Smile File – What actually makes me happy?

Continuing my pursuit of a happier, lighter, more positive and more content life I picked up Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project, which someone on Litsy had recommended I read. I knew it was good and exactly what I needed when I realised I couldn’t stop taking notes – I embraced it! One thing struck me early in the piece, as Gretchen was discussing what resolutions she was going to focus on in her own year-long happiness project; I didn’t really know what made me happy at all.

I asked Mr Good what he thought made me happy, hoping someone close would have more insight about me than I did. His immediate response, reading! He’s right, that definitely makes me happy but it seemed too simple, too mundane. I do that everyday but I’m certainly not happy every day. I put the thought aside and read one. So much of what Rubin wrote struck a chord with me, and a few things really didn’t… but the point she made repeatedly was that her project was for her and wouldn’t work for anyone else. You have to build your own happiness profile. So here are a few things that I took from the book and a couple of ideas about what actually makes me happier that I will hopefully build into my life a bit more.

Thoughts from the book:

  1. Eliminating clutter cuts down up to 40% of housework!
  2. Don’t expect praise or appreciation – do something because You want to, need to or because it will make YOU feel better/happier.
  3. What you do everyday matters more than what you do every once in a while.
  4. There is a negativity bias – this means that you need far more positive interactions to counteract a few negative ones (think about how this impacts on relationships/marriage). Related – avoid criticism, look for the positives
  5. Happiness is improved if you have a sense of purpose and growth (this explains why studying is so important to me)
  6. The more parts that makeup your self-identity the less threatening it is when one is lost (I think I have few which is why losing my job left such a hole)
  7. Tell yourself, “It’s fun to fail” (then apply for the jobs that seem out of reach)
  8. Singing makes me happy
  9. Remembering happy times makes you happier (photos are important)
  10. Anticipation gives as much happiness as an event (so embrace/enjoy the planning)
  11. Staying connect is possibly to most universally important way to build happiness – maintain friendships, do the little things, look for new friendships.
  12. Use your best stuff now – don’t save it for “special”.
  13. Spend your money mindfully.
  14. Ideas for keeping a journal (1 sentence journal, gratitude journal)
  15. Pursue a passion
  16. Meditation works for lots of people, but you need to find the right way for you.
  17. Use humour and tenderness to make a point, rather than anger or irritation.
  18. Listen intently, don’t interrupt.
  19. Find a mental area of refuge – things to think about when you find yourself dwelling on negative thoughts.

I probably should have added another one to make it a nice round number, but I don’t feel the need to pad.

Now, how are these thoughts and ideas going to lead to change? That is not entirely clear right now, but I have a few key priorities.

  1. The next job I have has to add to my happiness. This is hugely important to me and means that I need to be selective and thoughtful. I have refused one job already this year because I knew I’d hate it.  I need to be brave enough to do that until the right one comes along.
  2. If reading and singing makes me happy I should make sure I find time to do that whenever I can. The reading part is really not an issue, but at least I can do it with more purpose and without guilt. As for the singing part, I’ve started a Spotify playlist of songs that make me happy to sing, it’s totally daggy and with lots of Dolly Parton and 80s pop (Miss Six now things Cindi Lauper is the greatest thing ever!). I put it on when I’m cooking, cleaning, playing with the kids ( in fact I have it on now).
  3. A messy, cluttered house increases my anxiety and I should say that more openingly. I’ve done a couple of things for this. Firstly I cleared a couple of troublesome dumping zones and put up signs that say No Dumping. I feel so much lighter seeing clear surfaces. I’ve also put reminders for myself around the house – these say “Remember the one minute rule” (if it takes less than a minute put it away/do it now). Finally, I’ve started a ten minute family evening pack up time. For ten minutes we all work to clean an area up. I did this so I wouldn’t feel so resentful that I seem to do all the tidying and cleaning.put in them.
  4. Keep/record happy memories. I pinched this one straight from the book, but I intend to make the girls files boxes with one file for each year to keep their certificates, photos, mementos etc. I also want to get some standard sized photo frames and get photos printed from holidays etc so I can see these happy times everyday.
  5. Exercise is important, I feel better and sleep better, but I find it boring. I need to find ways of doing exercise that I like and keep up some variety – not the same thing each time. I need some help in this department. Ideas?
  6. Look for where the stress comes from and how to eliminate it. I cant always do this, but there are small things that drive me crazy. One has always been mealtimes. That is definitely getting better as the kids get older. But I’ve also started doing things like the candle (mentioned in a previous post), putting the food on the table so everyone can serve themselves and making sure I cook some sure-fire winners. Another thing I find stressful is the constant nagging of the kids to pack their things away. The steps I’ve taken to combat this include shutting their bedroom door and not worrying about what’s on the other side – it’s not my problem. I’ve told them I won’t enter if it’s too messy which means I won’t help them look for missing shoes, ipads, teddy bears etc. This sometimes backfires though and it hasn’t motivated them to tidy up at all. I need some better strategies for this.
  7. Keep up the personal growth (studying, challenging jobs, career goals etc)
  8. Lastly, I’ve started looking for more fun in everyday life. I love listening to the kids laughing hysterically, so anything that brings that on makes me feel good (it usually involves fart jokes). I dance crazily, make up terrible jokes, do silly voices or silly walks. One day Miss Six commented in complete shock at how happy I seemed (now that’s pretty telling!)

There’s two other things I’ve noticed in all this thinking about happiness. Firstly, on days when I’ve managed to do a lot of the things that make me happier, the things that usually make me cross don’t bother me so much. I yell less, I snap less, I can see the positives ahead of the negatives, I can make a joke of it. Secondly, Mr Good seems happy that I’m working on my own happiness. This might seem obvious, but he’s usually pretty blase about my “little projects”. Makes me think my lack of happiness has been more of an issue than I thought.

And to finish I’d like to ask you, what makes you happy? Are you more aware of yourself than I was? I hope so. Please share!

Barbara

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One Response to Smile File – What actually makes me happy?

  1. Pingback: 2017 Book Round Up | The New Good Life

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