Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Happiness Project: What I Am Already Doing

I completed the book The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin. In an earlier post, I stated that I wasn't quite ready to tackle this because I was afraid I would "over-do" it. But really. How does one really "over-do" creating happiness? I have to admit, consistently concentrating solely on the things that I lack with happiness seems a little daunting. 

The author admits that it is hard work, and I know this from actively seeking happiness in my past. However, I realized that I haven't really given happiness the activity or concentration it deserves. In addition, part of the author's suggestions for starting my own Happiness Project is to figure out those areas that make me the happiest - that I need to concentrate on. This task doesn't seem too difficult, but making those areas concise and controllable in certain timeframes throws me off. I know myself well enough to say that I my high expectations impact my I know I need to ease up.

Perhaps one of the things I need to concentrate on is having more realistic expectations and stop thinking there is only one way to do this Happiness Project. In an effort to make the project seem less difficult, I decided that before I begin identifying different areas of concentration and establishing timeframes, I am going to list things that I have already been actively doing to be happy and that help me have happier everyday experiences. 

1. Be more goofy. My sweetheart likes to be goofy in a very brotherly, I am going to pull your pigtails, or poke you a bazillion times, kind of way. When we were dating, it was cute, and I relished any touch he gave me. After we were married for a while, it became annoying and I would go into a funk every time he did it. I felt like I was constantly telling him to "stop" or "quit it" and then he would be annoyed that I was annoyed. It was not a good situation. 

One day after seeing this happen and not liking how I felt after the encounter, I decided to try an experiment. The next time he did something or said something in his brotherly/teasing way, I went along with it and added my own little goofy vibe. Adam doesn't laugh a ton, so when he does, it means a lot more. In this particular situation, he laughed. I laughed. And the persistence of his teasing stopped with an embrace and a kiss. 

2. Eat less sugar. One day I was sitting in a meeting and had one of those amazing sugar cookies from Corner Bakery. You know the kind, right? The one that has those huge sugar crystals not only baked into the dough, but also sprinkled on top. *Mouth watering, nom nom nom. I digress. After having "said" cookie, I recall my coworker asking me a question. I was in such a sugar coma, I had to ask her to repeat the question. She didn't seemed perturbed, but I was embarrassed. I was paying attention, wasn't I? Was it really the sugar that got to me?

After further examination, I realized that earlier that day I had also consumed 4 twix bars, 1 Chewy PB& Chocolate bar, a couple varieties of little candies, and one other cookie. Don't get me wrong, I was also eating other crap like a PB&J sandwich, Cheetos, and an apple. After that experience, I made a committed decision to stop eating processed sugar on a daily basis, and gave myself one break day a week. I had done the body for life program back in the day, and loved the idea of throwing my metabolism off by eating sugar once a week. That way, I eliminated processed sugars that I typically relied on to keep me going, and incorporated more fruits into my diet. This not only did wonders for my attention span, but also for my hips. Adam started doing the sugar diet with me too. I  had gone 6 months then lapsed into our old habits, attempted again after 4 months, and re-lapsed. We started it again this month.

Since the last go-round, I found that some days I just needed to pop in a chocolate-covered pomegranate. Since I regulated processed sugars for 9 nonconsecutive months (a worthy goal - I might add), I can now introduce sugar again and limit my intake  - one cookie a day. I recognize that this may seem like justification....and really, it is. I noticed that I am happier when I am not trying to combat eating processed sugar all the time. So every once in a while, I eat a cookie. 

3. Stop talking about the bad stuff, especially my marriage. It is really easy for me to whine when really, I don't need to. I often join people in commiserating about the terrible muggy weather, or how bad traffic is, or where I live, or my new haircut (no one really likes their new haircuts too well, that I know of). And for some reason, I complain about my new marriage. I'm not sure why I do it. People I speak with don't typically whine too much about theirs. They joke around a lot, but none of them do this to the extent I do. What is my deal? Is it because I am so stuck in my ways that being with and living with someone I care about is totally stressful for me? Perhaps. Is it because I recognize I am learning all this new stuff about my sweetheart and all this new stuff about myself in this new marriage and learning new stuff is challenging? Perhaps. Regardless, I shouldn't whine about it. 

I don't have the resource, but it has been shared with me by many married women and men that when people complain about their marriage and bring up the bad things all the time, it is easier to resent your partner and develop more ill-feelings toward them the more you talk about it. Even if a study hasn't been done about this, this is sage wisdom. 

In an article I found, Protecting Marriage From Outside Intruders, it says that we must put a stop to outside influences on our marriage now. The article states: "We have to recognize the dangers and put up well-balanced boundaries, before these things come between us or our spouse. We need to learn to say no to them, before they have become so strong, that we can't seem to fend them off anymore." The thing I decided to stop was talking bad about my marriage. 

I really don't have anything to complain about, and even if I did, sharing it does not make me happy, it just makes me more miserable. I have a remarkable husband who is kind, and deals with my emotional roller coaster. I love him...why on earth should I ever speak bad of him?

I stopped talking bad about him, and started really paying attention to raising him up. When I find myself doing it, I make a mental note and determine to say 5 nice things about the experience afterward. This has improved my mood toward my marriage substantially, and I can say I am happier for it.

4. Exercise now regime. I found myself getting into this new "DC trap" as I have named it. The DC trap  happens when I get home from work,and I feel I only have enough time to accomplish 1 or 2 things. Do I clean my house? Do I cook dinner? Do I have a bill-paying evening? Do I do laundry? Do I meet up with friends after work? Do we go out on a date? Do I work out? I found myself going over the endless list of things I wanted to do after work. I found that the list got longer and longer, and I would get more and more exhausted by the list. I therefore gave up on the list during the week, reserving it for the weekend.

This might seem logical, but it also meant giving up a lot of crucial things that needed to get done, and when the weekend came, I wasn't able to get out and do other things that I enjoy like going to museums, scoping out new travel locations, hiking, whatever. I will have to work on those other things later. 

Because I only thought I could get 1 or 2 things done after work (DC trap), I ended up giving up exercise. No bueno. I already know from past experience that without exercise I am moody, hate the way I feel, look at myself in the mirror with a frown, feel less like a woman and more like a cupcake, etc. I needed to add exercise back in my life, and I wasn't going to restrict myself to what kind of exercise. 

I think identifying the barriers to why I didn't exercise was one of the most important steps for me to 'get out and just do it.' I found that when I would limit myself to my favorite form of exercise, swimming, I wouldn't get out and do it because 1. The pool cost a certain amount of money every time I went, which I don't have budgeted right now, 2. It took more than 20 minutes to get to the pool, 3. The swim lanes were nearly always full, and sometimes I would have to wait, and so on. I also realized that I didn't need a full hour to get a good workout. Going off my body for life experience again, I read that 20 minutes of leveled cardio suffices for a good heart healthy workout. I was not looking to lose weight so much as I needed to get into the habit of working out just to work out and get in the habit again.

So, the successful 'exercise now' program for me included getting my heart rate up for 20 minutes. This could be doing all kinds of exercise-related activities including walking, elliptical, swimming, cardio DVDs, yoga, dancing, etc. After coming up with this goal, I realized that I didn't have to spend money getting this kind of work out, unless I wanted to. I also didn't need to plan on a lot of time, unless I wanted to. I just recently started this exercise program and will keep you updated on progress.

More To Come

I have more things I have done to reach a higher happiness medium, and will continue to post as inspired. I am thinking that once I have identified the things I am already doing to be happier, I can then establish my ten commandments, develop my splendid truths, use the Happiness Project toolkit, and commit to the Happiness Project more fully.

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