My daily working routine includes stumbling around the internet, researching various off the cuff comments, words, tad bits of nutrition information that has crossed my auditory path. On some days, I find gems of information that inspire me and take me down a rabbit hole. Burying myself in information, I search and search until I am satisfied, I have learn enough about the subject to pass on useful information to clients and implementation into my own life. The happiness project was one of those rare finds you want to embrace and tell the world about.
Fundamentally The happiness project is a book written by a women Gretchen Rubin. The Arthur is a typical working family woman. She has a nice family, loving husband and you can say she is ultimately happy. Gretchen believes she is generally happy and blessed, but feels she could be happier. She wanted to find if there was happiness threshold.
It seems a bit trivial, with all the wrong things in the world to focus on such a selfish thing. As she puts it, being happy within your own life allows you to be a better person, serve more people and increase the happiness of those around you.
Just like Gretchen, I’ve had a lot of successes. I come from a loving family, financial security, I have a close circle of friends and a cute doggie I adore. I appreciate, everything I have. On some days though, like everyone does. I stand staring at the mirror thinking, is this really what I’m supposed to be doing with my life? Am I really that happy?
As the writer suggests happiness is partly genetically determined. It’s true some people are capable of being more happy that others. This is also based on personality and social upbringing. However we can still work on being more happy and hit our happiness threshold.
I might just note here, when I am talking about this type of happiness and reaching maximum threshold, I am addressing the happiness we feel after all our basic needs have been met. Our basic needs are having enough food to eat, feeling like we have a secure place to live, feeling safe in our environment and little financial worries. I would argue that ultimate happiness can not really be achieved unless basic needs are met.
What really interests me in exploring this idea of ultimate happiness, is the problem we see in our society in Australia. People in middle and upper class brackets have everything, yet some how we feel dissatisfied with life. Often turning to drugs and alcohol to escape from the world. How is that possible?
Why are people unhappy?
Primarily because people take things for granted and do not appreciate things. However, if you’re like me and do practice gratitude, then you must realise that happiness exists along a continuum. You can be happy in retrospect, but not as elated in the present moment when you are experiencing an event. Take for example when I do my crazy sporting events like Tough Mudder or even the half marathon. Whilst I am running the only thing I am thinking about is how much its hurting and where is that blasted finish line! I am not running along thinking how wonderful it to have woken up at 5am to run, in pain amongst thousands of crazy people. I would say during the event, I’m hating it. Ask me during the race if I would do it again and the answer would be HELL NO! Yet I go back and sign up for another every year.
The happiness that I feel, occurs days after I finish the race. The muscular pain subsides and I’ve been able to brag to a few people, then I sit back and think “I can’t believe, I did that?”. Happiness comes from the feeling of accomplishment well after the event itself.
In day to day life, happiness or feeling accomplished is often delayed. This is can be a problem. We don’t often see immediate reward for our actions, delaying happiness till weeks or often months later. Its for this reason, we need to create opportunities to create happiness in our life every day.
How to be happy
Even though you may be generally content with life, you may not recognise happiness until well after the event. Take for example when you look back at old photos and think to yourself “those where the good times” or “I really loved that job”. Often at the time you didn’t feel like that, but years later you recognise how content you were. This is partly because we become immune to “happy things” meaning, what made us happy before, may make us happy again but on a slightly diluted scale. We get used to it and take it for grated. You may also change your perspective on life, grown and matured. What makes you happy now, may not have necessarily made you happy then.
Happiness is subjective feeling
I could never understand how men get so much joy out of fixing and polishing their cars. Let me go shopping and I am in prime happiness mode. Which would be a mans worst nightmare! What makes me happy, will not necessarily make you happy. Thats why we need to come up with our own unique happiness plans.
In the Happiness project book, Gretchen decides to come up with her 12 commandments of what she feels would her day-to-day happiness. She focuses on implementing one commandment per month for a year. With the hope that she will have more memorable happy moments and feel better day to day. I guess in a way give her life more meaning, by being more pleasant to the people she loves.
Now 12 is a bit much for me to be honest I had trouble coming up with just 5. So I urge you to come up with your own set of commandments and tackle them month by month. Remember this is your happiness, no one else’s. Commandments aren’t there to change anyone, they are solely based on your actions alone. Your happiness can’t be enhanced by asking someone to change their behaviour, you need to change your mind set or your own behaviour to feel better. So here it goes..
My top 5 happiness commandments
Spend less money and save
- Utilise all the clothes I have to their full potential. Plan outfits at the start of the week. I will take my time to try on new combinations of clothing, so when I wear my outfits I feel fresh without having to buy new clothes all the time.
- Drive safer to avoid speeding fines and parking fines. This may mean giving more time to commute and park rather than mucking around at home getting dressed.
Go to bed earlier
- Set my alarm clock to go off at 10pm. Turn off the lights and kick the dog out of the room.
- Avoid checking my phone, reading Facebook posts after my bed time.
- Finish my house work on the weekends, so I don’t get stuck doing it late at night.
Build stronger social connections
- Call my friends more often instead of texting.
- Arrange to visit my family friends at least once a month.
- Remember birthdays (This is my worst, I’ve been told off by friends on numerous occasions for forgetting their birthdays)
- Invite people out when I am heading out on the weekends instead of going solo
- Organise workouts to catch up with my crazy fitness friends.
- Give people chances to explain themselves rather that cutting them out of my circle because I am hurt
Be cautious about the people I let into my life
- Introduce people into my life in short bouts initially to ascertain weather they are good for me to spend time with.
- Evaluate situations faster and stick to actions in line with gut feelings.
Learn to just leave it alone
- Know that I can’t finish doing every thing in such a short period of time
- Learn to say no, or that I need more time
- Set boundaries with people
- Turn off the computer and try again the following day.
- Pick your battles wisely and leave debating for the professional space not online on Facebook or Twitter.
What I also found useful in the book is Gretchen makes a list of helpful phrases she learnt as an adult. This I found extremely useful, especially when your in the wrong head space. when your feeling alone, defeated, jealous or angry. On different occasions throughout my life each one of these phrases has helped me radically accept situations or build confidence to carry on. Here are my ten help phrases;
10 things I have learn’t as an adult
- Attractiveness is not what you’re wearing, it’s you, so smile!
- Smiles are interpreted positively all over the world, they help you make friends.
- People are autonomous creatures don’t try to control them, accept and let be.
- Your love can’t be bought, people have to act and show they care. If they don’t they don’t deserve you.
- Fear of weight gain is unfounded if you build healthy behaviours and have the knowledge to change things.
- Your standards are not everyone else’s standards
- Act ethically and on your morals, don’t sell your soul.
- Every thing tastes so much better when your hungry.
- When you stare into your wardrobe full of clothes it makes you feel guilty, other people have far less than you, don’t complain you have nothing to wear.
- You can’t choose your family, they choose you. Shut up and walk away
These are the mantras and how I cope with life! The idea is that the things you learnt as an adult should be a tool that helps you achieve your commandants. I urge you to make a list of things that will make you happy, that is based on material things. You know why? Material things make you some what happy for a few brief moments. Your interaction with others, accomplishing and changing behaviours will keep you happy forever. What’s on your list?