I will be doing my usual happiness project check-in soon for July, but as it's about halfway through 2011 (I know! Can you believe it?), I thought I should take a longer moment to stop and reflect on the progress I've made so far this year.
In the book The Happiness Project, Gretchen talks about how she is constantly asked whether she's happier since undertaking her project. It's a tough question. Unlike what I call joy, happiness is a mercurial emotion that doesn't pervade every moment. Whether you're "happier" could mean whether you have more moments of happiness, or whether you have an overall feeling of contentment about your life, or whether you have a more positive attitude toward everyday events.
(By the way, if you haven't taken the survey of positive feelings yet, what are you waiting for? I'm stuck at 43 responses and I want at least 50 before I do any kind of fun analysis.)
Gretchen posted some questions to help reflect on the year's project so far. I'll use those to help myself think through what I've done so far.
Have you followed any resolutions that have made a particular difference to your happiness?
I would say there's four different ways that my resolutions have helped me to be happier:
- Some of my resolutions were aimed squarely at reducing negative feelings. Exercising and flossing regularly have eliminated the guilt about what I "should" be doing and just generally help me feel like I'm taking care of myself.
- Having monthly themes, even when I don't follow all of the resolutions, has helped train my mind on the Big Things that I want to keep at the forefront of my daily life. Faith. Gratitude. Relationships. Laughter. It's like a constant, subconscious reminder of where my life focus should be, which is the first step toward acting in accordance with those values.
- Just the very act of making small resolutions and keeping them has given me a little push toward doing all sorts of things. Even though I'm terrible at keeping my "pay a compliment" resolution, I have gotten better at making conversation with strangers, even if it's just saying one sentence where I would have previously nodded and smiled. I've been trying to follow the one-minute rule: do something now if it will take less than one minute. Just knowing that I get a boost from doing the things I want to do can be enough to push me to do something at the moment I think, "I should do that."
- Perhaps paradoxically, feeling like I have more control over my life has helped me to "let go and let God" more than before. Before starting my happiness project I don't think I would have trusted myself to stop nagging Mike for all of Lent, but knowing that I would follow through forced me to trust God that it would work out fine. And it did.
How have you kept yourself accountable?
I used a free monthly calendar template and added in my list of resolutions for each day. I check them off at the end of the day. This has turned out to be an incredibly good system for two reasons:
- One, just having to be accountable, even to a piece of paper, is enough to push me to follow through.
- Two, seeing that same list every day for a month get those resolutions ingrained in my brain so I remember what I want to focus on as I'm going through my day.
Have you tried resolutions that didn't work? Or that you just couldn’t stick with?
Reading funny books was pretty much a disaster because my sense of humor is so different from everyone I got recommendations from. Also, as I've said, I haven't been able to pay a compliment every day. And I am going to reformat my gratitude/anticipation journal for the second half of the year. Oh, and I also abandoned the once-a-week Neti Pot idea. I'll just stick to my allergy meds, thanks.
I highly recommend trying out a happiness project, or at the very least, making yourself a chart of a few small resolutions you think would make the biggest difference in your life. You might be surprised!
What small things do you do that make the biggest difference in your happiness? What would you like to do that you think could make a difference?