10 January 2014

Do I Need to be Happier? Well, no but also yes.

One of the my favorite people to read, both books and blog, is Gretchen Rubin.  She wrote The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun as well as Happier at Home: Kiss More, Jump More, Abandon Self-Control, and My Other Experiments in Everyday Life.  I read Happier at Home about a year ago, and again about three months ago, but I hadn't read The Happiness Project until now.  The next few blog posts will be my thoughts as I read through the book and how I see it impacting my life.  Hope you enjoy!

First of all, I love this kind of writing.  If I ever wrote a book, this is exactly the way I would want to write.  It's a combination of sociology, psychology, philosophy and other extensive research condensed down and applied to her personal life.  It's intimate, talking about her own struggles and shortcomings as a wife and mother, but not in such a way that is shaming of her husband, daughters or other family members.  Anyway, it surpasses straight memoir, because of all the knowledge she's dropping, but it is much more engaging that reading all that background data for myself.

So in reading this book, I feel like I have to explain (as indeed she wrestles with during the first chapter of the book) if I really need to increase happiness in my life.  Contrary to some of my whining and complaining about certain aspects of my life, I am very happy and have a great life, but hey! I could always be happier, and open my life and mind up to enjoy more.  I'm even willing to put in the work, because it does indeed take work.

After identifying twelve major concepts, Rubin assigns each month with a theme, planning to build on the themes as the year passes, rather than passing from one to the next.  She starts with Energy, which I keep thinking is such a great theme for this season of my life.  I keep reminiscing about this stage of pregnancy with Wesley when I was sleeping 10 hours a night and taking a nap almost every afternoon.  Not many naps and a bit of insomnia in my life this time round, so I'll take any tips I can get on boosting energy!

Each theme is broken down into several specific resolutions.  For Energy she resolved to:
     * Go to sleep earlier.
     * Exercise better.
     * Toss, restore, organize
     * Tackle a nagging task.
     * Act more energetic.
I'll spare you all the personal reflections and notes I've made from this chapter (because if you're really interested, you should just read the book!), but here are three things I've been inspired by.

"Do what ought to be done."
This has two basic applications for me.  Sometimes I need motivation to just get stuff done and crossed off my to-do list rather than sit on my bum watching "Deal or No Deal."  The other application is that "nothing is insurmountable if done little by little."  That is really encouraging to me at this moment, when I have three weeks until my maternity leave starts, and several major work projects to get to a good spot before I take off.  Rationing my time and attention between Lahash work, personal work, baby preparation, husband and son...all the while shaking my fist at the Tanzanian power company which turns off the power for several hours a day (usually during critical moments, like when Wesley is napping!).  Still, if I take small steps and celebrate those victories, I find that my energy and happiness are noticeably increased.

The One Minute Rule
Related to the small steps I just mentioned, I have noticed that my nesting instinct, paired with the pressures of preparation for the baby in the midst of mild chaos, I really value this new rule.  If it can be done in under a minute, do it now.  This has inspired me to invest a moment here and a moment there in things like clearing my desktop or putting away a stack of clothes or refilling my drinking water.  These are things that I might have viewed as time wasters in view of the larger tasks, but my overall clarity of mind and attention to the major task at hand is definitely benefited by following the One Minute Rule.

Act More Energetic
This one ties most closely to my interactions with the family, since I don't have loads of physical energy.  I really don't feel like taking my feet off my desk (weirdly, the most comfortable work position I've found to accommodate my giant belly) to build Wesley a blanket fort, but it increases both of our happiness levels if I pretend to have more energy than I really do.  This thought has also been motivating me first thing in the morning, when all I want is another hour of sleep, but if I act like I got enough sleep, my day seems more manageable.

I might embark on a "real" happiness project after the baby is born, but these small lessons, along with many others I'm picking up, are already having an effect on me.  Would any of these three rules help your energy and happiness?

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