It’s Friday: think about YOUR Happiness Project. What’s making you “feel bad”?

Not long ago, I had an epiphany – happiness projects for everyone! Join in! So each Friday’s post will help you think about your own happiness project.

Today’s question for self-examination is – what’s making you “feel bad”?

My First Splendid Truth about happiness is: to think about your happiness, you must think about feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right, in an atmosphere of growth.

Research shows that the absence of “feeling bad” doesn’t mean that you “feel good.” Nevertheless, removing sources of bad feelings will protect your good feelings from being swamped by guilt, anger, remorse, irritation, envy, fear, anxiety, boredom, and all the rest of that awful family.

My own happiness project has been very focused on eliminating sources of feeling bad, because I realized that the thing standing most in the way of my happiness was…ME. I wasn’t living up to the standard I expected from myself.

Some things that I’ve worked to stop doing—not that I’ve succeeded, but I’ve made some progress: gossiping, eating fake food (i.e., “food” that comes in crinkly packages from corner delis), nagging, drinking alcohol (I had to face the fact that drinking the tiniest bit of alcohol makes me incredibly belligerent), losing my temper, staying up too late, not flossing, not doing enough to help other people, leaving my clothes strewn around – well, the list goes on and on.

I really feel happier when I’m not plagued with pricks of bad feelings.

So, without worrying yet about what you’re going to do to relieve these feelings, examine your emotions as you go through your days.

When do you feel angry? What prompts feelings of guilt? When do you feel bored? Are you envious of anyone? Do you feel afraid – of cancer, of terrorists, of identity theft, of losing your job? Etc.

These emotions are unpleasant, but they’re VERY valuable. They’re showing you what you need to change or accept. These feelings are so unpleasant, however, that we often pretend that we aren’t experiencing them, or we try to ignore them. In some situations, this attitude is useful. But for this exercise, really concentrate on your negative moments.

Take envy. We often suppress or deny envious feelings, because envy is such a nasty, ignominious emotion. But envy teaches you something very important about yourself: there’s something you want that you don’t have. So what can you do about that situation?

Before you can fix bad feelings, you have to understand what’s sparking them. So spend a week thinking about it.

Next week: some thoughts about how to eliminate these bad feelings.

If you’re starting a happiness project, consider joining the Happiness Project group on Facebook.

If you’re writing your resolutions, you’re welcome to see my chart, to help get you started. Just drop me a note at grubin [at] gretchenrubin [dot com].

Neatorama is a cornucopia of fun, diverting, amusing, provocative posts. This is the kind of site that gets me singing the praises of the Internet, for the sheer crazy amount of information that can be assembled. See if you can spot the picture of the pumpkin pi.

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Other posts you might be interested in . . .

  • I’ve found that the thing that makes me feel bad is not living up to my own expectations: setting a goal, and not being able to reach it because of various factors.
    And then what makes me feel worse, which I’ve taken action against, is making excuses for missing my goals.
    “The best way to fight fear is to take action” – Me.

  • So here’s a question: What’s the difference (read: how can you tell) between something that “makes you feel bad” and the reaction to challenging your comfort zones?
    I just quit on the NaNoWriMo project and felt a wave of relief like I haven’t felt in years. In this case undertaking that project was just punishment towards some mystical ideal I’d imagined for myself so I believe it was the right thing to dispense with it.
    But I have a party to go to tonight with a bunch of people I miss and haven’t seen in 3-5 years or more. I was also considering bailing out on that. Tomorrow I’d be happier if I went (which perhaps is the alpha and omega of the answer) but tonight I’d rather … well, something dramatic than have to go to a wine & cheese party.
    Are they both just permutations of laziness? Or is one (or are both) the right action?
    – M

  • Martha Haywood

    One thing that makes me feel bad is when I allow myself to be bullied. I find that our sped-up high pressure life style, turns normal people into petulant bullys. Although it is initially uncomfortable to politely say “No” to a pushy selfish person at work or doing our daily errands, I find I feel much better if I don’t allow myself to be run over.
    My motherinlaw had the habit of inviting my husband and I along with my sisterinlaw and brotherinlaw to dinner at expensive restaurants. At the end of the meal she would give the $700.00 bill to my husband to pay. This monthly budget buster made us feel bad in two ways, 1. it did bust our budget and 2. it made us feel abused and taken advantage of. We felt like we were somehow obgligated to explain why…and then have my motherinlaw make judgemental comments on what we did spend money on. It felt so much better to say “We’re not comfortable with these expensive dinners, would you like to come to the house and I’ll cook something special”. We didn’t have to explain why, we just needed to state what we were and were not willing to do.

  • amy

    i’m really liking these friday posts about starting your own happiness project. thanks.

  • I made a list of things that makes me feel bad and shockingly find out that most of them are caused by other people. I guess if it is caused by me, I would have changed it.
    Like Martha in the previous comment, I often allow myself to be bullied. e.g. I joined a new company recently and I’m unable to take any days off for the first 3 months, so I can’t attend my friend’s wedding overseas. (15hr plane ride!) I called her to explain my situation. She said, “I told you I’m getting married a year ago. You should have arranged it properly.” I was so angry, but I just apologize.
    This “my time/life is more important than your time/life” implication is happening way too often.
    I’m not sure how to stop that. I’m scared that people wouldn’t like me if I don’t do as they say.
    The fascinating thing is when I observe people doing bitchy response that I think about in my mind, it doesn’t bother them if people don’t like them.
    I guess my problem is that – I worry too much how people think about me. How does one stop worrying?

  • I don’t know if this will help or not, Adora, but I can relate to wanting people to like me and worrying they wouldn’t if I acted/responded a certain way to something. It took coming to a place within myself where I was cool with who I am, regardless of others, before I could stop worrying what other people thought of me. Once I did, though, it was heaven! It just took convincing myself that I’m valuable, lovable, and perfect as I am – without anyone else’s validation.
    I had a teacher in high school who used to say, “It’s none of your business what other people think about you.” I didn’t get it back then, but I do now…and God bless her for coining that phrase! I’m happier NOT knowing what others think if their opinion is negative (plus, people usually dislike in us what they dislike deep inside themselves…that always gives me the perspective I need!).

  • I like this truth of yours. Especially about seeing it all in an atmosphere of growth. Rather than grieving about the ways in which I feel bad, I need to try to take that step back and see how it all is part of one whole, but I guess we’ll get to that in a couple of Friday’s. Thanks.

  • outtahere78

    Oy. How to concentrate on my negative moments. I guess that is a tough one since I prefer to run from them, which is human enough.