If the questions sound familiar it is because they are straight out of Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project, which is a book I read last year and highly recommend. There is something worth marinating on for everyone in that book I think, and it is especially timely when we are all thinking about resolutions and such, and how we are all going to make our lives better (ie happier, right?)
So here are my answers -- what are yours? If you end up blogging about it too, leave me a link so I can read your thoughts. I think everyone can benefit from a little sharing about happiness.
What is a simple activity that consistently makes you happier?
Exercise. It's not always the same exercise, but I feel consistently happier when I am exercising regularly. Part of why I have been enjoying CrossFit so much is because it has really streamlined my exercise routine -- I don't have to think about it, plan it, and then also execute it. I just have to show up and try hard -- and this seems to be a recipe for results for me. That said, even if I am just going for a run because I want to get outside, or taking a walk to clear my head, exercising ALWAYS makes me feel happier.
As for smaller things with less commitment: crossing things off lists, taking bubble baths, reading in bed, and drinking good coffee consistently make me happy too!
What's something you know now about happiness that you didn't know when you were 18 years old?
That it is my choice. As I've gotten older I think I have stopped looking for people to blame for my unhappiness or for the difficulties in my life and I have started to look at every situation that makes me unhappy and find a way that I can either change my perspective or change the action that is making me unhappy. I can't control those around me, but I can ALWAYS control my reaction. I can always choose happiness. Now that doesn't mean I always do that, but deep down I know it to be true.
Is there anything you find yourself doing repeatedly that gets in the way of your happiness?
Taking on too much. Because I enjoy crossing things off lists, I often make my lists extra long. There is a tipping point, though, where the list goes from happiness inspiration to anxiety inducing chore chart. I am not always clear on where that tipping point is until I have gone way past it. I am trying to be better about this at work and in life. It is a work in progress for sure.
Is there a happiness mantra or motto that you've found helpful?
Well I love the good old Eleanor Roosevelt adage that no one can make you feel inferior without your consent. It is not directly about happiness but it definitely is a nice reminder that we choose our feelings, and happiness is no different.
If you're feeling blue, how do you give yourself a happiness boost? Or like a "comfort food" do you have a comfort activity?
My comfort activity is definitely reading. I love nothing more than diving into a new book, whether it is fiction and I get to spend some time in an entirely made up world, or non-fiction/memoir where I get to learn about something or someone. I really do just love to spend time with words. It is also an escapist activity though, so I can lines between me being unhappy and me reading a ton certainly run parallel.
I also almost always call my mom when I need a happiness boost. Sometimes you just need a the parental rose-colored glasses to recalibrate you know? It's almost always a sure thing!
Is there anything that you see people around you doing or saying that detracts a lot from their happiness?
Watch your thoughts, they become your words. Watch your words, they become your deeds...right? I love to vent as much as the next person, TRUST ME, but I know if I stay there it's not my most meditative happy place. I try to spend an equal amount of time solving a problem if I'm complaining about a problem. Note that I said try. Also a work in progress.
Have you ever been surprised that something you expected would make you happy, didn't -- or vice versa?
Last year surprised the hell out of me because we reduced our income by half when Garrett quit his full time job, yet our happiness increased exponentially. I did not expect that AT ALL. I expected to feel challenged and deprived and a little jealous of others at times. What I ended up feeling instead was a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. We were no longer struggling with the stress of his job daily and the blissful return of normalcy felt like taking a deep breath after being trapped under the sea. Prioritizing happiness over money was one of the best decisions we have made as a couple yet. Yes there was panic, but the relief was so palpable that it just made everything else seem manageable. Even easy in comparison. It has changed the way I view my work, my life, my family, our future marriage, money, and most importantly my priorities.
Really, it changed everything.