The Happiness Project

Happiness Project – Monday Post

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Here we go! I’m looking forward to getting back to the Happiness Project, although to be honest, I haven’t been keeping up with a lot of the goals set in January, February and March. As always, January starts off with a bang, but then the newness wears off and soon all your good intentions get left by the wayside. That doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t pick up and start again. I completely missed reading the chapter for April, but that’s okay. Fold it into May and move forward.

The chapters for April and May focus on two areas of my life that I think need a lot of help – parenthood and leisure. Children and having fun. Most people who know me would probably say that I’m a good parent, but for the most part, I disagree. It’s not that I’m a good parent. It’s that my kid is amazing. I am by nature a very introverted person who is perfectly content to spend all her free time alone, preferably with a good book. Having children, even only one, typically removes free quiet time and replaces it with noise, mess, and a fair helping of stress. At least that’s how I usually see it. I’m also very impatient and, usually, fairly selfish as well. Not the best traits for parenting. As far as having fun – that’s a tough one. For the most part, I enjoy the things that I fill my life with, but it’s mostly the same thing over and over. Books and video games. Not that there’s anything wrong with either of these, but it’s easy to feel something lacking when these two things are the only thing you use for your leisure time.

All that said, I think combining these two months will work well. I need to work on being a good parent. I need to find out how to “find more fun.” And I need to learn how to have more fun with my kids.

So here’s some of the points for April. I love that Gretchen Rubin suggests singing in the morning, but I won’t make that a goal. I sing all the time around our house, as anyone in my family can tell you! She does mention something that I desperately need to work on, which is acknowledging feelings. When my daughter gets upset, my initial instinct is to get her to stop being upset as quickly as possible. If she is upset about something that I deem unimportant, I’m usually not very sympathetic. I will cop an attitude or, even worse, get angry and start making threats. “If you don’t stop crying about that, you’re going straight to bed.” I know it’s wrong even as I’m saying it, but in the moment, I just want the tears to magically go away. I want the unpleasantness to be over and done with. That’s something I really need to work on.

Another thing under the parenting chapter is to take time for projects. For my daughter, this will mean art projects. She loves that sort of thing, but I tend to shy away from it because my house is messy enough as it is. I don’t want to throw watercolors, clay, or plastic beads into the mix. The truth is, I just need to suck it up and do it. The few times that we’ve done art projects together have been wonderful, once I got past my pessimistic view of them. We need to do that more often.

May is supposed to be all about being “serious about play.” Not just having fun, but finding new ways of having fun. For starters, we need to find more of it. I’ve been thinking about this for a while now, so coming up now is actually perfect. We live in a really cool part of the world. North Carolina is beautiful and there are tons of things to do, both in the city we live and places that are only a few hours drive away. So why don’t we do any of it? It’s easy to say that we don’t have time, but that’s not true. We have time, if we make the effort. Another suggestion for May is to take something you already enjoy and find a way to do it differently. I have the perfect idea for this one, which I got from a podcast I listen to called “Books on the Nightstand.” I love to read, but I typically read the same sort of book over and over. This isn’t because I don’t like other genres – I’ll read just about anything. But I’m always drawn to fantasy, usually with a YA tilt, and lately, something dark or slightly dystopian. My solution to broaden my reading scope? Short stories. I have a huge anthology of short stories that I was told to buy for a class when I was in college, but then we never really used it. I’ve read a couple of them, but not many. There are nearly 2000 pages worth of not just short stories, but essays from the authors of those short stories talking about writing. Other people may not be drawn to this, but I find it fascinating. And since it’s a short story, I won’t be committing myself to a week’s worth or reading, like I would a novel. I can knock it out in an hour or less.

So here are my goals for this week. We’ll see next Monday how I do on them.

1. Next time my daughter is upset about something this week, acknowledge her feelings and don’t try to shove them under the rug.

2. Do one art project with my daughter (and my stepson, if he’s interested).

3. Plan some sort of activity for the weekend that involves getting out of the house and finding fun.

4. Read one of the short stories in the anthology and blog about it on Friday.

That doesn’t sound too hard, does it? And who knows? It might just be fun!

The Happiness Project

Happiness Project – Week #5

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Due to missing several blogging days, mostly due to illness this past month, I haven’t mentioned my Happiness Project in a while. My goals for January were centered around cleaning and decluttering. Did I do everything I wanted to? No, not really. But I did make a lot of progress. My office is neater and more conducive to work. I’ve straightened out several things in my bedroom that keeps it from getting as messy as it used to.

Things I still need to work on:

  • Going to bed early. This is the number one thing. I have the hardest time doing it because I am such a night owl. I’d happily stay up until midnight or one o’clock, which doesn’t work so well when one is expected to be up by six.
  • I also didn’t add any exercise to my daily routine at all. The good news is that I switched offices at work. We work in a two story building and now, my office is on the second floor. That means a lot more moving around, since a lot of the people I deal with are still on the first floor. I need to dig out my pedometer and see just how many steps I’m getting in now.

Other things to work on:

  • Getting my closets cleaned out. This goal went completely by the wayside, which is sad because I think it would be very easy to accomplish in an afternoon on the weekend. I can’t do it this weekend, but next weekend, it is on!
  • Completing any of my “nagging tasks.” I didn’t even touch them.

So now it’s February and with the new month comes a new focus. Oh, I’ll still continue to work on January’s goals, but now it’s time to add another layer to it. And is it any surprise that February is all about marriage and relationships? Mostly, I think my husband and I have a pretty good marriage. It’s not perfect, but I don’t know anyone who has a perfect marriage. I don’t think that really exists. As I read through the February chapter, I had to think about things to work on, things to change. There are five main points that Gretchen Rubin uses for this month.

  1. Quit nagging.
  2. Don’t expect praise or appreciation.
  3. Fight right.
  4. No dumping.
  5. Give proofs of love.

The very first thing that I am going to do is talk this over with my husband. It’s easy for me to sit here and say, “But I don’t nag. I never nag!” Just because I can’t think of an example doesn’t mean I don’t do it. We tend to think of our nagging as justified, and therefore excuse it. The other points are just as hard to see from my point of view, which is why I need to figure out exactly where my weaknesses are by being up front and honest (although #5 seems pretty straightforward, and is definitely something I need to work on).

So the Happiness Project is chugging right along. Is it helping? Am I happier? In some ways, I can easily say, “Yes.” There are some stressful things that have been removed from my life, just with a little focus and work on my part. Hopefully that will keep increasing as I add more levels to the project as a whole.

The Happiness Project

Happiness Project – Week #2

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The Happiness Project has been good so far. Still plenty of room to improve, but I’m making some progress.

Things I’ve done this week:

  • Changed my bedtime. This has been harder than I thought it would be. I was always of the mindset that going to bed earlier was a waste of time. There were so many other things that needed to be done! Because of this, even though I am in bed earlier, I’m not falling asleep easily. I think I’m going to start taking Valerian again. It’s a fairly mild herbal sleep aid that doesn’t knock you out like over-the-counter meds can. Maybe that will help my brain stop over processing.
  • De-cluttered my office. Of all the de-cluttering to be done in this house, I wanted my office to come first because of school. I am going to be very busy for the foreseeable future and wanted a nice, clean space to work in. I now have a huge box of books to donate to the used bookstore (and get store credit – whooo!) and a lot more space in my bookshelves. I’ve brought up another small bookshelf to spread some things out and make it look a little neater. I bought some decorative boxes and use them to keep things that used to be all over the floor or thrown into a messy pile. It’s still a pile of stuff, but it looks so much better!

Things that haven’t gone as well”

  • Walking or exercise. Yeah, no. It just isn’t happening, and to be truthful, I don’t know if it will. I’ll still try to see where I can incorporate it, but it’s just so hard! I’ll have to keep working on that one.

So as I said, things are going pretty good so far. The next thing to do for January, which I didn’t mention in my first post, is to complete a nagging task. You know what those are. They hover in the background, always there, never completely on your mind, but still present enough to make you feel bad for not doing it. There are several for me to choose from, but I haven’t picked one yet. I’ll update you on my progress there next week.

The Happiness Project

Happiness Project – Week #1

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As promised, here is my Friday round-up post for the Happiness Project. Before I get into what I’ve done this week, let me tell you a bit about the Project itself.

One day while browsing around Borders (may they rest in peace), I came across a book called The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. The cover was bright and colorful, so I picked it up to read the blurb. Here’s the jist – despite having all the things that people assume will bring you “happiness,” Gretchen realized that she wasn’t a very happy person. So she spent a year researching what true happiness was, looking at everything from scientific studies to the words of the Dalai Lama. This book is an overview of her journey, along with tips on how to do your own Happiness Project.

For me, this seemed like a bolt of lightening out of the blue. I too had all the things that was supposed to make someone happy, and yet I wasn’t. I could never understand why I allowed myself to get so stressed or angry over small things. I immediately bought the book, looking forward to the miraculous change it would bring to my life.

And then it sat on my bookshelf for six months.

This year, I decided to go for it. I pulled my mother in with me because I knew she could probably benefit from the Project, but also because it’s always easier to do something when you have a partner in crime. I bought her the book for Christmas, along with a matching journal, and off we went.

The month of January is meant to focus on energy, recognizing all the things that drain you of energy and trying to either change them or eliminate them completely. It’s harder than you would think. So after reading the first chapter, here are my January goals for the Happiness Project.

  1. Get to bed earlier. I am such a night owl. I could easily stay up until 1 or 2 in the morning, which of course makes me feel terrible the next day. My plan is to try for lights out at 11. That might seem late to some people, but for me, that’s a vast improvement.
  2. Going along with that sentiment, I am going to try to disconnect myself from anything with a screen starting at 10:30, if not earlier. Studies have proven that having a screen in front of your face (whether it’s a computer, a television, or even a smart phone) stimulates the brain and makes it harder to completely relax. Not what you want when trying to get to sleep. Even though I usually read before bed, I’m including my Kindle in this. At 10:30, I’ll switch to a regular book.
  3. Walk more. It’s an exercise thing, which I’m not good at, but I want to try and wear my pedometer again. Right after Christmas, I had to run to the local mall on my lunch break and it was actually nice walking around there, looking at stuff. I might try to do that more often, since it’s too cold right now to walk much outside.
  4. Declutter. This was something that I had never really considered, but having a lot of clutter around the house can zap your energy right out. Especially when it gets so bad, you don’t know where to start to clean it up. You feel hopeless and, since you can’t figure out what to do, you just do nothing. Except feel bad about it. I went around, room by room, and made a list of all the places in the house that need decluttering. It’s going to take a while, but that’s fine. I’m going to start in my office, since grad school starts next week. It would be nice to have a clear, clean workspace.

So there you have it! My goals for January in the Happiness Project. Every Friday, I will keep everyone up to date with how it’s going. Keep an eye on the comments, because my mom might pipe up with her progress too.