You may know Gretchen Rubin from her blog here on Shine or you may be a regular visitor to her main site, The Happiness Project. Now our hometown girl has gone and written a New York Times bestseller. Here, Gretchen shares some of her tested ways to get happy.
What is a Happiness Project?
A "happiness project" is an approach to changing your life. First is the preparation stage, when you identify what brings you joy, satisfaction, and engagement, and also what brings you guilt, anger, boredom, and remorse. Second is the making of resolutions, when you identify the concrete actions that will boost your happiness. Then comes the interesting part: keeping your resolutions.
What were your three favorite, most successful aspects of your Happiness Project?
1. To test the notion that "novelty and challenge bring happiness," I started a blog. My blog, The Happiness Project, has turned into a gigantic engine of happiness for me.
2. To foster friendship, I followed the resolution to "Join or start a group." I've joined or started eleven groups since I began my happiness project, and almost all of them have been huge sources of happiness.
3. To follow my Personal Commandment to "Be Gretchen," I embraced my passion for children's literature. I combined this with #2, above, and started a book group for people who love children's and young-adult literature. From this, I've made tons of friends and had tons of fun -- and reclaimed a passion that I'd long squelched.
Was there anything you did before the Happiness Project to feel good that you no longer think is effective?
I'm very wary of the urge to "treat" myself. Usually a "treat" isn't good for me and doesn't make me happy in the long run. That's why it's something that I usually don't allow myself to indulge in!
Happiness isn't a permanent state, so what tips do you have for dealing with those naturally down moments?
1. Boost your energy: stand up and pace while you talk on the phone or, even better, take a brisk ten-minute walk outside. Research shows that when people move faster, their metabolism speeds up, and the activity and sunlight are good for your focus, your mood, and the retention of information.
2. Reach out to friends: make a lunch date or get in touch with a friend you haven't seen in a while. Having warm, close bonds with other people is the KEY to happiness, so take the time to stay in touch. Somewhat surprisingly, socializing boosts the moods not only of extroverts, but also of introverts.
3. Rid yourself of a nagging task: answer a difficult email, do an errand you've been putting off, or call to make that dentist's appointment. Crossing an irksome chore off your to-do list will give you a big rush of energy and relief.
4. Lay the groundwork for some future fun: order a book you've been wanting to read (important: not something you think you should read) or plan an excursion to a museum, hiking trail, sporting event, gardening store, movie theater-whatever sounds like fun. Studies show that having fun on a regular basis is a pillar of happiness, and anticipation is an important part of that pleasure.
5. Do a good deed: make an email introduction of two people who could help each other, or set up a blind date, or shoot someone a piece of useful information or gratifying praise. Do good, feel good - this really works.
6. Act happy: put a smile on your face right now. Research shows that even a fake smile has a positive influence on your emotions - turns out that just going through the motion of happiness brightens your mood. Also, if you're smiling, other people will perceive you as being friendlier and more approachable.
7. Count your blessings: Take ten minutes to think about all the things in your life that are going right, about all the things that other people do to help you, about all the things that you're thankful for. In the tumult of everyday life, it's very easy to focus on the negative and to lose sight of what really matters.
What's something you'd recommend people to do today to start living a little bit happier?
Make your bed! Strange, I know, but this is the resolution people mention to me most often as the step that helped them launch their own happiness projects. It's so manageable, and so concrete...making your bed allows you to start the day with a little accomplishment and a little happiness boost.