I recently read "The Happiness Project" by Gretchen Rubin. I was a bit skeptical - seriously, how could making lists and setting goals make a big difference in my day-to-day happiness? That just smacks to me of making New Years' Resolutions and while I do make resolutions, given the fact that my resolutions are the same every year, I am quite aware of how successful the practice is. I have to say, I tend to think that happiness has more to do with a. life circumstances and b. your natural temperament than anything else. It's like worrying - you can tell me to relax and not to worry so much but I am who I am and if I am genetically pre-disposed to worrying, making a conscious decision to try not to worry is not going to change who I am. On the other hand, I heard Ms. Rubin interviewed on Q on CBC and there was something about her approach that appealed to me.
I really enjoyed the book. I don't know if you have this but as I read, I just kept thinking that I didn't want to forget things. Fairly frequently, I read something and as I am reading, I keep thinking that I will need to read it again and again because something is very powerful or significant. This was one of those books. I was reading a library copy so it isn't like I could highlight or make notes. One thing I have decided is that I am going to have to buy a copy - there is so much here and I honestly believe it can make a difference.
I would not say that I am an unhappy person. While I have a tendency to worry and a type-A orientation to pushing myself too hard, I do enjoy my life and especially in the last few years, I have been gradually feeling less pressure to be what others think I should be and have felt less apologetic for being myself. Having children has truly opened up a world of pleasure and of savouring the little moments that had been missing from my life. Reading "One Thousand Gifts" by Ann Voskamp has also helped me to focus on how richly blessed I am, even in the difficult or painful times and I do try to "praise God in the storms".
On the other hand, I certainly do seem to have areas of my life that take away from my pleasure, add to my stress and lend themselves to feeling frustrated. For me, at least, that's where "The Happiness Project" has a role. The clutter in my house drives me crazy. I take years off my life in running around and I know I need to slow down. I push myself too hard and the feeling of exhaustion taints much of life. I over commit and then feel guilty because I know that I am not giving what I would like to things. I get frustrated because my over-busy life means that I don't give enough time to the things that really matter like prayer and devotions, journaling and spending time with my kids.
I am turning 39 in two-and-a-half weeks. What a perfect time to get my life in order. I would like to feel some forward momentum and, as those of you with little children will surely understand, so much of my life is spent right now in just getting through the day. My blog gets ignored, I frequently want to journal about my feelings about things and it doesn't happen and I have no time for any kind of reflection. I'd love to spend a little bit of time on the bigger picture. I would like to take a year and pursue my own "Happiness Project" and see if I can make some changes that bring me closer to living the life that I want to live and dropping the clutter (physical and emotional) that takes me away from the contentment that I would like to feel. It's kind of sad that the only time I have to really reflect on this stuff is when I am home sick from work (an illness that I am sure is largely brought on by being so run down).
I have decided that I will take the next year of my life and pursue a "Happiness Project" and I plan to use my blog to keep me accountable. Each month will have a focus and like Gretchen Rubin did, I plan to set goals for each focus and to track my progress. At the end of each month, I will take stock and see whether I think that I have improved my life and whether the practices I have incorporated have improved my life. Here's hoping that I can go into my 40's in a better place emotionally and with a sense of calm that is missing in my life at the moment.
After some reflecting, here are the monthly themes I have chosen for my year:
June - Energy and health
July - An Orderly Home
August - Faith
September - My Marriage
October - My Children
November - Money
December - Slowing Down
January - Enjoying winter (I have HUGE S.A.D. and find winter very hard emotionally)
February - Friendship
March - Family
April - Interests
May - Scaling Back
Cross your fingers for me, I am guessing that it will be difficult to keep momentum and not give up part way through the year.
Have any of you read "The Happiness Project"? Does the idea hold any appeal for you?