Tag Archives: habits

How Is Your Happiness Challenge Going? (Asking Again.)

Last month, I posed the question: “If you’re doing the 2011 Happiness Challenge, how is it going, now that we’ve reached the halfway point of the year?”

Several people kindly pointed out that, although June is month 6 of the 12 months of the year, the year isn’t halfway over until July 1. Whoops!

So I’m asking now, at the proper time: “If you’re doing the 2011 Happiness Challenge, how is it going?”

But really, it’s artificial to ask this question even on July 1, because most people doing the 2011 Happiness Challenge didn’t start on January 1. People still join every day — which is great. No need to wait for January 1, or the first of any month, to start a happiness project. Today is the best time to start!

If you’ve managed successfully to keep even one resolution, give yourself a big gold star. It’s hard to make change; it takes mindfulness, self-knowledge, and self-mastery. I’m often surprised by how hard it is to make even a change that’s pleasant, like my resolutions to Read more. Why is it so hard to push myself to make time for something that I love? And yet it is. (I will note that my obsession about the sense of smell is still so powerful that I’m finding it pretty easy to work that into my day — but it doesn’t take much time or energy to smell something.)

Have you followed any resolutions that have made a particular difference to your happiness? I’m always so curious to hear what people have tried, and what has worked. For instance, I’ve been surprised by how much clutter seems to weigh on people’s happiness. Although a crowded closet or a messy desk is trivial in the context of a happy life, for some reason, people report getting a disproportionate boost of good cheer and energy when they clear clutter. It’s a Secret of Adulthood: Outer order contributes to inner calm.

How do you keep yourself accountable? I use my Resolutions Chart (email me at gretchenrubin1 at gmail dot com if you want to see a copy). Some people use the Happiness Project Toolbox.

It has really been gratifying to see the high level of interest in starting Happiness Project groups. If you’d like to launch a Happiness Project group yourself, for people doing happiness projects together, email me at gretchenrubin1 at gmail dot com for the starter kit. To see if there’s a group in your area, check here. To find other people who would be interested in starting a new group in your area, start a discussion here. If you’ve started a group, please answer the six quick questions. I’m so curious to hear about the groups!

Have you found a system that works for you? Accountability is so important; without accountability, it’s easy to make big plans for change but then end up abandoning them. Something like 80% of New Year’s resolutions are abandoned by mid-February, and surely a good number are abandoned by January 3.

Have your tried resolutions that didn’t work? One of the most challenging, and also most popular resolutions, is the resolution is to Get more exercise. As a dedicated couch potato, I labored for years to get myself into the habit of regular exercise.

It’s thrilling to see that almost 11,000 people have joined the 2011 Happiness Challenge. If you haven’t signed up, join now. Studies show that taking an action, like signing up, will help you hold yourself accountable for your resolutions. And it doesn’t matter when you start; the important thing is to get started. Each week, here, I post ideas for resolutions that you might want to undertake for your own happiness project. I also post a weekly video with proposed resolutions.

I’m so interested to hear about people’s experiences with their own resolutions. What has and hasn’t worked for you, in your happiness project?

* I loved this video of two children who unwrap a big gift — not knowing that their father, who just finished his deployment, is hidden in the box. One child bursts out crying, and I absolutely understand that emotion. Too much to take in.

* If you’re in the U.S., you’ve got a holiday weekend in front of you. Have fun! And if you need a good book to read…please consider The Happiness Project (can’t resist mentioning: #1 New York Times bestseller).
Order your copy.
Read sample chapters.
Watch the one-minute book video.
Listen to a sample of the audiobook.

How Is Your Happiness Challenge Going?

Unbelievable as this is, the year 2011 is half over. If you’ve joined the 2011 Happiness Challenge, how are you doing?

If you’ve managed successfully to keep even one resolution, give yourself a big gold star. It’s hard to make change; it takes mindfulness, self-knowledge, and self-mastery. I’m often surprised by how hard it is to make even a change that’s pleasant, like my resolutions to Read more or to Jump. Why is it so hard to push myself to do something that I like doing? And yet it is.

Have you followed any resolutions that have made a particular difference to your happiness? I’m always so curious to hear what people have tried, and what has worked. For instance, to my surprise, one of the resolutions I most often hear mentioned is…Make your bed! This is such a small action, but somehow, it seems to make a difference to a lot of people. Go figure.

How have you kept yourself accountable? I use my Resolutions Chart (email me at gretchenrubin1 at gmail dot com if you want to see a copy). Some people use the Happiness Project Toolbox. Some people start Happiness Project groups. What has worked for you? Accountability is so important; without accountability, it’s easy to make big plans for change but then end up abandoning them.

Have your tried resolutions that didn’t work? Or that you just couldn’t stick with? I’ve tried to Keep a food journal several times, and for some reason, I just can’t keep that resolution. One of the most challenging, and also most popular resolutions, is the resolution is to Get more exercise. I labored for years to get myself into the habit of regular exercise.

It’s thrilling to see that more than 10,000 people have joined the 2011 Happiness Challenge. If you haven’t signed up, join now. Studies show that taking an action, like signing up, will help you hold yourself accountable for your resolutions. And it doesn’t matter when you start; the important thing is to get started. Each week, here, I post ideas for resolutions that you might want to undertake for your own happiness project. I also post a weekly video with proposed resolutions.

I’m so interested to hear about people’s experiences with their own resolutions. What has and hasn’t worked for you, in your happiness project?

*** Many thoughtful readers reminded me that the year isn’t half over until July 1. Oh, right! Sheesh. Don’t know how I got that wrong! ***

* I was fascinated by this List of most common surnames, by country. Turns out that Smith really is the most common surname in the United States (1.006%).

* If you like the blog, you’ll love the book! Please consider The Happiness Project (can’t resist mentioning: #1 New York Times bestseller).
Order your copy.
Read sample chapters.
Watch the one-minute book video.
Listen to a sample of the audiobook.

Join or Start a Group. And Please Answer These Six Questions!

I’ve written before about why the resolution to Join or start a group — any kind of group — can bring you happiness. I’ve joined or started fourteen groups since I began my happiness project, and they’ve added tremendously to my happiness.

Many people have started Happiness Project groups, for people meeting to discuss their own happiness projects; they swap ideas, build enthusiasm, and hold each other other accountable for their resolutions — which is so important for making change. (Think about AA or Weight Watchers.) In fact, here are 9 reasons why starting a Happiness Project group will boost your happiness. It’s also true that just the fact of joining a group, whatever the focus might be, brings happiness.

For people who interested in Happiness Project groups, I created a starter kit, to help get the ball rolling. Many thousands of people have requested one. (To receive one yourself, email me at gretchenrubin1 at gmail dot com.)

I’m extremely interested in these groups, and have wanted to be able to track and engage with them, and at last, after a few false starts, I think I’ve figured out how to do that.

If you’re in a Happiness Project group, or starting one, please, take this quick survey — it’s just six questions and will take you less than a minute — to provide some basic information.

People often ask me, “How do I find out if there’s a group in my area?” This survey will allow me to put together a complete list, along with contact information for the groups that want to provide that. I’ll post the list on my here and on Facebook (but because I don’t have information yet, that material isn’t yet available.)

If your group is just getting started, fill in what information you can, and write a note in the “Additional comments” section to say that you’re still putting it together.

Also, I know that the groups would like to be able to discuss issues among themselves. That discussion will take place here on Facebook.

I’m wildly interested to learn more about the groups! So please do fill out the survey. Thanks! I really appreciate it.

If you want to start a happiness project as a solo project instead of as part of a group, here’s some information that might be useful.

* To get the starter kit for launching a happiness project group, email me at gretchenrubin1 at gmail dot com. And don’t forget to take the survey.

Quiz: Are you a Moderator or an Abstainer, When Trying to Give Something Up?

Are you a moderator or abstainer?

One of the great mysteries of happiness is: why don’t we do the things that we know will make us happy? Why do we skip exercising? Why do we eat two doughnuts for breakfast? Why do we buy that thing we don’t really need? Etc.

Often, I know I’ll be happier if I don’t indulge in something. For example, I won’t be happy if I eat five cookies — and I’m the kind of person who can’t eat just one cookie.

A piece of advice I often see is, “Be moderate. Don’t have ice cream every night, but if you try to deny yourself altogether, you’ll fall off the wagon. Allow yourself to have the occasional treat, it will help you stick to your plan.”

I’ve come to believe that this is good advice for some people: the “moderators.” They do better when they try to make moderate changes, when they avoid absolutes and bright lines.

For a long time, I kept trying this strategy of moderation – and failing. Then I read a line from Samuel Johnson: “Abstinence is as easy to me as temperance would be difficult.” Ah ha! Like Dr. Johnson, I’m an “abstainer.”

I find it far easier to give something up altogether than to indulge moderately. When I admitted to myself that I was eating my favorite frozen “fake food” treat, Tasti D-Lite, two and even three times a day, I gave it up cold turkey. That was far easier for me to do than to eat Tasti D-Lite twice a week. If I try to be moderate, I exhaust myself debating, “Today, tomorrow?” “Does this time ‘count?’” etc. If I never do something, it requires no self-control for me; if I do something sometimes, it requires enormous self-control.

There’s no right way or wrong way – it’s just a matter of knowing which strategy works better for you. If moderators try to abstain, they feel trapped and rebellious. If abstainers try to be moderate, they spend a lot of time justifying why they should go ahead and indulge.

However, in my experience, both moderators and abstainers try hard to convert the other team. A nutritionist once told me, “I tell my clients to follow the 80/20 rule. Be healthy 80% of the time, indulge within reason, 20% of the time.” She wouldn’t consider my point of view — that a 100% rule might be easier for someone like me to follow.

People can be surprisingly judgmental about which approach you take. As an abstainer, I often get disapproving comments like, “It’s not healthy to take such a severe approach” or “It would be better to learn how to manage yourself” or “Can’t you let yourself have a little fun?” On the other hand, I hear fellow abstainer-types saying to moderators, “You can’t keep cheating and expect to make progress” or “Why don’t you just go cold turkey?” But different approaches work for different people. (Exception: with an actual addiction, like alcohol or cigarettes, people generally accept that abstaining is the only solution.)

You’re a moderator if you…
— find that occasional indulgence heightens your pleasure – and strengthens your resolve
— get panicky at the thought of “never” getting or doing something

You’re an abstainer if you…
— have trouble stopping something once you’ve started
— aren’t tempted by things that you’ve decided are off-limits

Now, sometimes instead of trying to give something up, we’re trying to push ourselves to embrace something. Go to the gym, eat vegetables, work on a disagreeable project.

Perhaps this is the flip side of being an abstainer, but I’ve found that if I’m trying to make myself do something, I do better if I do that thing every day. When people ask me advice about keeping a blog, one of my recommendations is, “Post every day, or six days a week.” Weirdly, it’s easier to write a blog every day than it is to write it three or four times a week. I don’t know how moderators feel about this. (Moderators – what do you think? Is it easier to go for a half-hour walk every day, or four times a week, for you?)

So…do you identify as an abstainer or a moderator? Do these categories ring true for you?

* Of all the things I’ve learned from my happiness project, one of the most important is the necessity of good sleep for me. I was fascinated to read this article about “short sleepers” who need very little sleep — and how many people think they’re short sleepers, but aren’t. I have no illusions. I’m a long sleeper.

* What? You didn’t know that The Happiness Project is now a bestselling paperback? Now you know!
Order your copy.
Read sample chapters.
Watch the one-minute book video.
Listen to a sample of the audiobook.

Design Your Life. Or Begin Your Journey. Or Make Your Resolutions.

Assay>: On the importance of choosing the right vocabulary.

As I’ve talked to people about their happiness projects, I’ve realized that the specific words people choose are very important. Using the right vocabulary makes a surprising
difference.

For instance, for my happiness project, I try to identify and make concrete, manageable resolutions that will bring about change in that area, and I’ve made dozens of resolutions.

I was talking to someone about her happiness project, and she said, “I don’t like the word ‘resolutions,’” she said. “I like the word ‘intentions.’”

Now, for whatever reason, I’m not attracted to the word “intention,” but the word “resolutions” has powerful positive connotations.

Different words set off different reactions in people – and although the difference between “resolution” and “intention” might seem slight, it influences how engaged people feel.

Or the term “happiness project.” Some people have told me they don’t like that phrase. Someone who loves art and design might prefer to frame a happiness project as “Design My Life.” Or a person who loves travel and exploration might “Start My Journey.”

In fact, some people bristle at the word “happiness” itself. They prefer to focus on qualities like peace, serenity, satisfaction, or contentment. As for me, I take issue when people characterize my project as aimed at “joy.” “So, Gretchen, tell us about how you try to live a more joyful life.” For me, the word “joy” invokes a rare, intense emotion; I don’t feel joyous very often, and I don’t expect to feel joyful in my ordinary day. But for other people, “joy” might be the right word.

To take another example: I have a note posted in my office to remind me of the frame of mind I want to cultivate. For a long time, this sign read, “Creative and confident,” but eventually I changed it to “Creative and enthusiastic.” Confidence has an overtone of posture and self-consciousness; it relates to the way I’m seen by others, or the way I view myself. Enthusiasm, on the other hand, has to do with the way I feel about something or someone else – it’s energetic, positive, generous, and social.

Along the same lines, I made the resolution to “Lower my standards,” but before long, I changed it to “Lower the bar.” “Lower my standards” suggests settling for mediocrity, while “Lower the bar” suggests the removal of obstacles – which is what I aim to do.

I’m fairly argumentative, and I used to argue with people about why my vocabulary was the most helpful. At last, though, I’ve come to understand that just as every person’s happiness project is different — because we each have our own mix of temperament, interests, and values — different vocabulary is appropriate as well.

Have you ever found that a change in vocabulary made a difference in how well you were able to stick to changes or to resolutions (or, if you prefer, intentions)?

* I always have a great time cruising around Mighty Girl — so much to read and see.

* Hooray! I just found out that The Happiness Project debuted on the bestseller list in Boston, Denver, and San Francisco — and was #1 at the airports! Yay! That news made my Monday morning very happy.
Order your copy.
Read sample chapters.
Watch the one-minute book video.
Listen to a sample of the audiobook.