The science and study of happiness has long interested me. In 2011 I read a wonderful book, The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin, probably one of the best in the niche. That book profoundly influenced my life and thinking. I embarked on a Happiness Project of my own and even invited friends to join me in a happiness project group. In this post, I’ll share 8 things I’ve learned about happiness from my own happiness project and from reading several books about the topic.
Happiness Project: 8 things I’ve learned about happiness
1) Happiness is largely about what you do DAILY.
In All The Money in the World, Laura Vanderkam (another favorite author) explains that studies show that frequent, small experiences give you more happiness than rare, mind blowing ones. In her example, a woman would be far happier if her would-be husband, instead of blowing 3 months’ salary on an engagement ring, instead bought her flowers every week.
For most of us, reading a great book once a week may far exceed the happiness we would get from a yearly Disney trip. This is counter-intuitive (as is much of the findings about happiness!). Our brains favor the big, sexy, wow experiences. But the research is clear. We should be focusing more on creating daily habits, routines and rituals we enjoy.
If something is important to your sense of well being, you will likely find it easier to do that thing every single day. I find that for me, habits are more effective than goals in creating the life I want.
2) It’s often the little things that contribute most to happiness.
For many of us, not letting ourselves get too hungry and keeping our blood sugar under control have a huge impact on our moods. Taking a 20 minute nap every day and making the bed in the mornings are small things that contribute to happiness. A shade of lipstick that flatters me makes me smile. A good pen for my Bullet Journal.
Spending time outside every day is important for happiness. Many of us are more “nature deficit” than we realize. For me, if I forget to spend time in nature for even two days in a row, my mood takes a nosedive.
None of these little things are difficult to accomplish but they all give me a happiness boost, and probably you too.
3) It’s not selfish to give time and attention to your happiness.
In fact, it’s unselfish. Studies show that our mood affects not only our friends, but our friends’ friends. Happier people are nicer to be around, live longer and don’t drag others down with their negativity. By figuring out what makes you happy, you’re doing the entire world of mankind a solid.
4) When it comes to happiness, relationships are huge.
Relationships are probably the single most important factor when it comes to our happiness. Spending time with people you care about is typically our favorite thing to do. Figuring out how other people think (personality tests are fun for this) and feel and how they see the world and accepting them for who they are are vital to happy relationships.
5) Challenge = happiness
Happiness isn’t just found in lounging around on the beach, fruity adult beverage in hand. Turns out, our brains are hardwired to require challenge (just like our bodies!).
Pursing personal, financial, and work goals are vitally important to our well being.
6) Be Yourself
You’re not like everyone else, and what’s fun for you isn’t fun for everyone else. And that’s ok. One of the rules Gretchen repeats over and over in her is to “Be Gretchen“. Part of “Being Carrie” is to let go of things that don’t work… and being ok with that.
If you’ve forgotten what yourself enjoys (not uncommon, especially for moms!), try making a list. Keep it handy so that when that feeling of joy sneaks up on you, you can add it. As an example, when I ride my bike (something I procrastinate about sometimes), I find myself with a ridiculous, huge grin on my face… I don’t even realize how happy riding a bike makes me unless I’m paying attention!
“To be happier, you have to think about feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right, in an atmosphere of growth.” – Gretchen Rubin
7) Bad moods aren’t necessarily bad
While I’ve learned that there are effective ways to snap out of a bad mood, a bad mood isn’t always bad. Especially if you go backwards to figure out what causes a bad mood, you can learn something valuable about yourself and if possible, avoid those triggers in the future.
8) Perfectionism and comparison are huge happiness bandits
Reading the book Being Happy taught me that perfectionism is one of the biggest destroyers of happiness. I try very hard to avoid all or nothing, black/white type thinking for this reason too. Comparison is another stumbling block.
So that’s it in a nutshell. Have you read 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 or another good book about happiness?
What have you learned about your happiness?