I’ve struggled with depression as long as I can remember, and, as a result, I’ve also been preoccupied with the notion of “happiness” and how to get there and stay there. Obviously I recognize that I’ll never be one of those naturally ebullient and bubbly types, but how an I better ensure that I stay within the happier part of my own individual happiness spectrum? How can I fortify myself against the inevitable ups and downs that life will deal me and my family? Can I learn to recognize when I’m slipping and catch myself before I spiral down that dark rabbit hole?
I recently picked up the book “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin which, while sometimes annoying with her didactic tone and what seems like a fairly “charmed” life that she often takes for granted, she also makes some really thought-provoking realizations throughout the book that have made me re-examine my own life and how I approach it.
Goal-setting, but in a small and visibly achievable way, is central to Rubin’s Happiness Project and is a tool that has worked for me in the past for activities like running, but for some reason, I’ve never translated onto my relationships with others or more mundane tasks that make up my everyday. I’ve never explored becoming more myself in the context of concrete goals, and I think that there’s really something to this exercise and remaining more positive and, well, happy.
Rubin uses each month during the course of the year to focus on one aspect of her life. While I don’t think that this particular approach is what I want to do, Rubin did inspire me to sit down and think about the things that make me happy, the things that make me who I am (rather than those things I wish I could be or think I should do/be because others want me to be that way or do those things.
I love performing small gestures that show how much I love, appreciate and celebrate the lives of those I care about, I enjoy being active and healthy, especially with others, I enjoy reading and writing and being creative (though not necessarily in a traditionally artistic sense), being present for family and friends is very important to me, having space and time for quiet reflection and recharging keeps me energized, staying productive, organized and de-cluttered helps me focus — I want to live my life in a way that was authentic to who I am and makes these things central to each day, regardless of what else might be going on. After the Boston Marathon bombings, I also found myself in a heightened state of appreciation and love for the normal, everyday things I would typically take for granted and I wanted to make sure that even after time had faded the memory of the bombings and dulled that sensitivity, I remained more appreciative and aware of the beauty in the people around me and the life I live.
So I sat down and thought about some short-term goals for the summer months that would align with these values I identified for myself. I’ll have to write another post in September to let you know how I’m doing! In any case, these are my short-term goals:
*be more productive!
*incorporate strength training, yoga and spinning into weekly workout schedule
*learn to play bridge with A
*take a creative writing, photography, swimming and/or music class
*finally get personal trainer certification
*land one or two freelance writing opportunities
*get re-certified in CPR
*finish 3 books
*update blog regularly
*make new recipe cards for new recipes you’ve tried this past winter
*complete a week-long juice fast
*learn to have a daily meditation practice
*take more walks, especially with A
*clean out dresser and closet — de-clutter!
So, although Rubin’s book at times has gotten on my nerves, I’d still highly recommend it! It’s certainly made a difference in how I think about my every day, and, if you decide to pick it up, perhaps it will do the same for you, too!
Do you have any goals for the summer? What are the things in life that are quintessential to being you?