And since it’s carnival break for the next week I can just leave it on my desk:
Happiness is not having to put everything away all the time.
Wow. I can’t believe it’s February already. Well, I have to be late with this because I can’t travel in time yet. So months later I’ll finally write about my “year of happiness”. To recall, last year I decided to attempt a “happiness project” inspired by Gretchen Rubin. Basically you try to become happier by sticking to some rules of your own devising. So doing a happiness project is a very personal thing, and the rules might be different for each of us.
So I set out to achieve happiness (or at least being happier) by changing small things in my life. Not a sweeping gesture, or major life changes, just small, simple changes. The plan was to add a new rule each month but in the end I only had these rules:
I can tell you that following these rules really made me happier. And even more so when I really did those things and a little less when I only wanted to do those things. I’ll get around to that tomorrow for sure, ahem. And I have to add “act the way you like to feel” to the list as well. Excellent advise, and works astonishingly well.
I already knew it but still, small things make a notable difference in happiness. Happiness is not a state of perfect bliss, one big moment like the kiss after saying yes on your wedding day. Which, by the way, is only a moment of true happiness in movies, at least for me there have been many kisses before and after where I felt happier. Many moments where I could focus on the kiss itself as well, not on the fact that two dozen people were watching me plus a video camera.
So the happiness project definitely works and I can only encourage others to try it as well.
The other thing this project brought home to me was that all my mental adjustments, and rules, and stickers, and behavior changes still didn’t cut to the root of my unhappiness. Throughout that year I found out that a big fat part of my unhappiness is – physical. And this time I don’t mean my weight, though I still think that I’m overweight because I’m unhappy. But I’m also unhappy because there are things wrong with my body. And as a wise online friend reminded me a few days ago, your brain is part of your body.
And that is why this year, 2011, I’m concentrating on getting well not by changing my attitude but by getting to the physical reason for feeling unwell. It might seem a bit mundane but still, those rules that you see above aren’t looking that spiritual either. And I already found out some things but I better make that into another post.
The great thing about all this is that one can indeed become a happier person by following quite mundane rules. You don’t need to find the man of your dreams and ride with him on your pink, sparkly pony into the sunset. You can be happy now, in the life you live right now. Don’t need a million dollars, nothing.
That’s what being back to school does to you, all of a sudden you do things almost on time. I hope this goes on for a while, about a year would be nice, and then it could start all over again.
I find that these “happiness reports” depend very much on how a feel in the moment I’m writing them. Which is what everybody will tell you, that happiness is fleeting and can’t be fabricated. But I still think there can be a thing like lasting happiness, and no, I don’t mean contentment.
Yesterday I had one of those dreary teaching days where I felt that every student was slow, and clumsy, and a waste of time, and then I remembered one of Gretchen Rubin‘s mottos, “Act how you want to feel.”, and I was so successful in telling myself how much I enjoy teaching, and what nice and brilliant students I have that by the end of the day I was positively beaming.
Now you might say, “But those weren’t you’re true feelings!”. I have to confess that I’m not that sure about feelings being true at any given moment any more. With all those hormones racing around in my body, and with things like being hungry or tired making such a huge difference it might be hard to get to the bottom of a situation. Slowly I understand what buddhists mean when they say that feelings aren’t permanent, and ever changing. I have days when something tiny like taking a nap or reading something or deciding to act how I want to feel can turn my whole day around. So, since it’s possible to do that why not use it to my advantage. And in my case I had the additional advantage that my students are really lovely people, and so I know that it’s me when I feel like I can’t stand to hear another mangled version of a tune that’s not that great to start with. I don’t complain, I know that comes with the job. When you’re teaching people how to play an instrument you mainly sit there all day and listen to people play things they can’t play well yet. And every time they master something you go on to the next thing.
I only have to remind myself to sometimes listen to some music that’s played by a master to remind myself where we’re all going with this.
But back to my report. As you know by now I made yet another list of things that I want to change in order to become a happier person:
Usually I add something to this list every month. But this month I didn’t. I’m still thinking about the part where my mood is bad because of hormones. It’s now definite since my mood has been much more stable while I’m on chemical birth control. This is not a permanent solution since I have no desire to have a stroke in the near future but it helps isolating the problem.
The other thing I have been doing is to think about the way I eat again. I have been starting to re-read “Outsmarting the Midlife Fat Cell. Of course I did remember most of what Debra Waterhouse wrote about in that book but seeing it again was very good for me. I found that some of my new habits that I started in order to lose weight were quite counter-productive. Also that I don’t exercise enough. And that my portions are way too big. The thing is, I have been going to eating frequent small meals, and drinking like a camel that reaches an oasis after weeks in the desert, and all of a sudden my weight seems to creep downwards again. We’ll see how that goes in the long run, especially since I still tend to counter exhaustion with too much food, but I’m optimistic.
So eating like a sane person who enjoys food is my new goal for October.
The other thing that I started, and you surely have noticed by now is my knitting podcast. It’s in German because there is dire need for a German knitting podcast out there. Doing it makes me ridiculously happy. Especially since people seem to like it. I have plans of doing a sort of “best of”-edition in English at some point, we’ll see when that might happen.
Phew, that was a long one, wasn’t it? Anybody else out there striving for more happiness by making rules?
So, yes, I am definitely happier than I was last year, I’m doing something right here. Of course, I’m writing this now after a night of completely uninterrupted eight hours of sleep. If I had written it yesterday it might have turned out a bit different since I had 4 1/2 hours of sleep that were interrupted four times.
As I told you last month I made a bunch of resolutions. Those were:
The other thing that makes me happy is that I’m starting to lose weight. Well, to be honest I’m down by 100 grams over the last month but still that’s something because over the last two years my weight has been climbing up every single month. Losing weight is something I hope to achieve through becoming a happier person but I’d say the goal of happiness is much better than the one of getting slim.
The thing that makes me even happier than losing a hundred grams is that I might be starting to exercise again. I did some yoga on Sunday (very slow, very easy yoga that made me realize how much out of shape I am), and yesterday I did my very first ever “Couch to 5k”-workout. See, I’m decidedly not a runner. I’m not built for it, not even when I’m a normal weight and fit, and I have never been able to run for any length of time. But when I was thinking about what kind of person I want to be I found that I’m really envious of people like my husband who just put on their running shoes and then go off jogging through the fields for an hour or so. And then I thought about what Mel had started some time ago, and then I read Kris’ post about how she managed to run a marathon, and that got me motivated.
I didn’t know whether I should talk about it here because all I’ve done so far is alternately walk and jog for a total of thirty minutes once, and I did it at home just staying in one spot (and I know that’s not quite the same as moving forward while doing it, but trust me I did work out and I can feel every single muscle in my lower body right now). I’m not about to go out on the street with this anytime soon, and I’ll never run a marathon for sure, ever. But still. I feel pretty amazing having tried out something new. I plan to do the next session of walking and running tomorrow in the morning.
So this will be the fifth resolution in my “happiness project”, exercise three times a week or more.
You could say I have started my very own “happiness project“. I was not feeling happy in 2009 and the same in 2008 which I only recalled when I looked up my word of the year for 2009 and found out that a) the word wasn’t “healing” as I had thought, and b) in 2009 I was seriously disappointed with 2008.
I don’t want to go on adding one unhappy year to another. The question of course is “why so unhappy?” and there isn’t really an answer. My life isn’t particularly hard, all my loved ones are healthy and safe but you can see that I’m unhappy, you see it when you look at me and there are about 16 kilos of unhappiness on my frame that weren’t there before. Of course my first impulse was to focus on “do better, use more willpower, never eat sugar again”-plan but then that one never works. A case in point being that the two words I chose for 2009 were “discipline” and “abundance”, and by august I had already forgotten about them. Though I have to say, the “abundance”-part did happen. So that was nice. And I did find out what was wrong with me which helps with the healing (word of the year of 2008).
So, while I’m obviously doing something wrong with the whole word of the year concept I still want to chose one, like a motto for 2010 and I’m focusing on happiness. I have this feeling if I concentrate on being happy the rest of my life will fall into place as well. Now, first thing I did was order a book – well, okay, several. I bought “The happiness project“, of course. I have been a longtime fan of Gretchen’s blog and with that theme I had planned for this year, how could I not? I also bought “Refuse to Choose. A Revolutionary Program for Doing Everything That You Love”, and for good measure “Unclutter Your Life in One Week“.
I also made a couple of resolutions because only thinking yourself happy is not enough, I know from experience that there will be some doing in the process, and that the road to feeling happier is also plastered with tiny little baby steps that might make me feel worse in the short run. So my resolutions so far are:
So, I wish you a very happy year 2010. Have you made any resolutions? Broken them already?