5 Ways to Increase My Happiness

Self on 11.26.12
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Photo: Katherine Martinko

I just finished reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. (Yes, I’m aware of being a little behind the times; the book came out in 2009 and has been a bestseller ever since.) The gist of the book is that Rubin wants to be happier and stop taking life for granted. She conducts a year-long experiment called the Happiness Project, devoting each month to a particular area of growth. She also develops a Resolutions Chart that tracks her progress on a daily basis. While the idea of organizing my personal happiness with charts is intimidating and, knowing me, would likely diminish my happiness significantly, Rubin offers some valuable tips that I’ll be putting into action.

1. De-cluttering the house

Rubin cites a study that eliminating clutter would cut down the amount of housework in the average home by 40 percent. Reading her descriptions of closet-cleaning and hauling bags of unnecessary stuff to the thrift store fill me with longing and resolve to do some much-needed de-cluttering.

2. A Few Useful Tidying Tips

The “one-minute rule” states that you should never neglect to do a task that takes less than one minute to complete, i.e. hanging up a coat, putting away shoes. The “ten-minute rule” suggests taking ten minutes to tidy up the house before going to bed because doing a little bit over a long period of time can make a big difference.

3. “Do it now."

Nagging tasks without a deadline drag on and on, as we all know. It’s kind of ridiculous, because often it takes minimal effort to do them, but they’re so easy to put off. I’ve resolved finally to make a list and getting them off my plate and out of my mind.

4. Enjoying the Present

Rubin writes about the “arrival fallacy,” the belief that when you arrive at a certain destination, you’ll be happy: “This is a fallacy because, though you may anticipate great happiness in arrival, arriving rarely makes you as happy as you anticipate.” This is especially applicable to parenting, when it’s often tough to enjoy the frustrations of whiny kids, constant demands, incessant questions, and diaper changes; and yet, already the years are flying. I don’t want to look back and think, “Why didn’t I love it more while I was in the midst of it?”

5. Show up. Make an appearance.

As Woody Allen put it, “Eighty percent of success is showing up,” and the same goes for friends. Making the effort to get out there consistently and show up to events goes a long way in forging bonds with people. I want to make a greater effort to visit, entertain, and come up with ideas for social gatherings.

The Happiness Project is an entertaining read, full of statistics, quotes, and anecdotes about Rubin’s family and life as a professional writer. If these tips interest you, give the book a try; there are plenty more ideas there.

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