Lost my temper yesterday. Try again today to do better.

Yesterday, I sure had a less-than-perfect happiness-project day with my family. My greatest struggles, day in and day out, are with my sharp temper, my impatience, and my loss of sense of humor about being teased — and those are the places where I repeatedly slipped up.

Funnily enough, I didn’t feel particularly cranky. When I know I’m out of sorts, I guard my temper, but because I felt cheery, I wasn’t watching myself. This kind of situation shows the importance of self-knowledge – clearly, beneath the surface, something was bugging me, but I hadn’t acknowledged it. For some reason, I was on edge, and it showed.

After my worst bout of “snapping” (my term for it) or “talking in a mean voice” (the Big Girl’s term for it), I made excuses for myself, thinking, “I deserve a little special consideration.” I could think of several justifications for why I deserved a little consideration.

Then it occurred to me that if I’d asked the Big Man or my two daughters if they deserved special consideration that afternoon, they would have said, “Absolutely!” And they would have had a good reason to expect it, too.

I rallied, and peace was restored in my family; I don’t want to beat myself up in a tiresome way — but I do want to gain fresh zeal from my regret about the way I behaved. Oh well, today is another day, and a fresh column on my Get Rich Slowly had a fascinating post today about Thirteen Steps to a Better Life — lots of great suggestions for how to be happier.

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Happiness quotation from Adam Smith.

“The consciousness, or even the suspicion, of having done wrong, is a load upon every mind, and is accompanied with anxiety and terror in all those who are not hardened by long habits of iniquity.” –Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments

That’s why I’ve found that when I behave myself better, and manage to keep my resolutions, I feel happier. Knowing that I’ve lost my temper, failed to use good manners, behaved thoughtlessly, etc., makes me anxious, even as I’m making excuses for myself.

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Happiness Project: Pick a favorite.

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

The Happiness Project is more than a book or a blog – it’s a way of life.

During this visit to see my parents in Kansas City, I realized that one of the reason that we have so much fun here is that we spend a lot of time visiting our “favorites” – our favorite dime store (The Dime Store), our favorite diner (Winstead’s), our favorite BBQ place (several contenders for this), our favorite book store (Rainy Day Books), our favorite ice cream store (Fooz).

At home in New York City, though, we don’t really think this way. Take dinner, for example. Sometimes, on Sunday evening, we go out for an early family dinner. But instead of saying, “Yippeee, let’s go to our favorite restaurant!” our attitude, “Where shall we go for dinner? Well, we can’t be bothered to think of anyplace new, so let’s just go back to Luke’s. That’s convenient.”

That attitude is a lot less fun, a lot less festive. After all, if we always go to Luke’s, it IS our favorite place. Why not embrace it and enjoy it? Saying we’re going to our favorite place makes a visit seem more fun. Just saying that something is a treat can be enough to make it feel like a treat.

Having a “favorite” also boosts the feeling of tradition. It’s more gratifying to think, “We have a tradition of going to Luke’s, our favorite place, for a special family dinner,” than to think, “When we’re too tired to cook, we go around the corner to some quick, easy place.”

The “Pick a favorite” resolution just struck me yesterday, so I’m still thinking about how I might apply it myself. I’d love to hear from any readers who are already following the resolution to “Pick a favorite” themselves.

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I’ve started sending out short monthly newsletters that will highlight the best of the previous month’s posts. If you’d like to sign up, click on the link in the upper-right-hand corner of my blog. Or just email me at grubin, then the “at” sign, then gretchenrubin dot com. No need to write anything more than “newsletter” in the subject line. I’ll add your name to the list.

Exercise: Nine tips for staying motivated to exercise.

Every Wednesday is Tip Day.
This Wednesday: Nine tips for staying motivated to exercise.

Everyone knows that exercise is a KEY element to good health. The trick is keeping yourself motivated to exercise, if you’re a person who naturally relapses into the couch-potato pose.

It took me years of prodding, but I’ve finally managed to turn myself into a dedicated exerciser. I never push myself very hard (at all), but I do manage to stick with a routine.

Personally, I find it more motivating to think about short-term gratification like “I’ll sleep better” than long-term considerations like “I’ll live longer” or “If I have surgery, I’ll recover quicker.”

Here are some things to keep in mind, if you’re trying to keep yourself motivated to exercise:

1. Exercise boosts energy. It took me a long time to notice that I’d drag myself to the gym, work out for forty minutes, and leave feeling far more energetic than when I went in.

2. Exercise provides an outlet for feelings of pent-up hostility, irritation, and anger. I always find that I’m far calmer and more forbearing on days when I’ve exercised. I have a jittery, high-strung nature, and exercising takes the edge off.

3. Repetitive, rhythmic motion of exercises like walking and running brings a serene mood and clarifies thinking. I’ve had all my best writing ideas when walking or running, and sometimes assign myself a particular problem to think over during a walk.

4. Sticking to an exercise regime raises your self-esteem for the very fact that you’re sticking to an exercise regime.

5. Exercise offers a chance to be alone and uninterrupted—a relief if, like me, you’re often surrounded by distractions. Or, if you prefer, exercise also offers a chance to get together with other people–a relief if, like me, you spend a lot of time working alone. I have both kinds of exercise during my week.

6. Regular exercise helps to keep your body chemicals in balance. When you experience stress, your body prepares for “fight or flight” with a huge number of biochemical reactions. A stressful event these days, however, is more likely to require a phone call than a sprint uphill. The potentially damaging byproducts of the stress response, such as cortisol, nevertheless continue to pump through the body, and exercise helps offset that effect.

7. Exercise helps you fall asleep more easily and sleep more deeply. The Big Man really notices this in himself.

8. Pure vanity can be a good motivator. Remember that people who exercise move more easily and energetically, and appear more youthful.

9. When I don’t feel like exercising, I remind myself how lucky I am to be able to move easily and without pain—no wheelchair, no crutches, no brace, no trick knee or bad back.

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A story that made me very happy — I couldn’t stop smiling.

Someone I know who lives in Geneva knows that I’m very interested in happiness, and she related the following story to me, because this incident made HER feel so happy.

I asked her if I could post it, because I found it such a gratifying incident.

“A couple of weeks ago I went into Harrods in London (huge department store I am sure you have heard of!) to buy some Minton China plates for a wedding anniversary which was to be a group gift from friends to other friends in Geneva. Having only 30 minutes between meetings, I whizzed there in a taxi from the office and battled through the milling people on the 2nd day of the sales on the ground floor up to the 5th to the china department. There was a non-descript chap standing there who was obviously a sales person who I rushed up to and asked if he had this particular china? in stock? would it take long to wrap? etc., He was amazing. He got the plates in seconds, wrapped them up, asked me if I wanted a store card to which I replied no, because I lived in Switzerland, to which he replied asking if, as I lived abroad would I like a tax rebate form, showed me what to do and produced a map of the store of where I should go for the formalities. Amazing, so I thanked him and said what wonderful service he had given me and did he give this to everyone? With that a tall man in a grey suit approached me offering his hand to shake mine saying, “Can I introduce myself, I am the Chief Executive of Harrods and what an interesting conversation I have just heard”…. He had been wandering through the store (as you should do as a hands-on CEO!) and had overheard me thanking this salesman – whose face, I can hardly describe, was – frozen in a mixture of delight awe and astonishment! Can you imagine the salesman going home to his family and friends recounting, “the day the CEO spoke to him after overhearing him being praised by a customer”……….

“This story makes everyone smile (and feel happy?!) when I tell it – so why is that I asked myself (now focussing on what and why is happiness since meeting you and your work)! The ‘underdog’ receiving recognition? the unexpected? the coincidence? …… all of that!”

For me, one of the most satisfying basic storylines is “Virtue rewarded.” To have been an instrument to see virtue rewarded is thrilling to contemplate.

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