One Month Update: My Year of Happiness

I'm calling this My Year of Happiness, though of course this is a project that will undoubtedly last the rest of my life, because this is the first year where happiness is the ultimate goal, the lens through which I frame everything. I thought it would be fun to post updates throughout the year and let you know what things I'm trying, what strategies I'm employing, what things work for me and what things don't, what I'm reading to help me on my journey, what I learn, and ultimately, how "well" I'm doing on this "resolution."

So, it's been a month. Some things I've learned:

  • My energy level and how well I feel definitely dictate how much I'm able to get done and how willing/able I am to make good choices, choices that lead to happiness.
  • Sometimes if I can just push through exhaustion and do one good thing, it will re-invigorate me and allow me to keep going.
  • Sometimes I'll push through and it will do nothing for me. Sometimes I can't push through at all.
  • It really is mind over matter. Most of the tasks on my list, most of my goals, are really not that huge. Revise your resume. Do the dishes. Call so-and-so. Get this maintenance work done. Yet, I put them off and it becomes this big looming thing.
  • It takes constantly reminding myself to break old habits and reinforce new ones.
  • Routines take a little while to establish, but once I do, I am so much less likely to skip a step. Even if I'm tired. Even if I just don't feel like it. Even if the dog is being a diva.
  • I feel so much less stressed and more in control and happy when my house is clean.
  • Moods are infectious, for better or for worse.
  • There is time, you just have to make it.
  • Not watching TV in the evening really opens up possibilities.
  • I can't control everything, but I can control more than I sometimes think.
Most of these things aren't brand new lessons I just discovered in January, but are things I've definitely noticed as I've worked to be more mindful of how I spend my time and my life.

Some things that I've tried:
  • Taking a bath. One night I was feeling super tired and sore and in a bad mood and I almost went to bed early, but as I was washing my face, I looked over at the tub and I thought, here's something. So I took an epsom salt bath, which helped ease my sore muscles, and I lit a candle, and I read Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed which helped restore my faith in humanity and in myself, and I went to bed feeling relaxed and good. I also discovered a potential plumbing problem in my apartment :/ I think this will be a good thing to do once a month, or whenever I'm feeling really stressed.
  • Positive post-it's. This is something I've done before, and was reminded of when I read The Happiness Project. She talks about posting notes that remind you of the state-of-mind you want to have in that space (like relaxed in the bedroom of focused at your desk), so I did some of those and I also did some encouraging phrases where I felt I needed them: "Enjoy the process" on my bathroom mirror" to remind me that I like taking care of my skin and playing with makeup, which can feel like a chore when I'm tired or running late; "Happy with myself" on the mirror in my bedroom, where I tend to see myself when I'm tired and disheveled; "Prepared to take on the day" on my front door; "Do what needs to be done" over my kitchen sink, because I'm so bad about doing the dishes. I put these notes on bright pink post-it's, so they catch my eye easily, and they give me a little boost, + remind me to be more mindful as I go through the day.
  • Specific morning and evening routines. I'll talk more about these in future posts so this one doesn't get (way) too long, but working to get these in place has been a huge help for energizing me in the morning and relaxing me in the evening, plus helping me check everyday activities off my list, like getting in a workout or doing a quick cleanup.
  • When the thought "I should" comes into my head, I try to make myself do that task right away, if at all possible. I should take out the trash, I should reply to that email, I should talk to my boss about X. Sometimes "I shoulds" come in bigger ideas, like "I should lose weight," or "I should get back into blogging regularly," and these things cannot be taken care of right away, and need an action plan in order to tackle. So, these go on a list. But little things can be done right away, and I feel better when I do.
  • Taking steps to get my finances in order. If you're broke, you know how stressful this can be. I've been feeling overwhelmed by debt, and I've finally summoned the courage to look it in the face and make a plan to get it under control. It's scary and intimidating, but I feel so much better now that I'm not dodging it anymore.
  • Exercising in the mornings. This is part of my morning routine, and I've been better about this some weeks than others. But generally, I feel better if I go ahead and get this out of the way. Then if I get invited out to dinner, or have a really exhausting day, or whatever, I don't have an excuse not to workout and I don't go to bed feeling guilty I didn't make time for it. I definitely have not mastered the self-will, nor the routine, to make this happen every day, but I've taken steps toward it, which feels really good.
  • Watching less TV. I have big love for television, so I will not give it up altogether, and once I get into better habits, I'm sure I'll start watching more of it again. But I actually have a lot of stuff that NEEDS to get done in the next couple of months, so it is a natural time to back off from TV and to tackle the things that need to be done.
  • Journaling. I've really started back up with this in the last week or so, and it's been really good for me. I'm hoping that this will help me keep track of which things are most helpful, what accomplishments and failures I make along the way, as well as record what's going on in my life and give me another outlet of expression.
  • Reading bucketloads. Reading was one of my first loves in the life, and it's something I've fallen away from as it became a requirement for school and as I've developed more diversified interests. This year I've been tapping back into my old love of reading and writing, which is funny considering I've finished up two writing degrees, but this is the first time in ages I've been able to choose to write and read whatever I truly want, and it feels really good. I read some in the fall, but I wasn't ready to really fall back in love with it. Now I am. I've finished four books so far this year!
It's one small change at a time that leads to a better life, I think. So I'm pacing myself, and practicing self-forgiveness, while also pushing myself to break bad habits and just be better. I think when we're into daylight savings time and there's more sun in the evening, I'll have an easier time utilizing my evening hours, but for right now, I'm doing the best I can.

Dear readers, how are you doing on your resolutions so far? What things help you reduce stress and increase happiness?

Yours Truly, Jen

P.S. If there are specific things I've mentioned here or otherwise that you would like me to blog more about, let me know! I'm working on getting some posts scheduled for the upcoming weeks, and your feedback is always helpful.