Force Yourself To Wander.

2011 Happiness Challenge: For those of you following the 2011 Happiness Project Challenge, to make 2011 a happier year — and even if you haven’t officially signed up for the challenge — welcome! This month’s theme is Creativity, and last week’s resolution was to Do something every day. Did you try that resolution? Did it boost your happiness?

This week’s resolution is to Force yourself to wander. (Please excuse the slightly wild look in my eye in the thumbnail below.)

Force yourself to wander MP3 for Audio Podcasting


If you want to read more about this resolution, check out…
Why I “force myself to wander,” and what I found off the beaten track.
A paradox of happiness: we seek to control our lives, but novelty makes us happy.
If you want more or less of something in your life, measure it.

How about you? What strategies do you use to force yourself to wander, to make sure that you expose yourself to new ideas and new impressions?

If you’re new, here’s information on the 2011 Happiness Challenge. It’s never too late to start! You’re not behind, jump in right now, sign up here. For the Challenge, each week I’ll post a video suggesting a resolution for you to consider. For more ideas for resolutions to try, check out the archives of videos here.

* A thoughtful reader sent me this link — and I was thrilled to hear that The Happiness Project had inspired the well-known designer Carolyne Roehm (!) to de-clutter. I got a big kick out of learning that even someone with a deep love of beautiful things like Carolyne Roehm (or maybe especially like Carolyne Roehm) enjoys an empty shelf.

* Sign up for the Moment of Happiness, and every weekday morning, you’ll get a happiness quotation in your email inbox (free, of course). Sign up here or email me at gretchenrubin1 at gmail dot com.

  • Love it! I’m forcing myself to wander to a creative journaling class at the library today. 🙂

  • Brilliant ideas, Gretchen. Very refreshing. I am going to do it. Not sure about the magazine with closed eyes but I am definitely willing to expand my horizons.
    I love your habits when in transit. Thank you so much for sharing!!! You are right, being in transit actually does generate new thoughts.

  • Peninith1

    Magazine idea is tremendous! And I like your notion about keeping mental space clear while you are in transit, because I have myself learned that these times are when I get my best ideas as well. As for ‘wandering,’ I am literally forcing myself to wander geographically. One of my retirement projects is to ‘visit every county in North Carolina’ my adopted home state. I worked in a job that caused me to visit quite a few coastal counties, but much of the rich variety of the state is uncharted territory for me. Now, either deliberately, or as a side trip when I am traveling, I plan to visit a county, take a photo of the Court House as a consistent memento of every trip, and see a few points of interest in that county. I don’t try to be ‘exhaustive’ I just try to pause and enjoy a piece of landscape that I’m looking at — not because it is necessarily a destination — but just because it is a fresh place I’ve not been. North Carolina has 100 counties, so I should be happily occupied in this wandering for years.

  • Olivia

    What an interesting idea… sometimes I think thinking too much makes people unhappy.  But… sometimes it is good to think too.  Strange isn’t it?  I will try this!  Thanks 🙂 

    I am still learning

  • Paul

    One of my life choices is to live close enough to work to be able to walk to work. It was one of the main reasons I moved to Seattle and live downtown.

    Every day I wander to work and home again. I take different routes, not always the shortest path. I can wander through Pike Place Market or along the waterfront or across Freeway Park. Each journey to the office or home can be an adventure. Walking is not the quickest way to travel, but I think it is the most rewarding and affirming. And cultivating a joy of being wet and cold has been a enriching challenge.

  • Excellent video. I need to do more of meditation type things to get away. I have found that window shopping makes my mind wander. Just walking down the isles looking at different items and wonder how I would use them.

  • Tracy

    I’m loving your green gingham shirt! Such a beautiful color on you. (I have a blue gingham shirt and I love it). 

    I try to wander through a sweet little neighborhood near my LA home (such a car-centric area) and enjoy the murals, window displays and local coffee shop. This weekend, as we face the shut-down of the 405, it’s all the more reason to walk the neighborhood and wander a bit more. 

  • nice. i said that earlier this year about being in transit. if you force yourself to do nothing, while you’re in transit, your mind stumbles upon some of the most awesome things/ideas/thoughts. happens to me all the time. thanx to evernote on my cell where i enter them in as soon as they come to mind.


  • Peter G. James Sinclair

    Thanks Gretchen for asking. 

    My wife and I have started bush walking one day a week as part of our wandering process. 

    Just half an hour from our home is a beautiful national park. We walked the Twin Falls Circuit that led from the Canyon Lookout overlooking the Gold Coast here in Australia – and within just two hours we had walked under two beautiful waterfalls and hugged a 1,ooo year old tree. I even have the photos and the videos to prove it. What wonderful things happen when you wander.

  • Jane Smith

    On my way home from work yesterday I decided to take a small detour and wander into the Slightly Foxed bookshop on Gloucester Road, London. What a wonderful find! The perfect second hand bookshop – tiny, with an eclectic stock and helpful staff. And the eponymous magazine is terrific.

    • Kirstin

      I just ordered a sample copy of their quarterly magazine yesterday.  Someday I would like to wander into their shop!

  • Andy Helln
  • Charlotte

    cute shirt gretchen! what a fun happy outfit, and you’re glowing 🙂 Also – I absolutely love the resolution this week. I think its so important to force yourself off your typical path. Sometimes trying things you’d never imagined doing leads you to discover a side of yourself you’d never have found otherwise, or to meet wonderful new people with fresh ways of thinking…  So many good things can come of it! 🙂

  • Awesome! I totally agree with you and Virginia Wolfe. I wander daily. My two dogs make certain of that. There is a mindlessness in walking; putting one foot in front of the other, that allows our minds to open. When I’m stumped, sad, mad, happy, or feeling less than creative, I take a walk. I always end up feeling the better for it.

  • I love the idea of giving myself the freedom to not read or be doing something in transit.  Always on the bus/subway to and from work and feel that I should be reading or making use of that precious time.  I never realized until your post that it is in those moments when I’m just in life that I get ideas.  I have been working on having at least one “present moment” a day that I can record at the end of the day.  Sometimes that feels difficult.  Thanks for this great post.

  • Alicia

    Usually I read the news from large mainstream sources online (CNN, BBC, NPR, etc) but I have recently forced myself to wander a bit by picking up a couple of my small town news publications.  By reading these few little newspapers, I  became exposed to all of the little groups and events that my small town has to offer.  I commute to a larger city for work and so I am not often forced to really get involved in my little community.  By wandering, I was able to connect to my hometown in a new way, join groups, meet new people and feel a greater sense of belonging. 

  • I love this!! I heard about your blog from Susan’s blog for introverts. Thank you so much for the inspiration. (Also, you have the prettiest hair!!)

  • MajorNeIson

    You talked about not doing anything while in transit.  For me, that time became boring and uninteresting.  So I decided to write down the things that I saw and thought (still do).  I began putting them into Facebook and then my friends urged me to put those thoughts into a book.  Soon after reading the thoughts I began to realize the positive thougths that I had while just sitting and watching the world go by.  I got rid of the doom and gloom and focused on the beautiful things.  This too is what my freidns saw in the writings and it uplifted them.  I now get feedback from people saying how my simple positive thought that day helped them get through a tough day or rough patch in life.  All because I forced myself ot wander and wonder. 

    I thought you might like to see and example of the “Force yourself to Wander” tip.  See for a copy of the book.  Hope you like it. 

  • eunmi kang

    Really wants to improve my English!

  • Mary