Happiness Project: Pick a favorite.

I’m working on my Happiness Project, and you should have one, too! Everyone’s project will look different, but it’s the rare person who can’t benefit. Join in — no need to catch up, just jump in right now. Each Friday’s post will help you think about your own happiness project.

The Happiness Project is more than a book or a blog – it’s a way of life.

During this visit to see my parents in Kansas City, I realized that one of the reason that we have so much fun here is that we spend a lot of time visiting our “favorites” – our favorite dime store (The Dime Store), our favorite diner (Winstead’s), our favorite BBQ place (several contenders for this), our favorite book store (Rainy Day Books), our favorite ice cream store (Fooz).

At home in New York City, though, we don’t really think this way. Take dinner, for example. Sometimes, on Sunday evening, we go out for an early family dinner. But instead of saying, “Yippeee, let’s go to our favorite restaurant!” our attitude, “Where shall we go for dinner? Well, we can’t be bothered to think of anyplace new, so let’s just go back to Luke’s. That’s convenient.”

That attitude is a lot less fun, a lot less festive. After all, if we always go to Luke’s, it IS our favorite place. Why not embrace it and enjoy it? Saying we’re going to our favorite place makes a visit seem more fun. Just saying that something is a treat can be enough to make it feel like a treat.

Having a “favorite” also boosts the feeling of tradition. It’s more gratifying to think, “We have a tradition of going to Luke’s, our favorite place, for a special family dinner,” than to think, “When we’re too tired to cook, we go around the corner to some quick, easy place.”

The “Pick a favorite” resolution just struck me yesterday, so I’m still thinking about how I might apply it myself. I’d love to hear from any readers who are already following the resolution to “Pick a favorite” themselves.

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Other posts you might be interested in . . .

  • Jenna

    We go out to dinner almost every Saturday night & occasionally lunch during the week. We picked a favorite because the food is good but the atmosphere & the wait-staff are great!!! They refill our sodas before it’s too late. They know our names & give us great seats. We enjoy the feeling of being almost home. When we go to other restaurants for variety, we are always disappointed in the service.
    I have also picked a favorite grocery store. I love the produce & the customer service. There are two cheaper stores within a mile but I always go to the nice store. Customer service matters – why bother fuming in line at Walmart when I can breeze in & breeze out at Publix?

  • Debra

    As a city girl, I’m also trying that one. The nice thing is that you win either way. Either my boyfriend and I go to (or order from) our favorite place, or we try something new, which makes it a date. See how that works?

  • We have a family tradition of going to the same place every Friday night as well, and it’s something we sorely miss when we don’t go. It really brings us together.
    Having a favorite author, color, food, etc. can boost your happiness, as well as other people’s ability to feed into that. I love to peruse a book sale and find books by my favorite authors. My father-in-law says his favorite gift his homemade cookies, so we all have fun each year baking him some, and seeing how much he ends up with. My mother seems to have a new favorite “theme” every few years…first it was country cows, then birdhouses, now butterflies. It’s fun to find gifts that fit her current theme.
    So, I guess you’re onto something…having favorites does increase one’s happiness. I guess that’s why this is one of my favorite blogs!

  • When I and one of my sisters were little girls we’d play the game of what was our favorite everything. For example, for melons, mine was honeydew and hers was cantaloupe. This made these fruit special to us (both fruit to both of us) the rest of our lives so far! And this went for everything: colors, music, movies, etc. Even as we grew older and picked new favorites (e.g., Top 10 Leading Men in Movies) we still recalled all our old favorites fondly or with amusement. Great stuff of memories!

  • Nancy

    I had not thought of these “rules” of mine as “favorites,” but I guess they are. Whenever the cafeteria at work serves the soup I love, I buy a cup even if I’ve brought my lunch that day. Whenever one of the authors I read faithfully has a new book out, I buy it right away in hardcover and skip my usual library/paperback/borrow from a friend routine.

  • Paige

    I love this, Gretchen!
    My husband and I have picked a favorite restaurant that is even extra special because we only go there on our Anniversary. It really gives us something to look forward too! We also have a favorite “wings” place and a favorite diner. (My hubby enjoys eating!)
    I have favorite blogs that I frequent (hint) and a favorite winery that I look forward to every fall too!

  • mmmmm…. now I want a Winstead’s malt… 🙂

  • I love to pick favorites! My favorite book is Pride and Prejudice, I’m just starting to read it for the second time this year. My favorite movie is the same, and I watch that whenever I want to feel happy. My favorite iced coffee drink is from Baskin Robbins so I make a point to have one on Wednesdays, it’s something to look forward to! I have so many favorites and they all make me feel wonderful. My favorite jeans, my favorite poem, and my favorite photos. I keep them all around me.

  • kate

    so true Gretchen… and really great reminder ‘advice.’ i’m from a small town but am now big city girl; i think everything/where back home has a place in my heart… good or bad, but that’s what makes it special. in the city it has been easy to be impersonal and act like you don’t care about people/places/things. Here’s to being more exhuberant and excited!

  • When I was in college, my friends and I had our favorite place to eat. We’d go once a week (at least) but the glee of eating there never went away. I’m going back to visit next weekend and that’s one of the big things I’m looking forward to — even though we have a huge weekend planned otherwise, it just wouldn’t be complete without eating at our place!

  • pkzcass

    This is great! I’ve never thought of it this way, but will from now on. I’m going away with my boys this weekend (12 and 9) with friends for a mom and boys weekend, and I’m going to spend the car ride talking to them about favorites.
    I love your blog. You have really opened my mind to so many different ways of thinking.

  • I’ve been doing a cooking blog for about a year, starting just after I published my first cookbook. I’ve noticed, and said as much in my 100th post ( http://blog.cooklikeyourgrandmother.com/2008/07/how-to-make-egg-salad ), that people tend to make “impressive” food when they’re serving guests. But the deviled eggs are always the first thing to go from the buffet, not the caviar.
    And who would serve egg salad to a guest? But I love the stuff. I don’t make it because there’s nothing else in the house, I make it because I want it. So if you like PB&J, stand up and claim it. There’s nothing to be ashamed of.
    I think part of calling something a favorite is giving yourself permission to like it. Instead of telling yourself that you “should” like the fancy place, accept that you actually do like the simple one.

  • I have my “favorite” coffee shops that I go to on a weekly or biweekly basis. If there is a place that has organic coffee and the customer service is amazing, I like to patronize them. Going to my “favorite” places gets me excited and really happy, because I know that I always be satisfied and have a good time no matter what.

  • Drew’s comment is exactly why I insisted on having deviled eggs at my wedding reception.
    I like this way of thinking about favorites. I usually get very anxious when asked what my favorite is (color, book, movie). I feel pressured and put on the spot and seem unable to narrow it down. This post is really helping me reframe that. Thanks!

  • Carmen

    I also live in a big city now, but grew up in a small town close to nature. So whenever I go back home to visit the family, I have to visit my favourite mountainpeak, favourite beach and favourite motorcycle route… I think this is not entirely about favourites though, but nostalgia. Those things didn’t become great favourites, at least not consciously, untill after I moved away. Where I live now I have a couple of favourites too! My favourite thing to do all week is to gather old bread on sundays, and feeding the birds. I have favourite books/poetry that I don’t even need to read anymore, just looking at the cover makes me feel more happy instantly, knowing it’s in my world. The content’s always stewing away somewhere! The only thing is I wish I had a favourite dish, but it’s just too hard to settle for one! May I also say that I think it’s natural for children to think about they’re favourites and what they love the most growing up, and that somewhere along the years, as adults, we stop thinking that way. But when asked by someone, what’s you favourite…..?…, then deep down, I think it’s a question we all love to hear! Why not ask it more often? 🙂 There are no limits as to how creative one can be!

  • It can overwhelming to think about picking favorites, but as I’ve gotten older there are definitely things that are, bar none, my favorites:
    –Jane Austen novels
    –Pasta recipes
    –browsing in a bookstore
    –vacations at the beach
    –The Wizard of Oz (my favorite movie)
    –ballet class

  • Your post about going home and visiting all the favorite places reminds me of my own trips home. And now this – I had to comment.
    The wonderful thing about favorites is that you relieve yourself from the pressure of choosing and the stress of choosing wrong. I find that life sometimes provides us with too many choices and having a favorite means that as far as I’m concerned, this is the best. That’s one thing moved from the “things to think about” category to the “things to just plain enjoy” category. Hooray!

  • Liz

    In our family, we have embraced pizza as our favorite meal. It is no longer just the fast food we rely on when we are completely beat and too tired to cook dinner. It is our favorite food, something all 3 of us love to eat. Sure, it’s not the most healthy choice, but it does get points because it’s not fried! And it will sustain us for a night and give us more stress-free time to spend together. No more pizza night guilt for this mom!

  • Kelsey

    I completely agree with the idea calling something a “treat” and then enjoying it as such. I’ve done that with many food items. Instead of wishing I were eating a cookie, I’ll call my Luna bar a treat, or my banana with peanut butter. Just because they’re healthier, doesn’t mean they can’t be a treat, right?
    Also, I’ve noticed that we’ve picked favorite restaurants too. We’ve lived in downtown San Diego for several years and when we go out, we always go to one of a handful of places. We used to feel like we “should” try some new places, but now that our meals out are less frequent, we’ve embraced going to our favorites whenever we decide to go out. We’ve ditched the guilt and enjoyed our special dinners. Also, I think that favorite establishments help urban dwellers to feel a sense of community and closeness in an otherwise huge mass or people and experiences.

  • Valerie

    I loved this post and all the comments. My only problem is that i love to try new things almost all the time and this makes it difficult to have favorites. And I wonder could I be missing on the happiness that familiar traditions bring or am I happier with the excitement of trying a lot of news.

  • Ash

    Well I just LOVE your blog! And I love your attitude and perspective! No wonder you have so many readers. Bravo!
    Look forward to reading more!

  • Melissa

    Wonderful blog, Gretchen, as always! I enjoyed the comments just as much — especially Drew Kime’s. Thanks for sharing!

  • Maria

    I’m happy that I found this blog. I am on a constant search for information and advice that you offer. This is definitely one of my favorites. I look forward to reading more everyday!
    Thank you. I am grateful for this blog:)