7 Ways I Violate Some Standard Happiness Advice.

Every Wednesday is Tip Day, or List Day.
This Wednesday: 7 ways I violate some standard happiness advice.

I read a lot about happiness, and I often put into practice what I read. However, in some areas, I just can’t follow the advice that I see, no matter how often I hear it, and how well-reasoned the suggestion. For instance:

1. We have a TV in our bedroom. And last week, it just got a lot bigger.

2. I used to let my older daughter watch TV while she ate breakfast, though once my younger daughter was born, I did put a stop to that.

3. I make the girls’ beds in the morning instead of insisting that they do it.

4. I never ask my family questions like, “Tell me three good things that happened during your day.”

5. I don’t have date nights with my husband.

6. Whenever possible, I read while I eat.

7. I abandoned my gratitude journal.

Everyone’s happiness project is different, and a challenge for all of us is to decide what suggestions resonate in our own lives — and what don’t resonate. I understand exactly why we’re not supposed to have a TV in our bedroom, but in my circumstances, that TV is staying.

Is there any happiness advice that you’ve heard — but don’t act on, for some reason? Do you think you’d be happier if you followed the advice, or not?

* I read about the site Truehome in Sam Gosling’s Snoop: What Your Stuff Says About You. I’m intrigued, though I haven’t done any of the exercises yet.

* YAY! I just this minute heard that The Happiness Project hit the New York Times bestseller list again this week.

* Want to get my free monthly newsletter? It highlights the best of the month’s material from the blog and the Facebook Page. Sign up here or email me at gretchenrubin1 at gmail dot com (don’t forget the “1). Just write “newsletter” in the subject line.

Other posts you might be interested in . . .

  • Oh, where do I start?

    1) I don’t call three people a day just to see how they’re doing and how I can be of service to them.

    2) I don’t keep a gratitude journal either. Something in me really resists that. (I have multiple “I’m so grateful to experience [X]”-type thoughts per day, but writing them down just seems like something a teacher would force you to do.

    3) I stay up too late, even when I’m exhausted. (Though I’m MUCH better at this than I used to be. “Too late” is now midnight instead of 4AM.)

    4) I don’t pick out my clothes for the next day before I go to bed. No fun.

    5) I don’t chart my progress in a visible, tangible way.

    • Peninith1

      Really . . .how do I know when I go to bed in the evening what person my dreams will have called forth to be dressed in the morning!!!! On the other hand I am in a constant contest to banish all sources of little nasty glowing green lights in the bedroom, like alarm clocks and such. A TV would just be HORRIBLE . . . but I know many people love their bedtime tv.

      • gretchenrubin

        WHY does everything glow now? I agree, it is such a chore to try to hide all
        those lights.

        • Val

          I know it! I go around stuffing random items in front of all of them. Why do I bother? Shortly I’m asleep.

          And yet if I don’t, I’m so irritated, lol. love, Val

          • Khomet

            I don’t like lights that shine directly in my eyes. I cover those lights too.
            This must be a common complaint since some devices like alarm clocks now have dimmers.

        • magicina

          BLACK ELECTRICAL TAPE! Put pieces over all those little lights. Works wonders.

          • gretchenrubin

            Genius! so simple. I will do this today.

  • Sammy

    “1. We have a TV in our bedroom. And last week, it just got a lot bigger. ”

    THANK YOU. I hear this all the time, but honestly, nothing is more relaxing to me than laying on my bed at the end of the day and enjoying some tv.

  • Mikefixac

    I’m pretty much a vegan, but I think tonight I’m going out for a burger. Rules, rules. I’m going to enjoy that burger.

  • edie

    I dont give the hugs I said I was going to do everyday.. I dont do the 5 touches to my husband everyday … Im working on it. I still am staying up later than I said I would. I too make my youngest bed….. The journy continues,,,,,

  • CLNR

    On the subject of gratitude journals, I don’t keep one either because I found that it really makes me feel guilty and shamed–what if I don’t feel grateful enough for my children’s health? Did I thank the sky for being blue today? am I profiting mentally from other people’s misery if I am grateful not to be in the way of a tsunami?

    Instead, I found that monitoring my levels of excitement and enthusiasm gets a more reliably positive response. I’m excited about what I’m going to have for dinner tomorrow! I’m excited about my work project really coming together! I’m excited about doing a jigsaw puzzle with my son! –and it really does boost my mood.

    • Leslie

      I feel pretty much the same way about gratitude journals. I like your idea about excitement and enthusiasm instead.

  • Kiwibok01

    This post just reminds me how important that ‘Be Yourself’ mantra is to one’s personal happiness 🙂 There is no way that what works for someone else will work for me until I’ve tested it!
    And figuring out what works is what a happiness project is all about.

    I’ll tell you one thing that HAS made a monumental difference to my day to day mood and that has been giving up gluten. Never thought that it would boil down to something as manageable as that but there you go. I don’t have an physical intolerance to the stuff, but clearly it has a dramatic affect on my emotional stability!

    I don’t keep a gratitude journal either but I often have gratitude thoughts going through my head as I drive, walk, drift off to sleep.. and usually they’re the same things – family, friends, health, home, chocolate. Why bother writing them down repetitively?

    • gretchenrubin

      Yes, I’ve found that other ways to cultivate gratitude work better for me,
      too. but not the journal!

      • JaninOC

        I laughed out loud when you posted that you gave this up! I’m definitely with you on this one. So much about the Happiness Project is about being mindful and aware of the joys and blessings of each day…really paying attention to the good things and appreciating them…that really is what gratitude is all about so no need to capture each instance in a journal. Thanks for all your encouragement and your honesty! Very refreshing!

    • Val

      Yes, be yourself. I know what makes me happy and what doesn’t. The TV is not an issue, and neither is a gratitude journal. I’m a grateful person by nature.

      Nail polish makes me absurdly happy. Old Statler Brothers videos on You Tube. Or John Lennon. Cold sheets. Diet Coke. Playing cards with the kids, or reading stories. Always babies.

      But I’m open to suggestions for reducing aggravation like finding all your stuff the night before so you don’t start the morning frantic and yelling.

      Or eating before you collapse. It’s all good. love, Val

  • really love this post Gretchen. You hear these cliched suggestions so often — and it’s really refreshing to hear an expert like you reassure us that it really is okay to suit yourself in the end.

  • actuary

    I always despised the advice that you are not supposed to read while you eat. This pointless and stupid advice is repeated ad nauseam. Time spent eating is doubly productive if I am also reading.

    • zabette

      And it’s no different than having a conversation with a live person when you are eating – you are still distracted somewhat from your food. Sometimes you have such a great conversation you don’t taste your food at all. If I am eating alone, I either read or if I am home, watch TV. People were not meant to eat alone.

      • Rachel

        If I’m not reading, watching television, or having a conversation while eating, then I’m likely daydreaming. In any case, I’m not being mindful–seems like a hard thing to do.

  • I do not go to bed early enough nor eat as well as I am informed to eat.

    I have more and your post was a good activity for me to see what I am doing that I want to change (like eating) and what I probably would not change (night owl).

  • Gretchen YOU ROCK!
    Thank you for admitting to the blogosphere that you abandoned your gratitude journal. I started “The Good Things” page on my blog but the internet ate three weeks of it and I haven’t touched it in a month. Everyday I tell myself that today is the day I’m going to redo it. And I don’t. Then I feel badly because aren’t we supposed to chart all of the things for which we feel grateful. Your admission that you abandoned your gratitude journal makes me think that maybe I can too without compromising my happiness.
    Other happiness advice thar I have heard but don’t act on….? Hmm…. I have an umbrella that I never carry. Mittens and gloves and hats and scarves that I rarely have on me. I don’t dress for the weather (with the exception of boots.) Yes, I’m miserable when caught in the rain or with cold hands, but I’m more miserable lugging around stuff that I don’t need, just in case.

    • Julia

      Don’t dress for the weather – I hear ya!
      I just moved to Anchorage last November. The cold doesn’t bother me. The heavy coat, boots, gloves, hat & long johns that I have to wear to avoid hypothermia – that bothers me.
      It finally got warm enough to ditch the long johns & gloves (for short durations), but I am longing for sweatshirt weather.

  • I really hate the date advice commandment. It’s not that I hate date nights or think they’re bad, but the idea that you can’t have a strong marriage without them really gets to me. Nine years and four kids later, I think we’re doing pretty good even without date nights!

  • Contrary to all advice, I occasionally go to bed angry. I’ve found that I can stay up for hours arguing with my husband, but if I just go to sleep, I will wake up in the morning and feel much more reasonable. If I’m still upset about whatever it was, I am ready to talk about it rationally. More likely than not, though, I’m not even mad anymore. This has greatly improved my marriage…and how much sleep I get!

    • Val

      Yes, it’s true. Not everything is best solved in the middle of the night. Life often looks more manageable in the morning.

      • gretchenrubin

        Exactly the same for me. I often say to myself, “I’ll bring up this issue
        tomorrow,” and after a good night’s sleep, I’m not angry anymore. One piece
        of happiness advice that I’ve become ZEALOUS about is sleep. I find that
        everything is easier and better when I have enough sleep. It’s tough to lose
        that extra time in the day, so it’s hard, but really worth it for me.

    • elemjay

      Me too! Fixing a fight might mean 2 hours less sleep and that means I’ll be more likely to be bad tempered the next day as well. I would much rather just stop talking and sleep – and most of the time, everything is much more in proportion the next day AND I have had enough sleep so more inclined to be rational. Unfortunately my husband doesn’t necessarily share this view – he would much rather talk and talk and talk, so this is something we are trying to figure out in our marriage.

    • Yzilber

      According to johngottman, calm down before even talking over stuff.
      So sleeping is a good strategy.
      Never talk when angry. Calm down first, then yiu have a mind

  • @elizabethcraft

    I used to not have pets–despite everyone saying how happy a dog would make me. Now I have 2 cats (they came with my husband). Although my husband makes me happy, I’m on the fence about the pets.

    • I think pets are a little like kids (on a smaller, less significant level). They can bring tremendous joy but also be a big pain in the you-know-what. And, like children, they aren’t for everyone. I have two cats, and I love having them around me most of the time, but their physical and behavioral problems, however minor, have caused me a great deal of stress.

  • KellyOlsakovsky

    I’m so glad to see others who not only keep a television in their bedroom, but enjoy it. My husband and I wind down at night by watching it and quite often that’s when we have our funniest conversations – those last evening jokes about whatever it is we’re watching.

    I also read while I eat. (I also like eating lunch alone and not even necessarily people-watching or whatever else it is you’re supposed to do while you eat. Since the baby was born, sometimes the work day lunch is my only time to read and just enjoy being by myself.)

  • I like your home cooking approach to this – we are all different and may need a little bit more of different pieces, we may have better self control, or just be at a different place in our lives. These are all ideas and we take what works for us – each thing that we take on (or leave!) will add to our happiness in its own way.

    Also, we are emotional people and emotions tend to ebb and flow with the day, seasons, years… so we may find things no longer make us happy the same way or we may have a different view develop that allows us to take the personal step to do new or different things.

    Thanks for sharing!

  • I bought some small flowering plants for my windowsill, because other people said they got such joy from looking at fresh flowers in spring. I thought it would make me springlike and cheerful.

    They are incredibly stressful. If you don’t water them for a day, they droop and look alarming. If you do water them, you risk spilling water all over the windowsill. The joy I get from the petals is far outweighed by the worry about whether or not their compost is getting dry.

    • gretchenrubin

      I can’t handle the responsibility of houseplants! Maybe when my children are
      grown, I’ll get an orchid.

      • Khomet

        I have the same feelling about pets. Love them but don’t want the responsibility at this point in my life. On plants: The potted bamboo planted in stones and water are easy. I, killer of all houseplants, kept one alive for years in arid AZ. And they don’t cost much. I found a container with a smaller opening worked better in this climate. KT

      • UnearthMyMuse

        Though I like the look of orchids, I thought they were “needy” plants? I don’t ahve any plans, real or fake, in my house, except when my husband brings me cut flowers. There are many plants scattered around the office where I work, but someone else maintains them; on the rare days when he and his back-up are gone, I find it incredibly stressful to be responsible for the twice-weekly watering they require…

        • Rachel

          Twice weekly watering? What kind of high-maintenance plants are those? Cacti need water only about once a month; I’ve kept one alive for years with that watering schedule.

        • Charlotte

          Orchids are easy. I spend fifteen bucks on one, it lasts six+ months, and I give it a glass of water when I remember. All other plants are stressful. Even my tree if happiness, as it is sometimes called, a wedding present, is now giving up the ghost, necessitating elaborate theories about how it did its job when times were tough, and now my husband I are strong enough not to need it. Cut flowers are glorious, until they rot and stink and drop their petals and disintegrate into slime that sticks to the sides of the vase. And I am cursed by feng shui books I have paged through to believe artificial flowers are bad energy. So orchids it is.

    • magicina

      LOL, you hit the nail on the head for me. This is why I have silk floral arrangements. Even outside the clay soil and wind tear up my plants so there’s a pot of silk at the mailbox, too! Yeah for faux realisitic flowers.

    • Lisa

      Neither my husband nor I can keep houseplants alive. They die and then I feel bad.

      Our solution: frequently buying cut flowers. At our local Trader Joe’s, there are lots of inexpensive options, and they usually last about 2 weeks. We have a $6 limit, they make us happy, it’s a small part of our budget, and require no maintenance.

  • Genebrooklyn

    I’m always annoyed by all that stuff about ‘forgiveness’—you have to forgive anyone and everyone whose ever done anything nasty to you. “You must forgive and let go.” The hell I do. (Or as John F. Kennedy once put it, “forgive your enemies, but don’t forget their names.”

  • Freesofa

    Everyone is always saying to do yoga or meditate. I have tried both, multiple times, for sustained periods of a year or more in each case, and after the initial novelty of a new activity wears off, I really think they do nothing except make me more stressed out over trying to find the time to do them! I actually think meditation is not a good option for some people, especially those prone to depression. That’s just been my experience, but it’s almost like those activities are sacred and you dare not say they might not work.

    • Isadore Braun

      In mental health, there are certain sacred cows you shouldn’t touch… MBSR (mindfulness based stress reduction) being one of them.

      I took the MBSR course – along with a friend – and we enjoyed the course. We did NOT feel less stress, though we enjoyed the classes. Only one individual out of a class of twelve stuck with meditating 2 months after the class ended.

  • Kathy

    I don’t cultivate a wide circle of friends. I confess. I don’t really understand how anyone could have a ton of “friends”. Wouldn’t they be just acquaintances? I have a few very close, very good friends. I don’t go looking for more – I’m sorry, I’ve felt bad about this almost all my life. But, it’s pretty obvious that I’m not going to change.

    • Julia

      It’s like you were reading my mind!
      I’ve always beat myself up over what I thought was an inability to make friends. Over the last year or so I’ve realized that I am perfectly capable of making friends – I have a few friends and all of them are fabulous! I’m very picky about who I expend that effort on. And the more friends I have, the pickier I get, the less I try to meet more people.
      I just don’t see the point in trying to get more friends, when you really only need a few.

  • CR

    Thank you. I think your credibility just went up 5 notches for me.

    As another commenter pointed out, it really boils down to your point that we all have different things that make us happy.

    Journals, bubble baths, yoga, phoning people … are all things that increase my stress. Especially journals. But it comes up so frequently that I feel guilty for not doing it, so I keep re-starting and failing at it ad nauseum.

    Minimizing TV, date nights, and eating with people (no TV, no books, just conversation) all increase my happiness.

  • We are TV babies in our family. It’s like white noise.

    • leftcoaster

      I am perplexed! “White noise” is supposed to mask other irritating sounds such as tinnitus, squealing airbrakes from trucks on the busy street, but there is no sound more irritating to me than a TV.

      I won’t have one in my house–let alone in my bedroom. I’d rather hear a dentist drill in my tooth or nails on a chalkboard than hear a TV with the screaming adverts and the restless chop and jitter of constantly, senselessly changing images. I do try to keep up with it as a cultural curiosity by reading reviews of programs.

      I know I’m not entirely alone in this & I’m prompted to comment because . . .this week I visited a neighbor who is in the hospital recovering from an accident and is immobile because of broken bones. Her roommate had a TV on terribly loudly all the time and if, at my friend’s request, it was turned off by the nurse while she slept she would wake up and complain that she wanted it back on. My physically shattered neighbor was nearly in tears from the torture of hearing all the idiotic nonsense that daytime TV spews so I spoke to the head nurse. It turns out the hospital staff thought my neighbor was depressed and had asked for a psychological evaluation. After I explained to the clueless staff that she was being tortured by the TV they moved her that evening to a private room and the next day she was her cheerful self and didn’t need anywhere as much pain medicine. As far as I know the idea of a evaluation of her “depression” was abandoned.
      My point is that the noxiousness of TV can be harmful to the health and well being of some of us and that it is seldom comprehensible to tube addicts –just as the use of TV as “white noise” is incomprehensible to me.

      My dislike for TV probably stems from the fact that I had learned to read before I first saw TV at age 4 1/2 and have always preferred reading to watching TV. Also, at about that time I lost my hearing for several months following an infection. Although my hearing returned I have trouble hearing voices distinctly over background noise like cocktail party chatter and can’t recollect a time–if there ever was one– when I didn’t prefer a quiet or silent environment over loud or random hubbub.

      To me, TV is a rude intrusion and happiness killer.

      Ciao

      • Betty

        I agree I agree. My husband loves to use the TV for background noise and can sit for hours watching in the evening. We’ve got 6 TVs in the house! Fortunately, we have a big place so there is a way to get away from it. I prefer to read in a quiet room. But I have the found the best use for the TV in my bedroom. Over the last month, I’ve been decluttering closets, master bath. I get Pandora going on the TV set to my favorite music (Simon and Garfunkel station) then sing and dance while I sort, organize and throw out the junk from my past life.

      • obc

        The first thing I do in a hospital or doctor’s waiting room is turn off the TV, as long as nobody objects. It seems everyone sighs in relief when it becomes quiet. What an irritating racket!! I also wear noise-cancellation headphones in places where it can’t be avoided, like airports.

  • Christopher K. Travis

    Ms. Rubin,

    Thank you for your kind mention of Truehome in this last post. My name is Christopher K. Travis and I am the originator of the Truehome Workshop and the CEO of the technology startup that is taking Truehome to the Internet. I think you know from reading Sam Gosling’s book Snoop that Truehome started in my architecture firm over a decade ago.

    Truehome is based on the insight that when people decide to change their living space, what they really want is a new and happier life. So I think you and I are trying to do the same work in different fields.

    ‘Home” in our view, is an experience or suite of experiences, not a building. So we help people discover the “home in their heads and hearts” – then as professionals use that “design criteria” to create homes that fit the lives they want to live. Since we are working to merge architecture and psychology (let alone inform real estate purchases and remodeling projects) it is quite a tall order – but we think we are getting there.

    In addition to thanking you (we’ve had quite a number of signups since you posted this) I wanted to also let you know our current status so your readers are not disappointed. Truehome is not quite ready for prime time – but we expect to be there within the next 30-45 days.

    We invite anyone who wants to know more about our project to signup. We will notify everyone when we are really ready for visitors. In the meantime all comments and feedback are appreciated.

    And thank you Gretchen. It is an honor to be mentioned by someone of your talent and accomplishments.

    with respect,
    Christopher K. Travis
    CEO – Truehome

  • Khomet

    I don’t know the circumstances for having a TV in your bedroom, but it can serve as an “away room”. This idea comes from architect Sarah Susanka, who wrote the Not Too Big House and The Not Too Big Life, as well as, other books on home design centered around doing more with less space. http://www.susanka.com/

    I got rid of my TV a few years ago and am happy I did. I realize this might not be a realistic or even desirable option for some families, but it was good for me. I’ve read a LOT more books and discover great sites like this one that do more for me than most TV programming. I do watch at homes of friends and family occasionally, but I don’t really miss it. I still rent movies or get documentaries from the library. Between the internet and what TV I do get I still probably spend too much tube time. It just better stuff as a rule.

    My down fall is looking at emails while I eat. Never dreamed I do that even 10 years ago.
    Kerry

  • I love this post! While I don’t ever want a TV in my bedroom, I definitely think date nights and not reading while eating are terribly overrated.

    Here’s mine: While I do my best to “look on the bright side”, sometimes having a good cry and wallowing in self-pity for an hour feels really, really good.

    • As someone who just had a crappy day and is currently wallowing in self-pity with a glass of wine and the Internet .. I agree!!! 🙂

      Having a good wallow and a good cry really helps me to move on. My housemate has learned that some days I just need to be left alone to go up to my room and feel sorry for myself. I’ll usually come out of it the next morning in a MUCH better mood and feeling ok about life again.

  • Leah

    1. I have a TV in the bedroom, but it’s normally only on maybe 10 minutes/night (because our TiVo is in the TV room we don’t typically use the bedroom TV. I also like it on in the bedroom when I put away laundry.
    2. I read the Boston Globe each day when I eat my lunch at work. Yes, an actual newspaper (my work subscribes). I don’t consider this a bad thing even though I know all of the mindful eating experts say not to do it.
    3. We don’t have official date nights but recently after coming back from a business trip in CA the first thing I wanted to do with my husband was ‘date night’. We went to grab burgers when he picked me up from my flight (Five Guys–a rare treat) and the next afternoon we saw a matinee. A date night once in a while is really essential to any marriage.
    4. I don’t do a gratitude journal either…
    5. We don’t make our bed

    🙂

  • I’ve read that you’re supposed to wake up at the same time (preferably early) every day. And that, ideally, you should go to bed as many hours before midnight as you can manage. These are perhaps pieces of advice of a more physiological nature, but they *should* contribute to happiness.

    … But I just can’t do it. I’m a night owl; I’m a morning monster. That’s all there is to it. I’ve tried and tried, but I just can’t change.

    • actuary

      Maggie, I am with you 100%. I am also a complete night owl. To an extent, there is some malleability — when I had a 9-to-5 job and *had* to be there on time, I was — but I was always exhausted and miserable. I can’t change either, and I’m much happier not trying to.
      Some people don’t want a desk job; I don’t want a day job.

    • Casapinka2

      Me too, Maggie! I get happier as the day goes on. By 7pm when it’s dark I can’t think of bed in under five hours!

  • Kari

    Oh my GOD, I’m so happy to hear someone else can’t do the gratitude journal. I tried, I really did. When I found myself using four letter words to describe how I felt about the darn thing, I decided it was time to scrap it.

  • zabette

    One time I was sick and tired of doing all the things I “should” do so I went home, got a bag of bbq potato chips and a bottle of pinot noir, turned on the TV to a “trashy” show, threw myself on the bed, and just watched TV while I ate all the chips and drank most of the bottle. The next morning I felt great, the sunshine seemed to be more luminous or have a new slant. This only happened the first time I tried this – I think the key was doing exactly what I felt like doing without feeling guilty about it.

    • Mstuck1

      And when life get hurried and gets moving too fast, that’s when it’s time to sit outside on the deck with a drink and make it slow down.

  • Lori

    Instead of a gratitude journal, I ‘ve been keeping a worry journal. Each day I’ve been writing down what’s bothering me or worrying me most. The intent was to write it down so I could stop obsessing over it. An unexpected result is that I am beginning to have difficulty thinking of new things to add to the list. While I don’t naturally “look on the bright side”, I am finding that for each negative item I write down, I can’t help thinking of something that is helping me to deal with the problem. Maybe it’s some type of reverse psychology. For example, yesterday I wrote that I am very unhappy that my father is ill. Immediately after writing this down, I remembered two very kind people who reached out to me yesterday with their love and support. I found myself writing of my gratitude for people who care. More and more, as I deliberately try to write down the worst, I am also reminded of the things that make life worth living.

    • JaninOC

      Such an interesting post. I think this kind of comes under “Identify the Problem”. Once you acknowledge something bothers you it that allows you to look at possible solutions or like you mentioned to consider how others are being supportive. I’m going to share this idea with a friend!

    • Kotochka

      I read an article once about a woman who kept a “God box.” I really liked the idea, and I think, it’s similar to what you mention. The woman’s idea was if she wrote down hurts and pains and needs of her family or friends, or even friends of friends, she was putting things into “God’s hands,” and she didn’t need to worry about them anymore. Obviously, she was a religious woman. I am not all that religious, but I like the idea of acknowledging that there is a problem, but not letting it take over my life. It sounds like that is one thing that happens with you.

      • Pmt1050

        I, too read about the woman and the “God box” and like that idea.

  • Really? No date nights? I’m very curious about this, and I’d like to hear more from people with children. When do you ever get any fun with your spouse (doing the fun things you used to do) without the kids? Don’t you ever want to see an adult movie together? Or go to a concert?

    • JA

      We do fun things WITH the kids. It helps that both my husband and I like kid-oriented movies and TV.

    • Lizhsp

      To me, “date night” means a set day and time, usually every week. A lot of marriage advice says this is necessary so that couples don’t let alone time slip away. But if you’re able to get the couples time you need without rigid scheduling, that advice can just be annoying.

    • agirlnamedkylie

      Maybe regular, scheduled date nights don’t work for everyone. My husband and I schedule ours, because we work together 6 or 7 days a week and if we don’t schedule some real “us” time our lives would be all work and no play, but I can see where it would become just another obligation for some people. We don’t have any children; we just like scheduling them and it makes us happy. That said, I can see where it could create unhappiness to schedule a “night” and then have something come up more often than not and feel guilty about it. Guilt and happiness are strange bedfellows, if they are compatible at all :}

      Kudos to everyone for being so honest with themselves, and to Gretchen for this post! I think a lot of the reason that I am pursuing my own Happiness Project is because I’ve long felt guilty and shameful for not shoehorning myself into the expectations and advice of others. This post helps a lot!

  • Kalyber

    There are 2 bits of advice that I’ve gotten that I have trouble with.
    1. Don’t compare yourself to other people – be yourself.
    Well “myself” compares, I am often jealous of the talents other have and occasionally the stuff others have. But generally I find myself quite grateful that I have what I have and only have to deal with the my own troubles.

    2. Don’t get involved.
    I get a lot out of being involved, volunteering, caring for others so this bit of advice I have NO problem ignoring.

  • I eat chocolate before I go to bed sometimes. I know I shouldn’t, but I sure enjoy doing it anyway. Life should just be enjoyed and savored!

  • ren

    I treat myself with food, often. If i’m having a bad or grumpy day I will reroute my commute home so I can pick up sushi or a frozen yogurt. It cheers me up much better than meditating or exercise. And I have to eat anyway, so it might as well be something fun. I read health and beauty magazines, despite all the advice that they make you feel worse than yourself. I just like the pictures and I find it relaxing to skim through something light.

    I’ve also read that you should take an interest in what potential friends/friends are interested in. I don’t do this enough, but at the same time I often just don’t want to. If the group’s conversation is going to revolve around a TV show I don’t always watch, I try not to feel bad that I don’t have much to contribute. I’m iffy on this one though. If i watched a couple bad reality shoes, I would have more to contribute to casual conversation, which MIGHT make me happier. I just can’t keep up with TV.

    • RM

      If you know you will be in company which will discuss particular TV shows, a convenient shortcut to participating might be to read reviews or check out the show’s websit.  That way you won’t be completely at sea, and can even comment enough to keep the conversation going.

  • Kotochka

    It doesn’t surprise me that all happiness advice doesn’t work for all people all the time. Sometimes we try things and get a boost; sometimes we try things and think, “Not for me.” I would never have a TV in my bedroom for a myriad of reasons, but I wouldn’t think that I’m happier than my friends who elect to have bedroom TVs. As someone commented below, Be Yourself. Because you’ll be happier as yourself than if you try to be someone else’s version of happy.

  • Peninith1

    RE: reading at meals. Laughed yesterday when I came across the meditation on the Rule of St. Benedict (commentary by the wonderful Joan Chittister) about the Benedictine practice of eating meals, not in silence, but to the accompaniment of one of the sisters / brothers reading aloud. As a person who lives most of the time by myself, I greatly enjoy the company of a good book or music while I eat. I do try to cut down on the multi-stimuli life we all seem to lead, but ‘mindful eating’ is a hard one for me.

  • I do/don’t do 5 of your list of 7! I think it boils down to “being Gretchen” and “being Kathy.” It doesn’t hurt to read others’ advice about what to do to be happy, but we shouldn’t blindly follow their advice.

  • Jeanette

    Yay Gretchen!
    We are not all made of ‘standard stuff’, so ignoring disobeying standard happiness advice only makes sense. I had a gratitude journal, but felt guilty when I didn’t write in it, and obligated in a miserable kind of way. No more.

    I let my kids all read at afternoon tea time after school. The 3 of them sit with their books and food around the table. After a busy school day they don’t have to interact in a prescribed way, they can relax and be themselves for a while. Often I’ll join them with the newspaper. We do talk at other times!

    Also coffee, chocolate, and the gym make me happy,
    Cheers, Jeanette

  • Why in the world would I not try to read when I eat?
    I supposed I am not as excited about my food, but a book is always better. :]

  • I, too, gave up keeping a gratitude journal. I found that it didn’t actually make me feel more happy or less unhappy. I do try to remind myself of the good things I have whenever I start complaining to myself about what I lack.

    For instance, I tend to forget about what a blessing it is just to be able to feed, clothe and bathe myself every day. But when I start complaining or getting down in the dumps because things aren’t going the way that I want, I sometimes turn my mind to how much worse my life would be if I couldn’t be as independent and self-sufficient as I am now. I would be much less happy if I lost one of my limbs.

    I’m a pessimist by nature, so being able to find ways to be grateful and think positively — even if for only five minutes — feels like a huge accomplishment to me. And I always feel happy when I’ve accomplished something that’s difficult for me.

    P.S. I must admit that making my bed doesn’t make me feel any better or worse than not doing so; however, I do, usually, make my bed before going out. If I forget, I feel bummed about it. Don’t know why.

  • Leslie

    I read while I eat, too. I pretty much read whenever I have the opportunity.

    I know I don’t want a TV in my bedroom, but I didn’t realize the powers that be recommend against it. Clearly there are plenty of people in the world who do like having it there – when we went shopping for new bedroom furniture, we could only find one armoire that actually had shelves for clothing instead of being set up to hold a TV.

  • I’ve been reading your blog off and on for over a year (I think) and you sound different in this post. You sound more in your skin. You sound really, really confident. Is it possible that, because you’ve been happy for so long and tasted some wonderful success, you don’t care how many people give a certain piece of happiness advice, if it doesn’t resonate with you, you are not ready to be your own happiness expert?

    Way to go on the TV choice. And I say this as a firm believer in no TV in the bedroom. But I can tell it makes you happy. Or at least that getting rid of it is totally NOT worth it.

  • Meghan

    I *don’t* get as much sleep as I need. If I could sleep until I woke naturally, I would sleep for 9+ hours every night. I do this occasionally on the weekends, but I just can’t during the week – there are too many things I want/need to stay awake for, plus I feel like there’s something shameful or lazy about needing so much sleep. I think it’s time for a reevaluation. On the few occasions I’ve actually gotten this much sleep during the workweek, I felt incredible.

  • Peg

    My happiness advice that gets to me is “You should always consider another person’s point of view” Why? How about if they consider MY point of view for a change!

  • Piffle

    Don’t make any beds! Let them dry out from the inevitable sweating that has happened overnight. See! No hassle!

  • Augidog

    I personally enjoy having the TV in the bedroom. I am careful and wise with it. I make my coffee in the morning and after feeding the dogs, head right back upstairs to consume that java while watching Matt on Channel 4. When I am sick, it is a great pain reliever. Helps one concentrate on something other than the body aches.
    I gave up date nights too. I prefer to just cook a nice meal, open a great bottle of wine and stay at home. Cuts down on the overcharge that restaurants often do and I can put my feet up on my couch and really relax with dessert, coffee, a nice after dinner drink and a movie that we don’t have to stand in line for with a million other strangers. (I should mention, I don’t like the smell of popcorn either.)
    I have given up on what the experts say we should do to make us happy and content. I follow my own rules. It must be working because still after all the years I have been married, my husband still refers to me as the Queen of Good Spirits.

  • Crystalvie374

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  • Mimdoc

    I once read about some psychological approach for daily journaling that would increase one’s sense of well-being: to think about and jot down some way or ways you have made a difference in the world that day. It could be in our work world, or relationships, environments. Doesn’t have to be big. It could be called something like an ” efficacy loop”. Noting our worthwhile-ness as opposed to ruminating on failures or “awfulizing”. And having the value of reviewing our worthwhileness when the days whiz by and “what have I done with my time?” 

  • The very first month I got stuck… going to bed early! My husband stays up really late and I hate going to bed without him… of course I am always tired… I don’t really know what the answer is!

  • Det2888w

    Not watching too much TV!  I know this is good advice! The few times I’ve followed this advice, I’ve experienced the benefits myself! But I still get sucked into wasting too many hours on TV and regretting it later when my piles of stuff to do are still there!