Gretchen Rubin

Does taking steps to try to be happier actually WORK?

When I tell people that I’m working on a happiness project, they often ask, with some skepticism, “Well, does it make a difference? Are you actually happier?”

Yesterday is a good example of how taking steps to be happier actually does result in more happiness.

My resolutions include “take time for mini-adventures” and “see friends.” So yesterday afternoon, a friend and I went down to the Flower District and wandered through the shops for a few hours. We didn’t have any particular goal in mind, and just looked around at the Christmas flowers—some fresh, some fake—and at the enticing, cheap, plastic, decorative gewgaws. Why do I find a bag of tiny plastic babies so fascinating? Or fake zinnia heads? Or butterflies made of gold sequins? She’s exactly the same way, so we were drawn to the same odd sections of these stores.

Another of my resolutions is to “collect something.” I’ve decided to collect bluebirds, because bluebirds are a symbol of happiness. My friend knew where to buy fake birds (how she knows these things, I have no idea) so we went there.

I bought a bluebird for $2.71.

Now, a year ago I wouldn’t have allowed myself to do this. I wouldn’t have wasted my money and cluttered my office with a fake bird. I would’ve felt too guilty about taking a few hours away from work to do “nothing”; even though the nature of my work makes it easy for me to do this, still, I resist.

But I had a great time. I had a lovely afternoon with a good friend. I felt stimulated in obscure ways by seeing all this stuff. It made me happy to take advantage of the strange treasure trove of New York City, which I do too infrequently.

What’s more, buoyed by a fun afternoon, I had the mental wherewithal to tackle something that I’d been postponing for a long time: figuring out how to post my own photographs onto my blog.

It took a long consultation with the Big Man, but now I can do it.

Here's my photo of the bluebird I saw over Thanksgiving break. It flew to a tree by the window and sat there for fifteen minutes as I worked away. It seemed like a good omen.

And now I can email photos, as well. Everyone else in the country has figured out how to do this, but I just got on board. So although I felt like I was wasting time, in fact, I was being quite productive—just not in a sit-in-front-of-my-computer-typing kind of way.

So it was a happy day.

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One Last Thing

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