Happiness is something we all strive for. Writer Gretchen Rubin made it her mission when undertaking her Happiness Project — a year of making small changes and keeping resolutions to with the goal to be happier — that generated a book and blog.
She made resolutions like, “Don’t Expect Praise or Appreciation,” “Keep a Gratitude Notebook,” and “Be Generous.” Since her book came out she has tried to keep all of her resolutions and has been largely successful.
This year, Gretchen will release a new book, Happier at Home, with new resolutions on happiness that focus around the home, time, possessions and the body.
So what are ways to increase happiness? Gretchen focuses on four questions:
- How can you increase the “feeling good” in your life? What are things that make you feel excited and enthusiastic? Bring more of these things into your life.
- How can you get rid of things that make you feel bad? What are sources of guilt, anger, resentment, boredom, anxiety? Eliminating these things is an important part of happiness.
- Do you feel that your life reflects your values? It’s hard to be happy if it doesn’t.
- Is there an atmosphere of growth in your life? Growth is important as an engine of happiness.
“There are little things you can do as part of an ordinary routine that can make you happier,” Gretchen affirms. In her home, she focuses on what she enjoys and loves and has carved out spaces for those things, calling them areas of “super engagement.”
“I really love children’s literature and I want my home to reflect this too. So I have an area for children’s literature. I cleared off bookshelves and put all my books there,” she explained. “Now when I’m in that area it feels different, more alive than it did when they were all spread out.”
In your own home, Gretchen says, “think, where do I put myself into a mode to get excited about something? How can I carve out that space?”
For a quick happiness boost, jump up and down, Gretchen says. “If you jump up and down a few times, you cheer yourself up. It’s energetic, goofy, childlike and playful.”
A drain on happiness seems to be clutter, Gretchen observes. Here are techniques to combat it:
- The one minute rule: “Anything I can do in less than a minute I have to do without delay.”
- Take 10 minutes every night before you go to bed to tidy up.
- Go “shelf by shelf.” When you have some free time, look at whatever’s in front of you — a shelf, drawer, cabinet — and organize it. Clear out what doesn’t belong.
- Be careful about what you let in. “When we own things we value them more… So if you accept that free coffee cup from the bank, once it’s in your house it’s hard to get it out.”
What Gretchen has discovered is, “It’s possible to make yourself happier within the confines of your ordinary day. You don’t need to wait for the day when you can do a two week meditation retreat or quit your job and have a totally new life.”
Find ways to create your own Happiness Project on Gretchen’s blog.
By Sarah Tobol, Editor