So now it’s time to actually get down to business. It might sound a bit tiring or tedious, but bear with me and read this through. In case you have no clue what I’m talking about to begin with, you might want to read the intro post to this project here. The original Happiness Project lasted a year, but given my lifestyle and tendency to really not manage anything long term, I’m proposing a 3 month project. A quarter sounds pretty doable, no? While that’s what the duration of my project will be, the beauty of this is there really is no format. Every project is unique, and you could choose to just plan a one month project, or an adventurous 5 year plan (who are you, exceptionally planned latter human being?!). In Gretchen Rubin’s words:
“Your happiness project can start anytime and last as long as you choose. You can start small (putting your keys away in the same place every night) or big (repairing your relationships with your family). It’s totally up to you.”
Resolutions, as mentioned in my earlier post, are integral to this project. They’re the pillars of deeds that will add tiny increments of happiness to your day. And hence, it’s highly important to take some time to think about what your resolutions will be. You could try answering the following questions, truthfully to yourself:
What makes you feel good? What activities do you find fun, satisfying, or energizing? What did you love to do as a kid but no longer have time for, or are maybe too embarrassed to do now?
What makes you feel bad? What are sources of anger, irritation, boredom, frustration, or anxiety in your life? One of the facts to accept about happiness is that it isn’t just positive actions that lead to happiness, it’s also the lack of negative actions. Do you get annoyed returning to a messy house (I know I do)? Do you have a bad temper, and snap at people, but later feel bad about it? Are you so negative at work that you sap all your motivation? Maybe try to eliminate some of the factors that annoy you? Maybe try to change your behaviour or attitude towards your work? Maybe remember to count to 10 every time someone says something stupid, instead of responding sarcastically?
Is there any way in which you don’t feel right about your life? Do you wish you could change your job, city, family situation or circumstance? Are you living up to your expectation of yourself? Are you the best wife, mom or team member you know you can be?
Are you growing? Are you learning new skills? Meeting new people? Understanding different cultures? Reading news? Listening to different opinions?
Answering these questions can help identify areas that need work, or activities you’d like to undertake. Once done, form specific goals that seem measurable. For example, ‘Go to the gym everyday’ is more specific than ‘Get fit’. Again, these aren’t new year’s resolutions. These are simple deeds meant to become habits to lead to a happier, satisfied you.
Finally, figure out a way of tracking your happiness goals. I’m using a print out of this excel, and putting ticks and crosses each day. You could customize this same sheet for yourself, or use a habit app, create your own chart, post its, diary, whatever rocks your boat! Though, I have to mention, research indicates things written and drawn by hand are ingrained far more than prints and apps. Just saying.
So to get your started, I’m outlining what my happiness resolutions are like. I’m starting off with the ones I have for the first month, starting yesterday:
- Go to the gym: A recent tryst with a back spasm brought into light what I was ignoring for a long time. I had the muscles and stamina of an 80 year old. 14 hours a day spent sitting in office or a cab, followed by sleeping just doesn’t help. And with my current hours, it’s always too easy to say there’s no time to actually exercise. It’s true, but easy. So once the physiotherapist looked at me with pitying eyes, I realized it was time to make things a little difficult. I signed up for a gym near my house, and now am in the process of trying to get up at 5.30 AM every day and push myself out of my comfy bed and onto a treadmill. Moreover, this isn’t just about getting healthier. I’ve spent my whole life battling with weight. I’ve never been fat, but never really slim. And yo-yo-ing weight doesn’t do much for the self esteem. I find myself rather depressed when I try to try on jeans, and realize my waist size has gone up, or try to fit into last year’s dress only to realize it’s no longer possible. That’s the kind of sadness I can really do without!
- Sleep by 10.30pm: This is something I’d love to do, but given I only reach home post 9, is quite a challenge. It’s just so tempting to catch yet another show or movie on TV, or just stay put on the sofa out of sheer inertia. More than anything, I hate the thought of my day including only office and sleep. But given that now I’m trying to fit in more stuff into my day, and that my day’s starting earlier, getting into bed by 10.30 is more a requirement than a good-to-have point on this list!
- Read half hour every day: Simply because reading actually makes me feel calm, gives the feeling of time well spent, and alleviates my bad mood pretty fast. I do usually manage to catch up on my kindle during travel hours, but if not, half hour before bed is a must!
- Don’t crib!: Now THIS is the biggie. If you think getting up at 5.30 is going to be hard, this is going to be so much tougher for someone like me! It’s just so easy to get grumpy and sarcastic about life and everything in it. It’s so easy to be pissed off by taxi drivers who refuse to take you where you want, a job that’s too demanding, colleagues who don’t get along with you, even family and your spouse. Life is difficult. And it’s SO easy to make it sound exactly that, difficult. But, if there’s one thing I’ve realized, my mood rubs onto those around me and vice versa. Even if I start my day on a good note, a cribby colleague get’s me cribbing as well. And then everything looks so much worse than it is! I get annoyed even more than I should, react worse, snap harder. So this one is about me making a conscious effort to take things in their stride, to try and see the positive, to realize that life isn’t as bad as I’m making it seem. And if you do hear me crib, point it out, just so I’m more aware, just so I’m reminded to make an effort. Because I’ll need all the help I can with this one!
Other resolutions for the coming months include learning belly dance, sorting out my finances, finally writing my novel, concentrating more on my freelancing etc. You get the drift!
So this is what I propose, think about the questions posed above, make a list of everything you think could make you happy, or less annoyed at the very least. Shuffle them to see what you want to tackle head on first, and distribute amongst the length of your project. I’d suggest start small, maybe half an hour dedicated to painting every day, maybe an hour of ‘me time’ away from all family duties, maybe some time in office dedicated to work that you love… the possibilities are endless!
I’d love for you to share your goal chart online on Facebook or here in the comments, and let me know of your status and how you’re doing. Of course, while I would love this, it’s totally up to you. If you’d rather keep it a secret, if there are certain resolutions that are private, feel free to keep it with you. I’ll be sharing all my updates here, and would love to hear from you! So don’t forget to tag me if you do share something publicly! Put up your gym selfie... Your little notes to self... A pic of your progress chart. Document it however you like! Let’s catch up at least once a week to see how we’re doing, no? Because while this might not work, what if it does? What do we really have to lose, by trying to be a little happier?
So go on, #GetHappy!