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
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