Tag Archives: appreciation

A Little Happier: Airplane Kindness, and It’s Nice to Get a Gold Star.

I love this story, told to me by a friend who is truly one of the kindest people I’ve ever met. Even just boarding a plane, she finds ways to be kind.

She’s not kind because she wants people to give her a gold star — but I was very happy that someone did give her some very well-deserved recognition. Even when it’s not necessary, it’s gratifying when our efforts are appreciated. And I very much appreciate the fact that the man sitting next to her on the plane made the remark that he did.

Listen to this mini-podcast episode by clicking PLAY below.

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Can the Simple Act of Making a List Boost Your Happiness?

Every Wednesday is List Day, or Tip Day, or Quiz Day.

This Wednesday: Can the simple act of making a list boost your happiness?

When I was in college, I took a class on the culture of Heian Japan,  and the one and only thing I remember about that subject is The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon. This strange, brilliant book has haunted me for years.

Sei Shonagon was a court lady in tenth-century Japan, and in her “pillow book,” she wrote down her impressions about things she liked, disliked, observed, and did.

I love lists of all kind, and certainly Sei Shonagon did, as well. Her lists are beautifully evocative. One of my favorites is called Things That Make One’s Heart Beat Faster:

Sparrows feeding their young

To pass a place where babies are playing.

To sleep in a room where some fine incense has been burnt.

To notice that one’s elegant Chinese mirror has become a little cloudy.

To see a gentleman stop his carriage before one’s gate and instruct his attendants to announce his arrival.

To wash one’s hair, make one’s toilet, and put on scented robes; even if not a soul sees one, these preparations still produce an inner pleasure.

It is night and one is expecting a visitor. Suddenly one is startled by the sound of rain-drops, which the wind blows against the shutters.

Other marvelous lists include Things That Arouse a Fond Memory of the Past, Things That Cannot Be Compared, Rare Things, Pleasing Things, Things That Give a Clean Feeling, Things That One Is in a Hurry to See or to Hear, People Who Look Pleased with Themselves, and, another of my very favorites, from the title alone, People Who Have Changed As Much As If They Had Been Reborn.

Making lists of this sort is a terrific exercise to stimulate the imagination, heighten powers of observation, and stoke appreciation of the everyday details of life. Just reading these lists makes me happier.

How about you? Have you ever made a list of observations, in this way?

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Now for a moment of sheer self-promotion: For reasons of my own, which are too tiresome to relate, I’m make a big push for Happier at Home. If you’ve been thinking about buying it, please buy now! If you’d like a little more info before you decide, you can…

Read a sample chapter on “time”

Listen to a sample chapter

Request signed, personalized bookplates for you or for gifts (U.S and Canada only, sorry)

Request signed, personalized “Tips for Happiness in Your New Home” card for you or for gifts (U.S and Canada only, sorry)

Watch the one-minute trailer–see if you can guess what item has proved controversial

Request the book club discussion guide

Get the behind-the-scenes extra

Final note: I love all my books equally, but my sister the sage says that Happier at Home is my best book.

Stock up now! Okay, end of commercial. Thanks for indulging me.

Today’s Resolution: Feel Grateful for the Basics.

 

For the last few days, I’ve been struggling with a very unstable computer (yes, this is apparently a technical term).

It seems to be behaving itself now, and I am so happy! I take my word-processer, my email, and my internet access for granted, but when they aren’t available as easily as usual, I realize how much these tools add to my happiness and how much they contribute to my ability to work easily and smoothly.

One of the unhappy truths about human nature is that it’s hard for us to appreciate what we have, until we lose it. When we lose something like electricity or running water, or worse, our health, then it’s clear how mightily such things contribute to happiness and comfort.

In college, a friend told me about the “Lost Wallet Syndrome.” “No matter what’s happening in your life,” he explained, “if you lose your wallet, you think, ‘How happy I would be if I would only find my wallet.’ But then, if you find it, you’re happy for about two minutes, and then you’re right back where you started.”

One of my aims with my happiness project is to appreciate what I have, while I still have it. I don’t want to look back, after some loss or some catastrophe, and think, “How happy I was then, if only I’d realized it.”

I have so much to be grateful for that it seems a bit preposterous that I need to remind myself to be grateful—but I do. When things are taking their ordinary course, it’s so easy to take everyday life for granted.

Every time I sit down at my computer, I think, “How happy I am to be back at my computer, doing the work I love.” Now I’ve added a second part, “How happy I am to be at my computer, doing the work I love, on a computer that’s working properly.”

Do you find it hard to remember to appreciate the basics? What strategies do you use to keep yourself in a grateful frame of mind?

I’m working on my Happiness Project, and you could 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.

To Be Happier: Look Out the Window.

One of my resolutions is to Cultivate gratitude, but I find it very challenging; I’m always searching for new ways to remind myself how precious an ordinary day is. As I’ve been working on my next book, Happier at Home, I’ve tried to find ways to remind myself of my gratitude for my home.

In the tumult of everyday life, it’s very hard to stay attuned to the familiar beauty that I see constantly. One reason I like to go on vacation is that when I return, I see again, with fresher eyes, the landscape of my neighborhood.

We don’t have any “views” from our apartment. We have great light, which is a real luxury in New York City (and if I had to pick between good light and a good view, I’d pick good light), but even though we face an apartment building, and another apartment building, and the top of a shaft, there are still beautiful things to see when we look out.

From our kitchen, we can see an building face that’s covered with ivy. It’s a great pleasure to watch the breeze make the mass of leaves tremble and sway together, like a wave running vertical. At night, it’s cozy and intriguing, in a Rear Window-ish kind of way, to see the snippets of people’s lives being enacted across the street, one floor on top of another.

For instance, we enjoy seeing Exercise Guy. His window is closer to us, and we have a good view of whether he’s doing his morning exercises on his elliptical machine, or not. My girls get a big kick out of checking and announcing, “Exercise Guy is exercising today!” Or “Exercise Guy hasn’t exercised one day this week!”

My office is in a teeny room on the roof of our building; it was converted from a storage room that had taken the place of a water tower. My window there looks out on air-conditioning equipment and the tops of ducts where they poke out of the tarred roof. Not much to see.

But even there, I’ve been trying to discipline myself to look at these window and not just let my eyes slide over the familiar scene without taking in the quality of light, the way the trees on the terrace across the street look against the sky, the patches of cloud that float above the roofs.

As Samuel Johnson said, “It is by studying little things that we attain the great art of having as little misery, and as much happiness as possible.” Or as Yogi Berra said, making a different point, “You can observe a lot by watching.”

So look out your window. Really notice what you see. Watch how the view changes over the course of the day, and as the seasons change. Try to pay attention to the way things look. Three quotations is too many for one post, but I can’t help myself from quoting Gertrude Stein: “Anything one does every day is important and imposing and anywhere one lives is interesting and beautiful.”

How about you? What can you see from your window? Do you appreciate that view?

I’m working on my Happiness Project, and you could 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.

* I really enjoy visiting Dinner: A Love Story — “it all begins at the family table.” Lots of great material — and beautiful images of food.

* Yes, my next book, Happier at Home, is being finished right now (I might even get to see some jacket designs soon). If you’d like to be notified when the book becomes available, sign up here. It’s exciting to have a new book coming out.

“If I Seek [Beauty] Elsewhere Because I Do Not Find Her at Home, My Search Will Prove a Fruitless One.”

“Such is beauty ever — neither here nor there, now nor then, neither in Rome nor in Athens, but wherever there is a soul to admire. If I seek her elsewhere because I do not find her at home, my search will prove a fruitless one.”
— Henry David Thoreau

* Interested in starting your own happiness project? If you’d like to take a look at my personal Resolutions Chart, for inspiration, just email me at grubin at gretchenrubin dot com. Just write “Resolutions Chart” in the subject line.