Happiness Quotation from Charles Kingsley.

“We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life, when all we need to make us happy is something to be enthusiastic about.” –Charles Kingsley

Adam Gilbert at My Body Tutor has a great happiness-project story: he had a safe, well-paying corporate job and left to follow an entrepreneurial dream, to start a company to help people devise diet and work-out plans — and stick with them! That’s the aspect that interests me most: what can we do to help ourselves keep our resolutions? That’s the tricky part.

If you’ve never seen my one-minute internet movie, The Years Are Short, you might like to check it out.

How Should I Use Facebook to Help You with YOUR Happiness Project?

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.

Because of the big boost in happiness I’ve gained from my happiness project, one of my main goals in life is to try to convince other people to do happiness projects of their own. I’ve become a real happiness evangelist (at times, I suspect, a tiresome evangelist), and I’m always trying to think of new ways to coax people into trying various strategies.

People often email me to let me know that they’ve decided to start their own happiness projects; in fact, there are many blogs chronicling people’s progress.

What I do to help other people with their happiness projects? Every Friday, I post a resolution that I’ve tried and found helpful, for other people to consider: Make Your Bed, Don’t Perform Random Acts of Kindness, Enter into the Spirit of the Season, Abandon Your Self-Control.

I also email my Resolutions Chart to anyone who wants to see my resolutions for inspiration as they devise their own. (Just email me at grubin “at” symbol gretchenrubin dot com. Sorry about writing it in that roundabout way; I’m trying to thwart spammers. Just write “Resolutions Chart” in the subject line.)

In a month or so, I’m going to do the beta-launch of my fabulous new website of eight happiness-project tools, called (straightforwardly enough), the Happiness Project Toolbox. More on that in future weeks.

But what else could I be doing? Although Friday is usually the day I propose a resolution, today instead I’m following one of my most useful resolutions, to “Ask for help.”

Help me, tell me: how could I do a better job of encouraging other people with their happiness projects? –nudge them to start a project; propose ideas for strategies to try; inspire them to stay motivated; connect like-minded people with each other.

I’m going to post this question from time to time. I’d love to hear any ideas, and at this point, I’d be particularly interested to hear suggestions about how to use Facebook effectively. I have Friends on Facebook, and there’s a Happiness Project Group (that’s how I met my lovely blogland friend Jackie Danicki; she suggested that I sent it up), and there’s a Gretchen Rubin Page.

I don’t have a good sense of how best to harness these tools, however. I love Facebook, but I use it in an extremely basic way.

If you’re a Facebook user, what would be useful for you? What would you like to see happening there?

Feel free to post a comment below, or if you’d prefer, email me directly at grubin “at” symbol gretchenrubin dot com.

Yes, It Really Does Make a Difference.

You know those unpleasant marital tasks that one of you has to do – and the question is, who’s going to do it? Yesterday, my husband and I had one of those chores, and he had agreed to do it. Then at the last minute, he backed out, because he had a work conflict – a legitimate conflict, but one he would’ve known about, if he’d been paying attention.

I was very annoyed.

But instead of following his usual instincts, my husband deployed some of the strategies that get recommended for such situations. He said, “I really screwed up here.” He said, “I know it would be a huge pain for you to have to deal with this now.” He said, “What would happen if we just bailed? Can we do it another time? Can I show up late?” After some discussion, I said I’d do it, and later he sent me an email that said, “Thank you, honey.”

And you know what? It really did help.

I talked to Kimberly Palmer at U.S. News & World Report about 5 Ways to Be Happy in a Recession. Interesting topic!

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, then the “at” sign, then gretchenrubin dot com. (Sorry about writing it in that roundabout way; I’m trying to thwart spammers.) Just write “Resolutions Chart” in the subject line.

Five Tips for Getting a Little Kid to Take “No” for an Answer.

Every Wednesday is Tip Day.
This Wednesday: 5 tips for getting a little kid to take “no” for an answer.

My three-year-old hates being told “No” and “Don’t,” and she’s also one of those kids who immediately does exactly what you ask her not to do, so I’ve had to develop some strategies to get the “No” message across without unleashing the very behavior I want to stop.

I realized that although she doesn’t want to hear “no,” my daughter responds very well to certain kinds of explanations. While “It’s not healthy,” “We don’t have time,” and “I don’t want to buy that” don’t work very well, other justifications for saying “no” are more effective:

1. “It’s for safety.” For some reason, my daughter wisely accepts safety as an absolute directive, so I invoke it whenever possible. For example, I characterized the “no slamming doors” rule as a safety rule, not a noise/behavior rule. “When people slam doors, eventually, people get their fingers smashed. So for safety, no slamming doors.”

2. “That’s just for decoration.” We can walk into a store crammed with treats or gimcracks, and when she asks if she can get something, I just say sadly, “They’re just for decoration, they’re not for sale.” She never questions this!

3. “The doctor says…” Invoking the authority of a doctor, dentist, teacher, or grandparent often makes a message acceptable. “The Yellow Room teachers say children must wear mittens to schools, not gloves.” “I know you don’t feel like brushing your teeth, but Dr. Smith says it’s very important to brush every night.” I’m not above pretending to send an email to get a particular answer.

4. “I know you know.” My daughter hates being told “Don’t,” and she loves to show that she’s a big girl. So I often say things like, “I know you know this, but other children don’t know that you shouldn’t tap on the glass of a fish tank. They don’t know that the noise bothers the fish. Fortunately for the fish, you already know that.”

5. “The sign says…” Like most children who can’t yet read, my daughter is extremely impressed by the power of the written word. She will obey any sign. And because she can’t read, a sign can say anything that I want it to say.

Looking at the list, I’m struck by how devious and manipulative I sound. Oh well, I’m using my powers for good.

Have you found any good strategies for getting a little kid to take “No” for an answer?

*I send out short monthly newsletters that highlight the best of the previous month’s posts. If you’d like to sign up, click here. Or just email me at grubin, then the “at” sign, then gretchenrubin dot com. (Sorry about writing it in that roundabout way; I’m trying to thwart spammers.) Just write “newsletter” in the subject line.

What is a true test of a person’s character?

Yesterday, as I was reading Bob Sutton’s work manifesto, I was struck by his #9: “The best test of a person’s character is how he or she treats those with less power.” I love this way of thinking about character, and that statement got me thinking: what else is a test of a person’s true nature? Well, what a person finds funny is a good test. I asked a bunch of friends for their ideas.

–“How a person treats a waiter.”
–“Whether a person plays by the rules when no one is watching.”
–“How people behave when they’re pulled over while driving.”
–“How a person treats his or her own parents. And in-laws.”
–“My father told me never to trust a man who doesn’t drink – though he did say there are a few medical exceptions.” (Maybe I’m off the hook here as a woman, but I basically had to give up drinking, so I’d fail this test.)
–“How often they use the bcc function in work emails. I don’t think you should ever use the bcc.”
–“Whether a person eats a piece of chocolate cake at a birthday party.” (As an unconventional eater myself, I’d fail this test; I wouldn’t eat that birthday cake.)
–“How he or she handles good fortune.”
–“How he or she behaves during a long, arduous trip.”
–“It is almost a definition of a gentleman to say that he is one who never inflicts pain.” –John Henry Newman.

I get a tremendous kick out of collecting these kinds of observations. If you have one to add, please post it.

Journalist Carlin Flora at Psychology Today wrote a big piece on happiness, Happiness Makeovers, and she was kind enough to include a profile of me.

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, then the “at” sign, then gretchenrubin dot com. (Sorry about writing it in that roundabout way; I’m trying to thwart spammers.) Just write “Resolutions Chart” in the subject line.