If happiness is good for your health, what are you doing about it?
Yesterday I blogged about new research that shows a connection between mental and physical health. Deborah Kotz at U.S. News and World Report blogged about the same topic — but took it much farther by interviewing Gretchen Rubin, a New Yorker who spent a year working on making herself happier then wrote about it in The Happiness Project.
While I love the idea of a happiness project, the whole thing sounds a bit daunting. In just the first month of your project, you worked on exercising more, improving your sleep habits, and decluttering your closets. How can the average working parent do all of that?
It’s true I do hundreds of resolutions, and maybe that’s not realistic for someone who doesn’t have this project as her day job. But most of the things that I found to be effective don’t require hours of work. For most people it’s just about turning off the light a little earlier at night to, say, get more sleep and energy. Pick out a few things that you think will make you happier and stick with those; seeing that they do indeed make you happier will give you the incentive to try other things.
The million-dollar question is: How do you stick with all these resolutions? Are you keeping yours?
Every day is a new test. I also consider it a fresh start so if I screw up one day, I can start anew the next. By and large, I’m following these resolutions because they’ve made me a lot happier. I also keep a resolutions chart—an idea I got from Benjamin Franklin—and every night I review my list and check off the ones that I’ve followed. I think it’s important to hold yourself accountable to keep commitments from falling by the wayside.
And if you’re inspired to try your own happiness project, Gretchen offers resources on her Web site.
The main ideas I took away from the interview were:
- it’s up to each of us to actively manage our lives to be happier, rather than passively experiencing happiness as something that happens to us
- if you are unhappy, you have the power to change that — maybe you won’t love everything about your life but you can make it better
- what makes each of us happy is different so we need to prioritize our own wants and needs
What makes me happier? Some simple happy-makers include:
- a clean desk
- making a good dinner at home
- listening to upbeat music by a band I like
- getting exercise
- checking items off my to-do list
- a deep, thought-provoking conversation with a friend
- a good night’s sleep
- doing something nice for John
- exploring someplace new
I could go on, but my point is that lots of things make me happy that are in my control. I can make good progress on my work to-do list, clean off my desk, head to the gym, put on good music while we cook dinner then go to bed at a reasonable hour. Bam!
What are you doing to make yourself happier? What could you do?