After a whirlwind 2011 year, I'm hoping to update my blog with greater regularity in 2012. My yearly ritual of new years' resolutions has continued; however, this year for the very first time, I have only one single resolution: to be happier at this time next year than I am right now.
Along that vein, I've begun looking for opportunities for increasing happiness in my life, that I'd like to share with everyone. One of my favorite blogs has been 'The Happiness Project' by Gretchen Rubin. [http://www.happiness-project.com/] Taking her website as inspiration, I have created my own 12 Happiness Commandments for myself. As I begin to use these in my life, I'll let you know how they turn out.
Stacey's 12 Commandments
1) Act as you want to feel. Otherwise known as 'fake it 'til you make it'. It's more than just putting on a happy face, though. It's not about being inauthentic - it's about making a leap. If I want to feel energetic, I should try doing something energetic. If I want to feel calm, I should engage in something calming.
2.) Get up. Get moving. Do it now. I am the biggest procrastinator couch potato in the world! I would much rather sit and avoid reality than engage it. The funny thing is though, when I look at my happiest days, it's always the days I'm up exploring and doing something. I feel better when I've had physical activity. I feel better when I've gotten things accomplished and checked off my 'to do' list. No more Project Runway re-run marathons: if I feel bored and lethargic, I should get up and get moving immediately.
3.) You matter. Set boundaries. Simplify. You know, quite often I find it hard to take my own needs into account. Since I'm very empathetic, I it's difficult for me to create boundaries that may not optimally impact others in my life. I often find myself overwhelmed, feeling pulled in every direction. However, I need to stop factoring myself and my own needs out of that equation.
4.) Put positive effort toward good. This is kind of a life philosophy for me generally, but it also applies as a commandment because a lot of times I can be easily daunted by big picture stuff and not know where to start. For instance - finding happiness. That's kind of a tall order. Maybe I don't need a detailed plan. Maybe I just need to blunder in the general direction and thereby gain some foreward momentum.
5.) Ask for what you need. I pretty much never do this. I'm terrified of asking for help. I expect myself to be superwoman and do everything, effortlessly, at all times. I refuse to admit defeat or failure. I'm also afraid of being a nag, of putting someone else out, of being percieved as bitchy. All of this, of course, is ridiculous. It's perfectly natural given my personality type, but it's detrimental to my happiness. Therefore, I must begin to recognize when help is needed and then open my mouth and ask for it. This may take some work.
6.) Give and let go (or don't do it). So, I'm a big fan of the big gold stars. I love doing things for people and I love when they take notice. People-pleaser? That's me 100%. Which means, of course, that I'm really bummed when my deeds go unnoticed. Since I have now identified this as a source of sadness, my new plan is to begin evaluating things that I plan to do with an eye for whether I am able to let go of the outcome. If I need something back from it (a big honkin' gold star) in order to make the task worth my time, then I shouldn't be doing it. It needs to be fulfilling for me in its own right - not an investment for a future reward.
7.) Be satisfied; don't maximize. So, I'm definitely a maximizer. When looking for a new camera, I have to evaluate every single camera in existence prior to picking the absolute perfect one. The problem is that I'm often either disappointed or constantly nervous that there was one more out there that I should have held out for. Studies show that 'satisfiers' are happier than 'maximizers'. A satisfier would have specifically listed their criteria and, when they went camera shopping, the moment all of their criteria were met, would buy the camera and be ultimately more satisfied with it. The more I think about the issue, the more I'm wondering why I waste so much time on researching 'things' anyway. My time could be better spent doing things that are ultimately more rewarding to me.
8.) Feel and accept your feelings. Oooh, is this a rough one for me. I recently read 'what we resist, persists'. I am probably the queen of resistance. But I have learned that confronting feelings head-on really does release them, and I'm definitely happier afterwards. I think I'm just perpetually embarassed and afraid I'll end up a permament puddle on the ground if I release my feelings. This, of course, is ridiculous to hear myself admit out loud. But I accept that.
9.) Be kind. This is actually a rough one for me. I'm not a very kind person, as horrible as that sounds. I tend to react to people too often in frustration and agitation rather than by being sympathetic. But that reachest it's highest magnification when turned on myself. I remember Natalie Goldberg talking about nurturing a 'kind voice' in her head. She said we would never speak to our close friends the way we berate ourselves incessantly in our own heads. Nurturing this 'kind inner voice' is definitely necessary to happiness.
10.) Be present. Don't rehearse unhappiness. Another rough one. I don't know about you, but I ruminate about past mistakes and future (absolutely unrealistic) catastrophic life events entirely too much. Being caught in this creates a perpetual loop of self-resentment and fear, both of which are absolutely unnecessary. The past events are resolved and need to be let go of. The future events almost uniformly never come to pass in the way I fear. The only outcome of thes thought loops is to actively rob me of present happiness.
11.) Buy happiness. This may need a little explaining. Studies show that if you want to spend your money in a way that gives you the greatest amount of happiness, you should not invest it in 'things', you should always invest it in experiences. Which is contrary to what you may think. I mean, why waste hard-earned money on dinner and a movie, which is fleeting, when you can buy something you really want and have it forever? Because buying an object gives you an initial boost of adrenaline, but quickly it loses its novelty and becomes part of the background. However, an experience not only brightens your mood while engaging in it, the memory of that experience continues to lift your mood later when you recall it again. There are other ways to buy happiness as well - spending it to pay down debt is one; this reduces stress of being, well, in debt. Also spending money on novel experiences like visiting museums or going to see a play -- stretching our minds in new ways always makes us happier. Finally, and probably most importantly, is using money to spend more time with friends and family. One of the greatest factors to increased happiness comes from our relationships.
12.) Pause to take it in. This is on the list because I almost never do this anymore. I'm always rushing around. Even when I see something new, I'm whipping out the camera to snap a picture. I need to take a moment. Breathe. Enjoy, just for a moment, being where I am.
What about you? Any New Year's Resolutions? Does anyone out there have any commandments of your own? Let me know if you check out Gretchen's blog and what you think.