂

  3. Julie,
    I have decided that I can start my day over anytime during the day. When things are not going badly, I used to think my whole day would be rotten. Now I stop, decide to start over and remember that what happens next is totally independent of what happened earlier that day. Now I do not have “bad days”. I only have bad moments.

  4. As a natural problem-solver I tend to focus on what I see as problems so I have trained myself to look at positives by writing down at least three things each day that I am grateful for. It can be as simple as being happy to have spent quality time with my kids or wearing my favorite sweater – what is important is that I do this right before I go to sleep so I am ending the day on a positive note and setting myself up for a restful sleep.

    • Hi Julia,

      Great idea! Nancy mentioned this one to me too. I like that it doesn’t have to be huge things. Even the little pleasures (like your favorite sweater) are enough to make the list. Thanks for commenting! P.S. They closed the Carraba’s we went to! I couldn’t believe it!

  5. My daughter just finished reading this book and left it on my nightstand for me. In my bedroom that probably isn’t quite as dark as it should be at night! She loved the book, and I am looking forward to reaidng it.

    So my current happiness strategy is to be content with what IS. And that’s interesting to me as I write this because God said, I AM. Hmmm….. Very interesting.

    I find that it really is my choice to be content in the here and now. That means walking out the door and relishing in the heat this afternoon. I’m not kidding. (Even though I just spent a gloriously cool weekend in Los Angeles). Really feeling the heat and appreciating it. And valuing the work and life I have when I get home. The opportunity to cook dinner instead of the obligation of it. That kind of thing.

    Thanks!
    Jan

    • Hi Jan,

      Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. I love your strategy and am trying to work on it for myself. Great suggestion. Keep me posted on how you continue to do it and the results you have. 🙂

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