The Happiness Project – January

For 2017, I am blogging my way through Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project. Read here to see my intro post.

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Boost Energy

Rubin begins her Happiness Project in January with “Boost Energy”. She notes, “research shows, being happy energizes you, and at the same time, having more energy makes it easier for you to engage in activities – like socializing and exercise – that boost happiness” (17-18). She decides on 5 key action items that will boost her energy.

Go t0 sleep earlier

Clearly, getting more sleep will (or at least should) give you more energy. This is a tough one for me, because I actually don’t miss out on sleep (that often) by staying up late surfing the web or watching television or otherwise wasting time. I’m pretty disciplined about going to bed at an octogenarian, embarrassing-to-admit, lights-out time of 9:30-10pm. 9:15pm if it’s been a long day.

I know.

But, in my defense, that’s because my alarm is usually set to a 4:35-5:05am rise and shine time (my Friday rest-day setting is a luxurious 5:30am) so I can get up and train before school. This schedule not only limits my hours of sleep because of the early wake-up time, but then I have a long busy day beginning with exercise, then a full day of work, then usually kid activities and events before heading home to make dinner and preparing to do it all over again.

I need those 7 hours of sleep, y’all.

I don’t think going to sleep earlier is an option for me, until I’m ready for the nursing home. But, I would like to tighten up my  wind-down routine. I’ve previously toyed with, and successfully engaged in for short spurts, the idea of plugging in my iPhone by 9pm to charge somewhere other than my nightstand, an arm’s reach away. Since my phone is also my alarm, I still want it in my  bedroom, but I think even moving it over to my bureau would help resist that temptation to surf Twitter, IG and Facebook (lather, rinse, repeat) right before bed.

Exercise better

Okay, unlike a significant portion of America, I don’t need the general “get more exercise” resolution to boost my energy. I get plenty of exercise thankyouverymuch. I’m already registered for a 15k and triathlon (would like to do 1-2 more, just haven’t decided yet), and am saving up (fingers crossed) for my first marathon.

I’m guessing I work out more than the average 42 year old mom of 3.

With that said, while I often approach the recommended 10,000 steps a day before my second cup of coffee, I spend the bulk of my day fairly sedentary. Yes, I do move (I work on the 4th floor and take the stairs every day after chapel, teach 2 classes every other day, and that back parking lot is a hike #facultyproblems), but it’s also not at all unusual for 60-90 minutes to pass several times a day, and I haven’t budged from my office chair while I grade essays, lesson plan, conference with students, answer emails, etc.

It’s bothered me, for awhile, but I haven’t been motivated to really focus on it.

In an effort to get my butt up on a more regular basis, I’m activating the “move!” alarm on my Garmin. I can definitely be more active at work, and it might help me feel more energetic and alert from 7:30-4:30pm.

Toss – Restore – Organize

Rubin devotes the most space in the January chapter to her “toss-restore-organize” goal. She writes how her apartment was over-run with clutter, how she felt limited and overwhelmed and psychically drained by the rarely-worn clothes and stacks of papers. She spends several pages describing her weekends devoted to cleaning out closets and cabinets, and implementing an “evening tidy-up” (33). She enthusiastically writes how she felt “uplifted and restored by her clutter clearing” (34).

She also describes her husband as a willing and enthusiastic participant. *side eye* *throat clear*

So… I am what my husband calls a minimalist. I’m not sure I entirely agree with this summation, which is okay, since he heartily disagrees with my labeling him a hoarder.

We can agree that I embrace “cleanliness is next to Godliness”, while he trends towards “he who dies with the most crap wins”.  We are not compatible in this area. At all.

Just for example, let’s compare our work areas/home offices. I use the dining room.

**I took these pictures exactly as they appeared tonight, Sun Jan 15th. There was no cleaning up or preparation for either room.**

You can see my school bag over on the hutch. That is where I deposit it, after emptying out my water bottle, lunch box, and coffee thermos, every single day. This is representative of how the dining room looks most of the time. When I pay the bills or work on my computer, I put everything on the table. Then put it all away.

Here is my husband’s library. Yes, he has his own dedicated library.

That about sums it up.

To my husband’s credit, he has improved a lot since we moved in together, and works regularly at purging. Our house might be fully purged and organized for our golden anniversary.

Tackle a nagging task

Rubin writes, “An important aspect of happiness is managing your moods, and studies show that one of the best ways to lift your mood is to engineer an easy success, such as tackling a long-delayed chore” (35).  Much like the “toss-restore-organize” action plan, I don’t need much improvement in this category. I’m not by nature a procrastinator, and I can actually be too dogged in crossing off my  to-do list. For example, the notion of blowing off my every-weekend chore list to relax and have a “Sunday Funday” (I hear people do that) is completely foreign to me. I am in a perpetual cycle of list-making and crossing-off.

Maybe an energy boost for me would involve being lazy? Ignoring my nagging tasks? In contemplating that, I feel a jolt of anxiety just considering it, which is certainly … energizing. I’ll have to mull that one over.

Act more energetic

Also known as, “fake it till you make it”. I am extremely familiar with this strategy; I’ve employed it effectively in parenting, in the workplace, as an athlete, and in a myriad of awkward social situations (my fellow introverts hear me). I have found that, in almost any situation, pretending that you feel a certain way, while not a magic elixir for the emotions, does help with effective implementation of the required actions. Rubin agrees; “Although a ‘fake it till you feel it’ strategy sounded hokey, I found it extremely effective” (36). .

So, by this logic, if I *act* more enthusiastic about heading off to a run or grading a stack of essays, I’ll not only have a larger reservoir of energy, but feel happier.

I’m skeptical, but for the sake of blog research, I’ll give it a shot.

So, January:

  • plug in my phone on my bureau (not nightstand) by 9pm. Ish.
  • use my move alert on my Garmin to be more active at work (and home on weekends).
  • act more energetic. Whatever that might look like.

Doing the Happiness Project with me? Feel free to post in comments what your action items are for January.

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2 responses to “The Happiness Project – January

  1. Hi. 🙂 I came across your WordPress blog because of “the happiness project” tagline. I’ve read Gretchen Rubin’s book (and loved it) and was inspired to follow along its line this new year. I restarted my blog and have decided to focus my writings on better-ing myself. I read your story under the About Me page, and I am amazed by your resilience and strength. Keep your head up, and keep moving forward – you’re brilliant!

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