Tag Archives: Gretchen Rubin

Happiness Project Update 27: I Fell Off the Wagon … But I Found Refuge

21 Jun

The “negativity bias” crept in this week, like a tiny parasite sucking the life out of me.

I let the outside effect my mood. I mean who doesn’t right? It happens to everyone, maybe even Gandhi himself, that’s probably why he meditated so much.

Most of the time you feel good when you wake up because you realize you have another 24 hours to make something happen for yourself. 24 hours to do something. 24 hours to find a way to be happy or happier. 24 hours for something different from yesterday. 24 hours to fly your freak flag and be proud. 24 hours closer to reaching you dream. 24 hours … I mean Jack Bauer saved the world in 24 hours the least you can do is have a good day right?

But then you get out of bed and life happens.

You stubbed your toe. You can’t find matching socks. Your kids fight over the superhero cape.  You realize someone sent in the payment late and you’ve gotten a penalty fee. You wanted orange juice in the morning and just as you reach for the Simply Orange way in the back of the fridge you realize that some jackass left it in there with three drops. You try to shake it off, but then you hear from Debbie Downer and they’re trying to drag you down with the ship. You get criticized for the third time in ten minutes. You check your voicemail and realize that your friends are taking an awesome two-day vacation you desperately need, but you can’t go on because there’s no one to watch your kids. It takes a village to raise one, right? This town is population: 1 Guat.

You need to get out of the house.

So you walk out to the car to get the diapers your dude left in the trunk overnight and $78 parking ticket is hanging out on your windshield for all to see. Street Sweeper. People walking their dogs see it. They give you a sympathetic smile. They feel you. You’re glad, until you walk back home and step in dog poop.

You really need a Namaste moment. You realize the “negativity bias” kicked in.

The bias is defined by Gretchen Rubin as:

“… we react to the bad more strongly and persistently than to the comparable good. I’d learned in February, within a marriage, it takes at least five good acts to repair the damage of one critical or destructive act. With money, the pain of losing a certain sum is greater than the pleasure of gaining that sum. Hitting the best-seller list with Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill thrilled me less than a bad review upset me.”

Image via happiness-project.com

Image via happiness-project.com

Yeah … like I said negativity bias. Although I don’t really agree with her on the money one, if I found lost money I’d be doing cartwheels, and forget about how pissed off I was when I lost it. Finding lost items is awesome. But I agree with the rest. So what could I do with all the negative stuff brooding in my system?

She suggests finding a mental “area of refuge” and I agree. Thinking about an escape, something to distract you from the drama, something to occupy your mind and get you through the momentary traffic jam that is your life. So I thought of bungy jumping in Austrailia. I thought of the giant water slide my dad and I ventured on in Guatemala. I thought about the Spider-Man theme song my uncle use to sing randomly. I thought about Trader Joe’s Chocolate Lava Cakes. I thought about Jack Tripper (he always made me laugh). I thought about my son in the swimming pool doing his first starfish float and smiling excitedly. I thought about my daughter’s bouncy toddler run when she “hits” a home run and runs around are makeshift bases. I thought about the fresh smell of wet soil as I rode my bike through the park early Sunday mornings. It smelled liked Earth.

I wasn’t Mary Poppins after that, but I wasn’t festering in the crappy mood or the dog crap.

Things got better, until night time.

Thank God for Netflix. I was able to distract myself with episodes of Arrested Development.

Happiness Project Update 26: The Antidote to the This-Currently-Sucks-Right-Now Moments

3 Jun

This one was easy. I didn’t even have to think about how to do it or form ways to bring it into my daily life. It was already there. It had to be if I was hoping to survive the malaise of my current Life-Wasn’t-Supposed-To-Turn-Out-This-Way-Plan-B-2.0 existence.

Attitude. I had to pick it.

Had to.

It’s probably the reason why I picked up Rubin’s book in the first place. Most people didn’t need to pick up her book. Most people don’t need Tony Robbins, Randy Pausch, or Elizabeth Gilbert quotes to light a fire under their ass. Most people are happy the way things are … I was not most people. I was in the this-currently-sucks-right-now group, and I think I was the CEO. Still am, but my attitude about it has changed a bit. And it’s not due to anything great that has happened to me. Nothing of blockbuster proportions, but the difference is that I’ve just been able to find little moments and hold on to them with a 10th degree black belt Kung Fu grip. I savor them, until the last drop, because who knows when this cup is going to be full again.

Image via happiness-project.com

Image via happiness-project.com

So when Rubin suggested that attitude was one of the keys to a Happiness Project, I was like … yeah … I got this. I know this. And then she followed it up by suggesting that you incorporate LOL in your daily life. Now when I first saw this a while back, I had no idea what it meant. I wasn’t into text messages. I was more into conversations, but when I realized it was “laugh out loud,” it sort of became one of my rules of the day. Although I don’t like using the abbreviation as a note to myself, for others yes, but for myself I usually I have to spell it out for a more meaningful effect.

Sometimes this is difficult when you’re the CEO of your-life-currently-sucks-right-now. Especially when I have those Thelma-and-Louise-I-should-just-jump-off-a-cliff-right-now moments. Finding The Wish Factor can be hard. I have to look outside of me to find the funny. Like when you think you’re a writer and the rejection letter in the mail tells you, no, not today you’re not. Like when you can’t handle the ‘for worse’ part of your “for better or worse” vows and you just feel like throwing your partner out of a moving car … tuck and roll, baby, tuck and roll. Like when you look in the mirror and wonder where all that gray hair came from and then you realize it when you hear the high-pierce screaming of your kid’s voice for no apparent reason at 3 a.m. Like when your mom gives you advice on raising your kids for the 10oth time and the deep breathing Namaste business isn’t helping you. Laughing out loud isn’t possible in these circumstances. It doesn’t come from within, not at that moment.

But I still get the antidote from somewhere else.

And other than tuning into the amazing Jason Bateman, one of my go-to people for laughter is Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. I’ve got to say, there are times when I’m really not feeling it for one reason or another, but I manage to laugh out loud thanks to Fallon. He makes me forget my crappy moods. One of my favorites has to be when Justin Timberlake appears and they perform the History of Rap. But my most recent cracking up experience had to be when John Krasinski showed up.

 

 

Jimmy had the antidote. Laughing out loud had never been so easy for me. That is one Happiness Project lesson I didn’t need to be reminded of, but I was glad I was on the right track.

Happiness Project Update 25: I’m Still Keeping The Snooze Button

15 May

Apparently everyone has a set of inherent rules that help them get through the day. Sometimes you’ve had them so long you don’t even remember making the list, you just keep the rules because they have been working for you … sort of.

And then it hits you … you’re the female version of George Costanza except you’re in your thirties and  you’ve got hair. Gray hair, a multitude of gray sneaking in, the bad kind. The stressful kind. So maybe you need to examine these rules a bit closer. Part of this whole Happiness Project challenge involves mindfulness and I couldn’t go forward without examining some of my rules.

Image via happiness-project.com

Image via happiness-project.com

I know I’m a Chapstick type of chick, but I’m still a complex human being. I’ve got layers. So my list was a little long. But I narrowed down the rules that could use some tweaking. But could I? I’ve had them for a while. They were rules, right? Dude … then I realized. This is not Monopoly, you can totally change the rules. These were the contenders.

Hit the snooze button.

Finish the to-do list.

Hurry. Hurry. Hurry.

Calm down.

At first they seem pretty good. Finishing my to-do list was necessary. It gave me umph! at the end of the day. A high-five for crossing everything off my list. Victorious at the end of a very tiring day. And of course I had to be in hurry, how else could I finish the list. Hurry to be on time. Hurry to finish working out. Hurry reading this book. Hurry  I only had 24 hours. But then I thought if I had all these things to do why would I hit the snooze button in the mornings? It’s just taking time away from finishing the list. Am I sleeping longer? Yes, but then I’m in a hurry because I snoozed it. Then there’s the calm down, effect. I realized that sometimes you need to feel a little rage. Case in point my run-in with the personal space hijackers at the beach. Calming down is not necessarily what you want to hear or feel at the time. Just feel it. Repressing emotions just lead to crazy later.

That is what I learned after a brief review.

But the most eye-opening examination happened to be the one that Gretchen Rubin gave me. Apparently she agreed with me about the hurry, hurry, hurry. It’s not very constructive and it’s probably more stressful. So she gave me an idea.

Instead of hurry, hurry, hurry. Try “I have plenty of time for the things that are important to me,” even if I hit the snooze button.

“By questioning my True Rules instead of applying them unthinkingly, I could make sure I applied them only when they’d guide me to decisions that reflected my true priorities … By mindfully deciding how to act in line with my values instead of mindlessly applying my rules, I was better able to make the decisions that supported my happiness.” — Gretchen Rubin

And so with this advice I added a few new rules to my list courtesy of Rubin’s chapter on mindfulness in hopes that more happiness and less craziness comes pouring in.

 

First thing is first (as in when the plane is going down, grab the oxygen mask and put it on yourself first before helping anybody else … you can’t help if you’re not breathing).

Down with boredom.

Get some work done everyday.

Choose the bigger life.

People succeed in groups.

 

But I’m still keeping the snooze button, sometimes you really need it.

Happiness Project Update 20: Paying It Forward One Penny at a Time

23 Jan

“Feel good, be good and do good.” Author Unknown.

I’m all for this. I’m all about the good. I mean who isn’t, right? So while working on expanding some of that good, I continue on my Happiness Project quest and finished the Buying Some Happiness section in Gretchen Rubin‘s book. I liked the fact that she was realistic in most of the chapter, admitting to the fact that money does help provide options for happiness or moments of happiness, but it’s not the main mojo for it.

I concur. Money plays a factor. Most people don’t think so, or might not admit it. But I do. I came clean about it in my last HP Update.

But as I kept reading she brought up an interesting point …

“It’s easy to make the mistake of thinking that if you have something you love or there’s something you want, you’ll be happier with more.”

Dude. This would never happen with chocolate. Never. I know they say “never say never,” but I’m saying it. I could never buy enough chocolate. There is no limit to the powers of the cacao bean. However, when talking about parenting and kids, curbing your enthusiasm is a definite must.

Image via happiness-project.com

Image via happiness-project.com

As adults we know that there’s a line when it comes to buying things for yourself as a reward or special splurge, and turning into a crazed shopaholic with 12 different credit cards all maxed out. We get it. At least some of us do. But when you’re at the train store, or Target, or Best Buy, or Costco and your kids want you to buy them something every single time you go somewhere, that seems to be the path of a shopaholic for sure. We all want nice things and we all want them for our kids, but when it comes to them, sometimes buying them more “stuff” can do more damage than good. Sometimes teaching your kids about modest pleasures instead of instant gratification can help in their own happiness. It can help produce an atmosphere of growth, appreciation for the “good things,” and fiscal responsibility. And then you feel ecstatic as parent because you think you did an awesome job of raising someone who isn’t materialistic in a very money-oriented label-minded world. You raised someone with values and that makes you extremely happy as a parent.

For instance LEGOLAND. It is the be all and end all of trips when it comes to my four-year old. It is his mecca. It is his chocolate. Now some people have the ability to take their kids four or five times a year. We go once a year. I explained that the trip usually comes as a result of all his good behavior throughout the year and I mention some of his achievements, like sharing with his sister knowing full well she’s probably going to stomp on the toy in the end, being able to finally master penmanship and write his name, being able to transition successfully into preschool even though they have Children of the Corn-like parents roaming around,  like working hard, practicing and doing well in his little golf competition, and for being an overall good kid.

I also make him aware that we save all year-long. We put in all our spare change from every purchase into his makeshift piggy bank we created out of an old Kleenex box. We got Martha Stewart creative and thus was his LEGOLAND box was born. Quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies. Even some dollar bills. Every day we’d add a little something and he’d see his savings grow.  And he wouldn’t take any money out of it no matter what. He knew he was getting closer to his goal. We ended up with about 250+ dollars last year. And he enjoyed spending every bit of it on the entrance to the park, hot dogs, chocolate cake, Lego souvenirs, and Lego memories.

Once the morning came and he saw his empty box, he said … “We need to start saving money in my LEGOLAND box so we can go again. It’s gonna take a long time. But we can do it.”

I like his perseverance. It makes me think that I have taught him something, hopefully it’s in the realm of appreciating good things when they happen to you and being able to be responsible enough with your money that you can save up for what you want and enjoy it with the people you love. Hopefully I’ve paid the happiness lesson forward, one penny at time.

Happiness Project Update 18: Table For One? Dude. No. Party of Two and Tag-Teams.

13 Dec

Show up.

I mean other than remembering birthdays, being generous in your own way, cutting people some slack, being the go-to call when you need bail money or when you have a flat tire and need a ride in the middle of the night, being present is an essential concept for a stronger friendship. This includes post marriage, post cloud-nine boyfriends, and post kids.

But this is not always the case.  I know. I’ve been the victim and perpetrator of this phenomenon. But I imagine it all has to do with energy level. You got none. You’re tired, you’re overworked, you’re underpaid and you realized that you have three more gray hairs that week. When this happens you usually get stuck in a rut and consider buying yourself some Nice N’ Easy. This is the time when you’re caught eating chocolate, drinking wine, and listening to the blues, when you should really be going out.

You get an invite to go somewhere, but you would so rather take a nap or watch HBO. You got no energy to put on your make-up or face traffic. You got the no feeling and it has nothing to do with the person who invited you, instead it’s your sleep deprivation status. However, you know you should go because of the once-you-get-there-you’ll enjoy-yourself mentality. The you’ll-feel-like-your-old-self-if-you-go thought process. Well at least for me, there may be others out there that just don’t like you and opt to not see you. But for the most part, there’s always something that keeps you too busy to see your friend.

Image via Happiness-Project.com

Image via Happiness-Project.com

However I’ve come to realize if they want to see you, they’ll make it happen. If you want to see them, you’ll make it happen. Gretchen Rubin strongly suggest to make it happen because maintaining strong friendships creates a happier existence. So forget the dishes, forget folding the laundry, forget appointments, forget work for a minute. If you don’t forget, you’ll end up going to Claim Jumper’s all by yourself. Table for one. You don’t want to do that … have you seen their portions? They’re for sharing. You need party of two, or three, or four. However many you got, make it happen.

Show up. Not all the time, because stuff happens, but as much as you can. You gotta show up.

 “Unless you make consistent efforts your friendships aren’t going to survive.” –Gretchen Rubin.

I’d like to think that I’m a survivor. So I do show up, I like to be present, but sometimes with two kids and no babysitter it can be difficult to plan your escape. But I’ve done it, and I’ve been so grateful because of the effort. But even with kids I’ve managed to go out and hang. People call it “play dates,” but that word totally annoys me. It reminds me of the Mommy & Me Mafia. So we hang.

After reading the friendship chapter in Rubin’s book, I began reaching out in attempt to get closer to some of my friends — helping in my own way, making them laugh, sending emails, and cutting people some slack. I increased my trying to make it happen efforts. And they paid off. Seeing how it was the apocalyptic 12-12-12 just yesterday, I decided I’d take advantage of this awesome day and spend it with some good friends. The old-school friends. The ones that knew me before kids, before marriage, before gray hairs. They knew me back then and they see the same person and that makes me feel energized. My newspaper reporter friends: Sigma and Pat.

Reconnecting was always easy with them, we just needed time. Kids, busy careers, and crazy schedules make it difficult. But Italian food, wine, laughter, and back-in-the-day stories … so good … so good for my Guat soul.

So while the kids got crazy in the back yard with the toys, camping equipment, baseballs, and trampoline we were able to monitor them while simultaneously snacking, drinking, chatting, and laughing.

It was such a good afternoon/night that we were hoping to repeat the process and have it become a regular game night. Such an awesome idea considering that this game night starts around 4:30 afternoon — a time when I’m running low on gasoline and patience — a time when I’ve hit the wall, but I’ve gotta keep going or the kids will kill me. So hanging out with my Sigma and Pat during crunch time on 12-12-12 definitely helped me get through the 4:30 lull in the day. We decided that since game night helped us and our kids, we’d get together again. We’d form a Tag Team. Tag Team … Back again.

Happiness Project Update 17: BFFs or Just BFs

27 Nov

When you were younger it happened during recess, nutrition, or lunch. Or most likely during class when you were passing notes … just to keep them updated as to what happened during third period. As you got older it happened over coffee, sporting events, concerts, boys, men, tailgating, or parties. Sometimes it happened because you realized you had the same Alanis Morissette break-up experience.

Friendships … they develop for many reasons.

And according to Rubin living a life of happiness requires maintaining strong bonds of friendship. Not the casual acquaintance kind, but the true kind — the kind of friend you can call if you’re stranded somewhere and you don’t have Triple A, the kind of friend that you can call to be your wing-man at a party, the kind of friend that you can call to hold your hair back while you’re throwing up either because of a Tequila hangover or bad Thai food, the kind of friend that takes your call at midnight because you’re freaking out over a fight you just had with your current flame, the kind of friend that will give you an alibi if CSI came knocking on your door, and the kind of friend that splits their last stick of gum with you. A true friend. A BFF, or just a BF.

Image via Happiness-Project.com

Through all her research, Rubin found that people with strong relationships are more likely to be happier in life. Friendships … they play a big part of your Happiness Project. Family … yes we know there’s a bond. Whether you want it to be there or not you’re linked by blood forever. For better or for worse. But friendships are different. They’re a necessary link outside the nuclear family that support you and let you fly your freak flag whenever.

Making time for friends. A basic premise? Yeah.

But a very necessary reminder, especially for those of us that are so busy and consumed with jobs, school, family, or parenthood. It’s good to be reminded that you’re not just a professional blue-collar or white-collar worker, you’re not just someone’s mother or father. You’re not just someone’s son, daughter, or cousin. You’re someone’s friend and if you’re a good friend, or if you want good ones, you’ll strengthen or deepen your existing friendships.

Rubin suggests a couple of concepts, but the one that seemed to grab me was the simplest one: Be generous.

Generosity can come in many forms. Gifts, kind acts, compliments, showing up to birthday parties, or making the time to buy someone coffee … all types of generosity. Since most of my “circle of trust” friends are busy women with BIG Cheese jobs or mothers on the break of defeat because they’re raising kids alone I thought I’d sent out a compliment.

I mentioned a while back how I found an old picture of myself and I thought … hey I knew her … she was awesome where did she go? No where really,  just buried deep under the hustle and bustle of life. But seeing that picture brought me back … way back. It was a nice reminder of my bad-ass self.

So I thought I would pass on the goodness. I posted a picture for a weekly challenge not too long ago. Renewal. And it was group picture with some of the members of my “circle of trust.”  I thought it would be a good idea to send it out to them with the hopes that they might be reminded of their own bad-ass self. Maybe they were lost and the email helped center them again, maybe they were in an awesome state of mind and this email just heightened the experience. Either way I wanted them to feel badass … feel needed … feel appreciated … feel like their friendship made an impact. They matter.

“Friendship thrives on interconnection, and it’s both energizing and comforting to see that you’re building not just friendships but a social network.”

Gretchen Rubin

I sent that email out to my circle of trust — my social network — and whether they responded or not, it felt good to let them know that their friendship was important, that they were important,  and that they were contributors to a time where I felt like myself.

It was a good chapter — a good reminder that friendships expand your happiness, and I needed to put effort in maintaining them if my own Happiness Project was going to work. Otherwise I could end up like Stockard Channing in the First Wives Club. And you really don’t want to end up there.

Happiness Project Update 16: Pantene Moments During Crunch Time

8 Nov

“Who is she to talk about happiness when everything in her life is fine?”

She asked the question and I thought about it. And yeah … when I started this whole Happiness Project it did cross my mind. I thought yeah … Gretchen Rubin should be happy. She’s got everything she wanted … everything I wanted, what’s up with her? She doesn’t need any more happiness. She’s got surplus. I could use some. I’ve got deficit … in the trillions.

Yeah it did cross my mind. But as I continued reading and got to the end of  the “Be Serious About Play,” Chapter she brought up a good point:

“Are you more likely to think about happiness — and take action to try to build happiness — when everything in your life is going well, or when you’re facing a catastrophe?”

Dude. Everyone could use happiness, when you’re at the bottomless pit of crappiness you need it. When you’re happy you need to realize that you have it and you should do everything you can to maintain it.

Everybody’s answer is different.

After reading all the responses at the end of that chapter, I realized that for me, it’s a combination of both. I think about happiness during my mid-life malaise and when I have my Holy-Crap moments. On most days I have small moments of happiness … I hear a great song, I dance in the living room, I post on my blog, I eat a great piece of chocolate, I sit in the quiet of the night, or I watch an awesome episode of Sons of Anarchy, Mad Men, or Breaking Bad. They’re not ever-lasting moments, but I enjoy them while they last.

Image via Happiness-Project.com

Then on some days, like when I accomplish triathlons and Warrior Dashes, when I get seven hours of uninterrupted sleep, when I have pizza-making night with my kids, a girls-night out with my friends, or Halloween-athons with the family, these moments last a lot longer. Sometimes the entire day or the whole night and even though I’m tired, weary, or exhausted, I’m so grateful for the day-long happiness — for the Guat smile, for the Guat laughter.

Most of this gratefulness stems from surviving all the crappiness that’s come my way. And since I haven’t had many happiness marathon moments, I tend to really appreciate and savor them when they come.

I recognize them when they happen. It’s like having a bad hair day six days in a row and then on the seventh day, you look like a Pantene model, with soft-silky hair. You remember when this happens.

You try to bank these days.

“It’s like saving money, you can’t save for when you get laid off, or after you get laid off; rather you have to save while you have a job and the money is still coming in. Life is like that, you have to DO while you are able to think of what you want, what you like, what needs it will fill, how it will enhance your life, how it will help you to maintain you, so that you have some reserves when crunch time comes.”

Crunch time. It’s all about trying to have your Pantene moment, or remembering a Pantene moment, when Crunch Time happens. That’s one of the lessons I learned from this chapter. You think about getting happiness when you’re going through a catastrophe, and you’re grateful for happiness when it comes. Or at least that’s the goal.

But I’m also learning what specific things make me happy. In this chapter finding out what “fun” meant for me was a nice holy-crap moment. I mean I already knew what I thought was fun, I was just reminded that other people’s idea of “fun” was different from mine and that was O.K. Even though I may find ideas exciting and great, they might not be fun for me, and I’m all right with that because during Crunch Time all that matters are the little Pantene moments that contribute to the “good hair” days in my life, those little Pantene moments that I can deposit or withdrawal from the bank at any time, during  Holy-Crap moments or catastrophes.

 

Happiness Project Update 15: Getting A Mango Every Now and Then

24 Oct

“Finding more fun.”  I’m enjoying this chapter in Rubin’s book. I’m all about more fun, and less interested in mid-thirties malaise. Well now it’s late-thirties malaise.

I never knew that fun fit into three categories: Challenging Fun, Accommodating Fun, and Relaxing Fun. I’ve had my share of experience in all three.

Image via Happiness-Project.com

Apparently with all the research, “challenging fun” yields the most satisfying feelings, but it is also the most demanding and requires a lot of hard work. It often presents anxiety and frustration during the preparation period, but the payoff is great.

Case in point … The triathlon I just finished. This definitely fit into the challenging fun category. Although it didn’t really create frustration or anxiety, the training and preparation leading up to the race was difficult and demanding. The only time I felt frustrated was when someone of something impeded my training regiment. I thought I’d be seriously sidetracked during the race if I didn’t meet my daily training regiment, and doing well was part of the fun for me.

But competing in the triathlon itself left me in an amazing I-am-badass frame of mind. Sports competitions in general made me feel that way, and winning had nothing to do with it, although it helps. But it’s not required. Participating was the achievement for me. It was jolt I needed to ease the my late-thirties malaise. I realized that challenging fun, the sports kind, needed to be a recurring theme in my own quest for happiness.

Accommodating fun? This was just a part of being a parent and a being the better half in a relationship. You go to places just to appease the other person. Fun is happening but maybe not directly for you. Stuff like going to the park with your kids, when all you really want to do is stay at home because you’re exhausted from the night shift. But you go because you know your kids want to be there.You just ignore the Mommy & Me Mafia group hanging out by the swings.

For couples, Accommodating Fun is essential for survival. It’s going out with your partner’s friends and hanging out. This definitely requires accommodation, because sometimes your partner, dude, or chick has friends that you just can’t see in person. You don’t hate them or anything, you just feel that hanging out with them is truly a waste of time because if you had met them randomly on a separate occasion by yourself, you would never hang out with these people. I mean ever. Ever. They’re just not your crowd.

But you do it because apparently it’s fun for someone, just not you.

I’m not into these accommodating fun things. For kids, yes I’ll do just about anything, as long as my kids enjoy themselves, I’m up for it. However, hanging out with some of my dude’s friends … not so much. Some of his friends are good. However, it’s the others … my life is too short for the others. When we were dating I might have made an exception but now that I’m older and wiser, with gray hairs popping out, I realized my time is extremely valuable. So when it comes the others, I’d rather stay home and watch cable television. This is much more engaging, exciting and stimulating. Cable TV is pretty amazing.

Television. According to Rubin, this is considered Relaxing Fun — the kind of fun that’s easy, no stress and no preparation involved.

Dude … working your DVR to record all your shows is definitely stressful. You want to make sure you get the whole show and that it’s not accidentally erased because someone changed the channel.

And since I’m a total television addict, I disagree with Rubin and think Relaxing Fun is very essential. It creates escape from your day-to-day malaise and sometimes gives you that edge-of-your-seat drama or comedy that makes you think, that makes you dream, that makes you crack up, that lifts your spirits up, and that makes your day. If you don’t feel like that … you’re probably watching the wrong shows.

But out of all of them, I guess Rubin’s is right. Challenging fun in the long run, contributes more to your happiness because it allows for stronger personal bonds, mastery, and an atmosphere for growth.

I realized that I needed a little bit more of that in my life. I don’t know if I’ll be doing triathlons every month. I sincerely doubt it. I’m not Wonder Woman, but I do need that Challenging Fun at least once a month. I need all kinds of fun once week, but the Challenging Fun … I need that to thrive. I need it to feel more like myself. I need it so that instead of all these lemons life gives me, I’ll end up with a sweet mango every now and then.

Happiness Project Update 14: The Lemon Squeezer

4 Oct

Finding fun. I never thought this concept was complicated. In fact I found it quite simple, but after reading Gretchen Rubin‘s chapter “Be Serious About Play,” I realized I could squeeze in a little more.

Reading this chapter made me reflect on my progress and lack of progress in my own Happiness Project. Am I happier now, than when I started? Well yes and no. I’m not world traveling, rock climbing, bungy jumping or kayaking rapids every weekend, but I’m still finding ways to get through the daily part of life with more fun and less mid-life malaise.

Image via Happiness-Project.com

This whole project was set up to make a change, not a drastic one that never gets follow-up, but a bunch of little changes that add up and make a difference. I needed to flip a switch on a daily basis in order to squeeze every drop of lemon juice from the lemons life left for me. I’d become a squeezer, a Bed, Bath & Beyond Lemon Squeezer.

During all this juice extraction I realized, just as Rubin had written in her chapter “Be Serious About Play,” that you can’t have happiness without fun. Mind blowing concept, I know. So it tripped me out when she mentioned the “sadness of a happiness project.”

Sadness in happiness? What the hell is that? I got plenty of sadness in sadness, it doesn’t need to be creeping up on my happiness project.

But I found that it was a common realization. Apparently, it’s an understanding that there are a lot of things you wish you could do in life, because they sound so interesting and exciting. But then you know that you won’t do them because they’re not really fun for you. A couple of Rubin’s readers had some of the best responses to this awareness. She wrote:

“I will never be an F-1 racer. I will never be a supermodel. I will never know what it’s like to fight in a war. To be a dancer on a cruise ship. To be a dealer in Las Vegas.

“Not because they are entirely impossible to achieve. But because I can’t dance (I tried). I can’t take G forces (I can’t even ride a roller coaster). I am not tall or pretty enough. I hate physics and maths, so I can’t be an astronaut.

“This is less about whether I CAN actually do any of those things, but more about whether I’d actually want to do them. Or to be dedicated enough to work towards them. I will never be that person.”

Dude.

I had to take a minute on that one. I highlighted it. This was so true. I realized that although I wasn’t the kind of person to go out and do things I didn’t want to do, or do them and pretend I enjoyed them just for the sake of impressing a group or a person, there were still some things that I found fun that I may not have openly admitted or pursued because I didn’t think there were kindred spirits out there to join me.

But Rubin challenged me to try to “Find More Fun.” I thought get on it, because apparently having fun is an essential component to a happier life.

So what did I find fun? What made my list? Now considering that I don’t have the Oprah bank account to travel and explore new cities and do adventurous stuff like rock climbing, bungy jumping, and kayaking rapids my list would have to be more realistic and narrowed down a bit to fun on a budget. When the cash flow increases then perhaps I’d be off … traveling. But for now, the lemon squeezer finds more fun in the day-to-day, so that my happiness can increase.

So what’s fun?

Since I’m here in the blogging world, you probably guessed that writing and blogging is something I find fun. You’re right. I do. I get a kick out of putting my stories out there and hearing that other people enjoyed them, or that other people could relate.

I think watching college football is fun. I love hanging out. I love tailgating. I have fun cheering on my team and high-fiving friends and complete strangers when my team scores a touchdown. I have fun saying woo-hoo when this happens. I love saying woo-hoo to myself when I’m watching from my couch on Saturday mornings. I’m all about woo-hoos.

I think watching movies is fun. Mobster movies, 80s movies, psychological thriller movies, and of course comedies. I can buy a ticket “for one” and not feel self-conscious at all that I’m hanging out by myself at the local AMC. But I’m also very grateful for cable and Netflix. They help continue this movie fun quest on a budget.

Board games. I think board games are fun. I remember when I was younger getting a huge thrill out of playing Hungry Hungry Hippo, Trouble, Sorry, Monopoly, and Operation. My friends and sister would play for hours and we’d have so much fun. Lite Brite rocked my world too. So in effort to continue this I opened up a board game they gave my four-year old son and we had a blast. I decided I needed to make a trip to Target so that he could get the Hungry-Hungry-Hippo experience. I’ll let you know how that works out.

Sports. I think sports are fun. Playing sports or running in triathlons really does it for me. I enjoyed playing sports so much growing up that I decided to do the triathlon thing, it brings me the same woo-hoo-cart-wheel type of feelings as it did when I was a skinny teenager.

Seinfeld. I think Seinfeld is fun. I’ve seen every episode of Seinfeld, probably twice, maybe even three times. I love cracking up and he does it for me. I’ve even checked out his new project Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. I think laughing is fun, so I check to see what he’s doing.

And last but not least, dancing. I love dancing. I think it’s fun to get my groove on. Now that I’m older I’m not into the whole club dance scene, but I listen to  music every day and I bust a move at home. But I gotta be careful when I’m jamming in my socks, the wooden floor is not soft when I slip and fall because I’m totally into my Solid Gold Dancer mode.

This is the Guat kind of fun and as a lemon squeezer, I’m gonna do my best to keep it up.

 

 

 

My Happiness Project Update 13: Other People’s Crappy Life

19 Sep

I so wish I could be Buddha-like on this happiness-project resolution. I wish I could be one of those faceless shadowy figures who stand on a mountain top with an awesome sunset before them and their hands in the air — the kind of shadowy people who  are pictured in inspirational calendars. That was my goal, but no such luck. Not even close.

This whole gratitude thing proved to be one of the most difficult resolutions of My Happiness Project. I guess most people find it easy to be grateful. But before you go thinking that I’m some kind of an ass, let me clear things up. I am extremely grateful when good things happen to me. I’m busting out cartwheels and thank yous nonstop. They just don’t happen very often.

Image via Happiness-Project.com

I was doing pretty well with that whole gratefulness meditation thing that Gretchen Rubin suggests in her book, however I added chocolate and a glass of my favorite alcoholic beverage. And that seemed to help during ordinary days, but when you have crappy days I think that’s when the whole gratefulness factor needs to step it up a notch. This is where I’ve been failing, because there is not enough chocolate or Framboise.

I usually just get really bummed out because I can’t think of any new reasons for which to be grateful, so I end up watching a comedy to help improve my depressing attitude before going to bed. Then I’m thankful for comedy. Jason Bateman comedies are common during dark days, although I have a wide range of go-to films for crappy days like that.

But the key is thinking of something new or different each week, or each day. When this crappiness occurs, I always end up saying well at least I have my kids and my health. But part of this whole gratefulness resolution is to find more aspects of your life for which to be grateful.

So I got stuck. Then I realized why …

“One of the many ways to define unhappiness is the degree of difference between where you are and where you want to be — or the difference between what is and what you expect.” — Dale Carnegie

Yes. That’s me. There is a big degree of difference between what I am and what I imagined I’d be at 37. Ginormous. But I’m sure I’m not alone on this one, probably a handful of other people feel the same.  So then Gretchen Rubin makes a suggestion. Catastrophe Memoirs. In other words read about someone else’s really crappy, horrible life and be thankful that it wasn’t you. Now I’m all for reading, but I feel bad about gaining appreciation and gratefulness at the expense of others. I don’t want to be that person who reads about a chick with cancer and thinks … well thank God that’s not me. That’s sort of a crappy way to get to a happier place.

But I realized that Rubin wasn’t suggesting that I have the ha-ha this-happened-to-you-and-not-me mentality. It was more of  an “admonition to live fully and thankfully in the present,” and not wait until “catastrophe” strikes in order to be grateful, or in order to do the things that make your life a life. Appreciate ordinary days and cherish your health. This was what Rubin was getting at with all the catastrophe memoirs.

However, I have yet to read one. I imagine when I’m all the way at the bottom I might crack one open without feeling guilty. But for now, hearing about other people’s crappy life will do just fine. Plus I just stocked up on Framboise and chocolate.