Tag Archives: habits

Video: Happiness-Boosting Resolutions for 2011.

The original book video for The Happiness Project book features many of my favorite resolutions. With the help of the fabulous Maria Giacchino, I’ve updated the video to highlight some of the resolutions that other people have made. Check it out!

I’m always fascinated to hear about other people’s resolutions and add them to my own list all the time. And even when a resolution isn’t right for me, it helps me think about what I might try.

Have you tried any of these resolutions? Or have you tried a different resolution that has been particularly helpful?

One thing that has struck me: often, resolutions that point in opposite direction are both helpful — even to the same person. The opposite of a great truth is also true.

Move. Still.
Say yes. Say no.
Start. Finish.
Take myself more seriously. Take myself less seriously.
Now. Wait.
Think bigger. Think smaller.

If you’d like to see the original video, here it is:

When I feel discouraged about resolution-keeping, which is fairly often, I think of Samuel Johnson’s diary entry from 1764:

“I have now spent fifty-five years in resolving; having, from the earliest time almost that I can remember, been forming schemes of a better life. I have done nothing. The need of doing, therefore, is pressing, since the time of doing is short. O GOD, grant me to resolve aright, and to keep my resolutions.”

Happy 2011! Good luck keeping your resolutions.

* Sign up here to join the 2011 Happiness Challenge, to make 2011 a happier year. Studies show that taking an action, like signing up for the challenge, will help you hold yourself accountable. I’ve been astonished by how many people have signed up in just the past two days.

Video: Do Something EVERY Day.

2010 Happiness Challenge: For those of you following the 2010 Happiness Project Challenge, to make 2010 a happier year – and even if you haven’t officially signed up for the challenge — last month’s theme was Attitude, and last week’s resolution was Make the positive argument.

Did you try to follow that resolution? Did it help to boost your happiness?

This month’s theme — the final theme for 2010 — is Boot Camp. This week’s resolution is to Do something every day.

If you want to read more about this resolution, check out…
Do something EVERY day.
Do you have trouble sticking to your resolutions? Turns out that it really does matter.
Frustrated? Stuck? Put yourself in creativity boot camp.

It’s time to start thinking about the 2011 challenge! Just a few weeks until the new year.

* Sign up for the Moment of Happiness, and each weekday morning, you’ll get a happiness quotation in your email inbox. Sign up here or email me at grubin at gretchenrubin dot com. I just started this — and am thrilled that thousands of people have signed up already.

Choose One Word to Set the Tone for Next Year.

Happiness resolution: Choose a one-word theme for the new year.

I love New Year’s resolutions – and I’m not the only one. Some 44% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions.

There’s a kind of resolution that I’ve never made before, but that has always fascinated me: identifying one idea, often summarized in just one word, as an overarching theme for the entire year.

My sister often does this kind of resolution. One year was the year of “Free Time.” Another year was “Hot Wheels” — that year, she got a car and started driving; she and I have both struggled with a fear of driving, which was much tougher for her, given that she lives in Los Angeles and I live in New York City. (Warning, non sequitur: follow her on Twitter, @elizabethcraft.)

Another friend of mine does the same thing. One year, I remember, was “Dark,” another was “Make.”

I’ve never tried this approach before, but this year I want to give it a try. I knew exactly what word I wanted to pick. My theme for the year is “Bigger.”

I have to fight the urge to simplify, to keep things manageable; this word will remind me to think big, to tolerate complications, to expect more from myself. Many people work to simplify their lives, but I struggle against the tendency to simplify too much. As Albert Einstein observed, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

Have you ever tried this choose-a-theme approach? Did it help you direct your year?

I heard from someone who chose the theme “Finally Breaking Old Bad Behaviors.” Great idea. Now, it’s true that some ideas can’t be distilled into a single word, but I do think there’s a special power to the one-word theme. It’s so direct, so memorable. For example, “Finally Breaking Old Bad Behaviors” might be distilled into “Free.”

My challenge, starting in January, is to figure out what to do differently, according to the theme. What will allow me to think “Bigger?” I’m still trying to puzzle that out. My usual strategy is to make concrete, manageable resolutions that will help me bring about a larger change. But for “Bigger,” I’ve decided that instead of translating it into resolutions, I will use it to frame my outlook – the way I invoke my Twelve Personal Commandments.

I’m fascinated to get more ideas for themes. What theme or word would you pick?

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.

* Why is this short video of a train leaving a station — slowed down to 210 frames per second — so mesmerizing? Not sure why, but it is.

* Join the conversation on the Facebook Page. Lots of interesting discussion there.

Trying To Go from Couch Potato to Regular Runner (or Whatever)? 6 Tips for Sticking to Your Resolution.

Every Wednesday is Tip Day.
This Wednesday: 6 tips to hold yourself accountable for keeping your resolutions.

One thing I’ve discovered from doing my happiness project is – no surprise – it’s easy and fun to make a resolution, but it’s not always easy to keep a resolution.

I’m fascinated by the question: what allows people to keep resolutions? Why does one couch potato suddenly decide to start going to the gym, and then goes regularly for years, while another similar couch potato just can’t stick with a program? Why does my sister keep resolving to learn to cook, but never follows up? Why can’t I make myself floss regularly? And yet I’ve been able to keep my one-sentence journal.

The first step, in my case at least, is to make a concrete, well-directed resolution. Samuel Johnson wrote a prayer that includes the line, “O GOD, grant me to resolve aright, and to keep my resolutions.” At first, this puzzled me. I understood praying for the strength to keep resolutions, but why make the special request to be able to “resolve aright”? Now I understand that resolving aright is very important. (See #1 below.)

The second step is to hold myself accountable. This is enormously important. The constant review of resolutions, and the knowledge that I’m being held accountable for sticking to them, makes a huge difference. I know that this holds true for other people, as well.

So how do you hold yourself accountable? Here are some strategies that have worked for me:

1.Frame your resolution in concrete actions. If you resolve to “Get more joy out of life” or “Embrace the present,” it’s hard to hold yourself accountable. It’s easier to be answerable for a specific action like “Spend at least one hour a week hiking” or “Sit in a chair for fifteen minutes every day, with no distractions.”

2.Keep a chart. Having made a resolution, you have to check yourself in some way. I print out a new copy of my Resolutions Chart each month and carry it around with me. At least once each day, I review and score my resolutions. (Email me at grubin at gretchenrubin dot com if you’d like to take a look at my chart, as an example.) This method works if you like to use old-fashioned pen and paper; if you prefer to do such things online, you can…

3.Use the Happiness Project Toolbox. If you want to keep your Resolutions Chart online, use the Toolbox – the Resolutions Tool and the Group Resolutions Tool are two very helpful tools. While you’re there, you can also add things to your Inspiration Board, share ideas to the Happiness Hacks – and look to see what other people are doing! Which is addictive.

4.Tell people what you’re doing. At the very least, tell your family about the resolutions that you’re trying to keep. Studies showed that people trying to make life changes, such as losing weight, were more likely to succeed if they told their families what they were doing.

5. Do it every day. It’s counter-intuitive, but I’ve found that when I’m trying to get myself to adopt a new habit, it helps me to do that thing every day, instead of most days — which would seem easier. For example, I blog six days a week (okay, I do get one day off), and I think that made it much easier for me to get into the swing of blogging. So if you’re trying to start going for more walks, say, try going for a walk every single day.

6.Join a group. Even more useful than keep a chart is meeting with real live people who will press you to keep your resolutions. Mutual accountability is extraordinarily effective, as demonstrated by groups like Weight Watchers and Alcoholics Anonymous. That’s why I think that launching or joining a happiness-project group is a great way to boost happiness. You have the happiness of meeting with friends, whether new or old, plus the happiness of keeping your resolutions. (Email me grubin at gretchenrubin dot com if you want the starter kit for launching your own happiness-project group).

Here are more tips on sticking to your resolutions, if you’re interested.

I’ve had great success with dozens of my resolutions, and yet I still can’t manage to put my clothes away nicely every night. Any advice on a strategy to try?

* When I heard about The 52 Weeks — two friends resolve to try something new every week for a year — of course I had to check it out!

* For a copy of my personal Resolution Chart, to see how it works, or the starter-kit for people launching a happiness-project group, email me at grubin at gretchenrubin dot com. Just write “chart” or “starter kit” in the subject line.

Six Tips for Forcing Yourself to Tackle a Dreaded Task.

Every Wednesday is Tip Day.
This Wednesday: Six tips for forcing yourself to tackle a dreaded task.

It’s a Secret of Adulthood: Happiness doesn’t always make me feel happy. Often, I know I’d be happier if I do something I really don’t feel like doing. Making that phone call. Dealing with tech support. Writing that email. Going to the gym.

Those dreaded tasks hang over my head, though; they make me feel drained and uneasy. I’ve learned that I’m much happier, in the long run, if I try to tackle them as soon as possible, rather than allowing myself to push them off.

Here are some strategies I use:

1. Do it first thing in the morning. If you’re dreading doing something, you’re going to be able to think of more creative excuses as the day goes along. One of my Twelve Commandments is “Do it now.” No delay is the best way.

2. If you find yourself putting off a task that you try to do several times a week, do it EVERY day. When I was planning my blog, I envisioned posting two or three times a week. Then a blogging friend convinced me that no, I should post every day. As counter-intuitive as it sounds, I’ve found that it’s easier to do it every day (well, except Sundays) than fewer times each week. There’s no dithering, there’s no juggling. I know I have to post, so I do. If you’re finding it hard to go for a walk four times a week, try going every day.

3. Have someone keep you company. Studies show that we enjoy practically every activity more when we’re with other people. Having a friend along can be a distraction, a source of reassurance, or just moral support.

4. Make preparations, assemble the proper tools. Clean off your desk, get the phone number, find the file. I often find that when I’m dreading a task, it helps me to feel prepared. There’s a wonderful term that chefs use: mis-en-place, French for “everything in its place.” It describes the preparation done before starting to cook: gathering ingredients and implements, chopping, measuring, etc. Mis-en-place is preparation, but it’s also a state of mind; mis-en-place means you have everything at the ready, with no need to run out to the store or begin a frantic search for a sifter. You’re truly ready to begin to work.

5. Commit. We’ve all heard the advice to write down your goals. This really works, so force yourself to do it. Usually this advice relates to long-term goals, but it works with short-term goals, too. On the top of a piece of paper, write, “By the end of today, April 7, I will have _____.” This also gives you the thrill of crossing a task off your list. (See below.)

6. Remind yourself that finishing a dreaded task is tremendously energizing. Studies show that hitting a goal releases chemicals in the brain that give you pleasure. If you’re feeling blue, although the last thing you feel like doing is something you don’t feel like doing, push yourself. You’ll get a big lift from it.

True confession: even as I’m writing this post, at this very minute, I’m putting off two dreaded tasks! I will write no more until I do them.


Okay, they’re done! It took a total of seven minutes, and I’d been procrastinating for days. Phew. I feel great.

How about you? Have you found any helpful techniques to get yourself to tackle a dreaded task?

* A thoughtful reader sent me a link to Oreana Winery’s Project Happiness wine. My sister got me a bottle of this wine last Christmas, and I’ve kept it, because I love the title and the bottle design, with its yellow smiley face, so much.

* It’s Word-of-Mouth Day, when I gently encourage (or, you might think, pester) you to spread the word about the Happiness Project. You might:
— Forward the link to someone you think would be interested
— Link to a post on Twitter (follow me @gretchenrubin)
— Sign up for my free monthly newsletter (about 41,000 people get it)
Buy the book
— Join the 2010 Happiness Challenge to make 2010 a happier year
— Put a link to the blog in your Facebook status update
— Watch the one-minute book video
Thanks! I really appreciate any help. Word of mouth is the BEST.