Gretchen Rubin

It’s Friday: time to think about YOUR Happiness Project. This week: Stop talking.

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.

One of my happiness-project resolutions is “Stop talking.” I have a tendency to want to talk too much – a tendency that was much exacerbated when I switched careers to being a writer. Because I spend a lot of time working silently, by myself, I’m so exhilarated by the chance to talk to other people that I end up talking too much, interrupting, etc.

But I’ve realized recently that there’s an even more important context in which to remember to “Stop talking”: when I’m trying to convey a mood of sympathy and understanding.

The other day, Big Girl was upset about something that had happened at school, so I pulled her into my lap in a rocking chair. I was desperately trying to think of comforting words, but then I realized that she was feeling better, just rocking in my arms. I decided that it was nicer not to say anything at all.

Sometimes, it’s important to talk things through, but in this case, after she told me what was bothering her, I think that anything that I might have said would have been less effective than my silent sympathy.

Then I noticed the same thing with the Big Man. He seemed preoccupied, and I was about to try to start a “What’s on your mind?” “Is everything okay?” “You seem preoccupied” kind of conversation. Then I thought – “You know, the Big Man really doesn’t enjoy that kind of talk,” and instead, I sat right next to him on the sofa, put my head on his shoulder, and reached over to hold his hand. That seemed to chirk him up.

Philosophers and scientists agree: the KEY to happiness is close relationships with other people, and we need to have a person in whom we can confide our intimate thoughts. Silence isn’t golden in every situation, because sometimes conversation is what a person needs. But now I think that silent communion can be better, in some situations.

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According to a new study, older people are happier than younger people: 33 percent of all 88-year-olds proclaimed themselves to be "very happy," as opposed to 24 percent of people under 25. Interesting material.

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