I’ve been reading a book recently by Gretchen Rubin, “The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean my Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun.” The book follows a woman as she dedicates a year to diligently trying to improve her demeanors, attitudes, and habits towards herself, her daily life, and those around her.
I distinctly remember one of my roommates in college reading this book when it first came out, and I’ve been meaning to read it ever since. This year, I’ve been focusing on reading in a different way. First, I’m trying to read books that have been on my “to-read” list for a while. I’ve also been trying to read more regularly (instead of in random spurts as I used to) and more intellectually. Basically, since I no longer have the excuse that my intellectual reading is coming from schoolwork, I’m trying to intersperse nonfiction into my usual diet of young adult fiction/erotica/chick lit. Part of this is part of a larger project of bettering myself, but in other ways, I’m generally curious about the subject matter of these books and I really need some more PC examples for happy hour conversations :).
Anyhow, I’ll do a longer review when I’m done, but I’m only 39% finished and there’s already been a huge positive impact on my life from reading it. First, one of the things the author did to raise her energy in one month was to “get rid of nagging tasks.” This resonated with me, as I’m the queen of procrastination. I work well under pressure, but I am always hugely guilty or distracted by all these little things I know I should have already done, and it drags me down. The tasks are always there, nagging, overwhelming me from the recesses of my brain.
Reading about the author’s experience inspired me, so I made a penultimate to-do list of all the things I’ve been putting off, some for months. There were immediate ones – taxes, car administrative things with my apartment. There were family ones since I’m horrid at keeping in touch. I’ve been slowly working my way down the list, and I already feel amazingly better for getting shit done, finally. I recommend this to everyone.
Honestly, making the list, doing things on the list, and my general focus on resolutions this year has made such a difference in my life already. I’ll focus more on growth and basic needs in another post, but I feel like I’m achieving a new level of having my shit together, and I like it.
Along similar lines, another quote from the book stuck out to me today more than anything else thus far. The author wrote:
To eke out the most happiness from an experience, we must anticipate it, savor it as it unfolds, express happiness, and recall a happy memory.
This is simple, but incredibly profound to me. These steps ring true, and they are exactly why lists and my blog have been improving my happiness over the last few years and months. One, making lists (goals) and filling my calendar in advance may seem ridiculously Type A, but they let me prolong the anticipation (and they help me keep track of things I may otherwise forget). Two, my blog provides a way to express my happiness without having to worry if I’m boring someone or seen as attention-seeking/bragging. Three, my blog and my lists allow me to recall happy memories.
Moreover, my awesomeness journal has been helping my recall happy memories in a new way that I’m really enjoying. Basically, once a week, I post a private blog entry recalling all the happy moments from the last week. They can be little things – my office getting a kuerig machine made the list – or certain moments I shared with friends, etc. When I have a blue moment, I can click my little “awesomeness journal” category and see all the amazing things I’ve been blessed to experience over the last several weeks. It’s amazing. Again, highly recommend this practice.
Randomly, I think this 4-step happiness process is part of why I get such unexpected joy from the site Goodreads. It lets me anticipate reading books, savor the experience as I update my progress, express my happiness through reviews and recommendations, and recall memories when I look back to see what books I’ve read. Someone marketed reading in such a way as to optimize the happiness you can take from it. It makes me wonder if other companies have also considered this, and what level of that type of thinking, if any, goes into marketing campaigns.