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Mindful Thoughts

My happiness project: Month three

By March 16, 20114 Comments

Way back in November, I read The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. I put it on my list of the top ten nonfiction books I’d read last year. I began plans for my own happiness project. I couldn’t wait, and I began implementing some of them before the new year even began. Now it’s mid-March, and two and a half months in, so I thought I’d reflect a bit on how the happiness project has been going so far.

I started off January with a focus on energy. I worked on standing up straight, not turning my computer on and getting sucked into e-mail first thing in the morning, de-cluttering, making a to-do list for the day, and reading something meditative before bed each night. February was love and marriage. I was supposed to keep a list of things I love about my husband, fight right, leave three things a day unsaid, and do something new together. March is parenting. I am working on praising my stepdaughter more and better, creating and preserving memories with her, keeping a list of great moments with her, sharing my thoughts and experiences, listening more and better, and trying to pause before responding out of anger.

What’s worked so far:

– My commandments and my secrets of adulthood (listed at the end of this post). I try to look at my commandments every day. The secrets of adulthood as often as I can. Making “Start again” a commandment was brilliant. Life is about starting again, every day. A book my husband read on procrastination (I know, isn’t reading a book about procrastination a kind of procrastination) said to be a perpetual starter.

There are lots of times when these little phrases come in very handy. What’s more, they’ve attuned me to other lessons that are important. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the phrase “Just put it down.” I tend to seize on something and think about it, um, too much? Sometimes I just have to say to myself, “Time to put that down, now.” Kind of like you’d say to a toddler.

– Working ahead. I planned out my whole project at once, and the timing isn’t always perfect. Meditate every day is a June resolution, but I started it in January, and that’s been immensely helpful. As has the one-sentence journal. I figured these things are really helpful, why should I wait until later? Also, I took an art class, which is a later month, and have been more active on my blog, also a later resolution.

– De-cluttering. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. Taking 8 garbage bags full of clothes to the Goodwill was beautiful. I love my closet now. Having fewer things in it is deeply satisfying. Everyone should de-clutter. And then when things inevitably re-clutter (as they do in my house), de-clutter again.

– Having a plan. What seems most useful so far is taking a moment to reflect on what’s going well in my life and what isn’t. What areas might I work on? What’s okay, but could be much better?

– Figuring out what makes you happy. I love Rubin’s discovery that you must, in her words, Be Gretchen. You have to figure out what makes you happy, and not what you think should make you happy. I’ve discovered that doing qualitative interviews, even if they’re not part of a dissertation deadline hanging over my head, might not be something I enjoy doing. Doing research may be in the category of things I believe I’m supposed to do to make me happy rather than the things that will actually make me happy. Even if it’s not, this is a good way to think about things. What really makes me happy?

What hasn’t worked so well:

– Keeping track. I have the resolution chart from Gretchen Rubin’s project, but I haven’t found a satisfactory way myself of keeping track of how I’m doing. I’m not sure how important this is to me. I like the idea of keeping your resolutions in your head. But if they’re not things that happen daily, it’s hard to rate yourself every day. In February, I resolved to fight right with my husband. Thankfully, we didn’t fight every day. What then? March is parenting, but I don’t have my stepdaughter every day (we share custody with her biological mother), so how does that rating work? This is a kink I’m still working through.

And so….?

And so when I started writing this, I thought, man, my happiness project kind of sucks. And then I saw the list of what was working and what wasn’t and I thought, hey, my happiness project is going pretty well. Another victory for blogging, and therefore, for working ahead.

How are your New Year’s resolutions going? What kinds of things have you successfully tried that make you happier? What would your personal commandments or secrets of adulthood be?

My personal commandments

Step outside your comfort zone.
Practice, practice, practice.
Identify the problem/emotion.
Live as though you were dying.
Put yourself in the other person’s shoes.
You can only control you.
Life’s not about winning.
Just do it.
Don’t replay or fast forward.
Be kind to yourself.
Act like the person I want to be.
Start again.

My Secrets of Adulthood

It’s okay to ask for help.
It’s okay to admit you don’t know things.
You can only manage your own emotions (and just barely that).
Don’t swing at every pitch.
People can change.
Change never happens in a straight path. There are always setbacks.
Sometimes all people really want is for you to listen to them, and not to give them advice.
Buy comfortable shoes.
Mints are excellent for all manner of stomach upset.
Have pets.
Say thank you often.
Forgiving is for you, and not the other person.
Sometimes it’s good to say no.
Be willing to allow people to surprise you.
Find consignment stores you love.
Be as forgiving of yourself as you would be of others.
If you do things slowly and mindfully, you can actually get more done.
Walking more slowly changes the way you feel and the way you see the world.
Dance when you can.
Notice nature.
Sing out loud.
It’s okay not to be tough all the time.
This too shall pass.
Wear clothes you feel good in.
Most of the things you worry about never actually end up happening.

Happiness Project


  • BookBelle says:

    So much in this post to ponder on!

    I am going to come back and read it when I have a little more time.

    To answer your question, yes, I can review The Way of the Pilgrim. It's a lovely book. Look for it on Friday morning or Saturday morning.


  • Robyn says:

    Great! I'll keep an eye out for it. Glad the post gave you something to think about.

  • I think happiness is complicated…and I believe a person has to WANT to be happy to truly be happy. Because what is happiness anyway…something very different to different individuals. For me happiness is related to the simplest things in life…the first blooms in the garden, my sleeping child, the first warm day of Spring, sunshine in my face at the beach, the waves roaring, squirrels hopping from tree to tree “barking at each other”…and I could go on and on. I guess my resolution every day is to try and be happy…remembering the important things to me and striving to find the good in others 🙂
    You really did give a lot to think about in this post :):)

  • Robyn says:

    Thanks, PeppermintPh.D. I think you're definitely right that what exactly happiness means to different people can be very different. For me, it means being able to appreciate the good things that I have in my life more in the moment. I tend to be like the Joni Mitchell song, I don't know what I've got 'til it's gone, so I'm trying to appreciate what I have in the moment.

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