The Happiness Project – January
This is my first post on my new monthly series of “The Happiness Project”, based on a book by Gretchen Rubin. The book, “describes one person’s year-long attempt to discover what leads to true contentment”. Sounds good to me. Everyone wants to be happy right?
I’ve been meaning to read this book for a while now. It was basically sitting on a shelf for months collecting dust, until a few weeks ago when I pried it open.
What caught my eye was the table of contents. The chapters were laid out by month and since it was close to the new year, that’s when I got the idea that for 2018 I would make the attempt towards happiness and improve some aspects of my life one month at time along with the book. Rubin had some interesting methods to maintain her efforts towards her contentment goals.
Getting Started: The Twelve Commandments & Secrets of Adulthood
Rubin started the happiness project as a new year’s resolution journey to improve her life. She created a long list of resolutions to work on for the year and made a sort of calendar checklist, or “Resolution Chart”, so that she could keep track of her progress for each day of the month she was successful. She would work on the set of resolutions for the first month and then add the resolutions for next month, and the next, and so on until all the resolutions were complete.
Rubin decided to focus on a subject of interest for each calendar month, like “money” or “mindfulness”. Noticing a kind of theme within these subjects, she came up with the her own, “Twelve Commandments” designed to help her work towards her happiness. Some of these commandments were:
- Be Gretchen
- Let it go
- Act the way I want to feel
- Enjoy the process
- Do what ought to be done
Another curious list Rubin created was based on hard-learned life lessons she gathered growing up. These “Secrets of Adulthood would act as a guide of advice and encouragement for her journey. A few examples of this advice included:
- It’s okay to ask for help
- Most decision don’t require extensive research
- Bring a sweater
- What you do everyday matters more than what you do once in awhile
- You can’t profoundly change your children’s natures by nagging them or signing them up for classes
- If you can’t find something, clean up
- If you’re not failing, you’re not trying hard enough
- What’s fun for other people may not be fun for you, and vise versa
January: Boost Energy & Vitality
For the first month of her journey, Rubin focused on the theme of vitality and boosting energy. Listed below are her resolutions for the January along with some ways in which she carried out her efforts towards her goal:
Sleep Better: Working to improve her quantity and quality of sleep, Rubin limits any electronics that blink or generate light in her bedroom that would interrupt her sleeping. She also makes sure she goes to bed early even it that means going to sleep at 9:30pm (21:30) so she can get 8 hours of sleep. In addition to this she limits her screen time up to an hour before sleeping by doing low energy activities like reading.
Exercise Better: Rubin joins a exercise class that’s more geared towards getting the most out of a work out with the least amount of time. Joining a gym or class is a great way to get in some effective exercise, especially if you’re not sure about finding a personal trainer.
Toss, Restore, Organize (Cleaning): As the authored noted, it’s really amazing the amount of stuff that people accumulate throughout their lives. Simplifying one’s life to make room for one’s happiness seems to be instinctual. By cleaning, organizing, or letting go of clutter and other things not necessary by either throwing away, giving away, or donating, can create an environment of efficiency. Tidying up is even an activity that Rubin does for 10 mins or so before sleeping as a way to prepare for tomorrow.
Tackling Nagging Tasks: “Do what ought to be done”. As Rubin puts it, “…one of the best ways to improve your mood is to engineer an easy success”. You know that list of thing’s you’ve been avoiding to do? Make the time to actually complete some of those nagging tasks, like doing an unpleasant chore or sending an important email. Sometimes the hardest thing can be deciding to do it. In doing so she states that she, “was astounded by the dramatic boost in mental energy”. But, Rubin warns of the possibility of “boomerang” tasks, where trying to get one task done turns into getting three tasks done, since sometimes sh!t happens. Also she suggests to accept that not everything will be crossed off your list.
Act More Energetic: Another resolution that Rubin undertakes is acting the way she wants to feel. She points out that “we presume we act because of the way we feel, in fact we often feel because of the way we act”, or react sometimes. This is similar to the concepts behind cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) where there seems to be a relationship between our thinking, feeling, and behavior. And altering one can effect the other two. She attempts to boost her energy by playing with her children and making ordinary situations fun. Doing simple activities such as walking while reading or talking on the phone could have an effect on one’s energy. Also, smiling while doing an activity can help improve mood, since it increases chemicals in the brain that minimize stress.
My Happiness Project Experience For January
For January I decided I would keep things simple and go along with the resolutions that Rubin did for her first month.
In all honesty, January was a pretty difficult month for me emotionally as my depression and anxiety was pretty unforgiving. I maybe spent the first week keeping up with exercising, doing minor tidying, and sleeping at an appropriate time, but I just felt drained of energy. Even though I tried to act more energetic, my body just felt so heavy, sluggish, and tired. I kinda a blame the weather along with my emotional state. Normally I would use my journal to keep track or things like my mood, diet, and exercise but I had hardly any motivation even for journaling. It wasn’t until the last week of January that I felt an inkling of energy to carry out these resolutions.
I know sometimes I tend to do things last minute, and I’m sure that could have motivated me to put forth more effort. It’s a bad habit I’ve been attempting to correct for years. But through my depressive state last month I had a chance to re-evaluate myself and what it is that I actually want to improve in myself. There are things like discipline, gratitude, initiative, building resilience, and time management that I want to work on for myself and that I think, little by little, will lead me to contentment. So along with Rubin’s list of resolutions that I’m following along with, I also have a some of my own. I’m still trying to work out how many I’ll be working on per month and how to track it all though.
For Next Time . . .
Rubin’s methods are simple but effective. Taking small steps towards a goal usually has the greatest impact. By creating a set of rules or commandments as Rubin has, along with a personal advice guide, can be very beneficial for learning about one’s self and acting in accordance with personal ideals. These resolutions of sleeping better, exercising better, tackling tasks, tidying, and boosting energy, however simple, also provide a good foundation for working towards contentment for the following months.
Although my attempts at following along Rubin’s path haven’t quite materialized that way I had hoped, I’m still optimistic for whats to come. And I look forward to working on my own resolutions as well. I hope to have some kind of organization happening with my resolutions and Rubin’s which I’ll include in my next Happiness Project post.
Thanks so much for reading and I hope this may inspire you to do a Happiness Project of your own.