A few mornings ago the dogs woke me up and I felt groggy. I stumbled to feed them and let them outside. When I finished, I was unsure what to do next. My routine prior to my brother’s death two months ago was to write when I first awoke and only then take on other tasks of the day. But as I wrote about in My Radical Life Change: Taking My Own Advice, I’d been on a serious television bender until recently and I hadn’t yet felt up to my usual routine. This morning though, I didn’t want to watch television, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do instead.
Recently, I’ve been reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. Much of what she wrote about I’m already doing and she seemed focused on doing more while I’m focused on learning to accept doing less, but I liked her idea of a happiness resolutions list. So I made one. On my list, some of the resolutions are related to how I talk to myself and other people, others are concrete actions that I can turn to when I’m feeling lost, and still others are actions that I know help me to maintain joy or at least contentedness. As per Rubin’s suggestion, I’m also creating a spreadsheet that I can post in my room and give myself gold stars each day when I accomplish the resolutions. I like nothing better than reinforcement when I’ve done well, even, and perhaps just as importantly, when it comes from myself.
So when I woke up unsure how to proceed with my day, I looked at the list and picked one item. I walked the dogs and then weeded the front yard for an hour. And sure enough, while I was slow to get moving, once I did, I felt great. The weeding was meditative and it was nice to get the front yard cleaned up after over a month of weeds moving in. I ate lunch and read my book, and when I finished, for the first time in a long time, I was inspired to write, so I did.
Here’s my initial list that I imagine I’ll be adding to as the year progresses:
1. Speak positively to yourself. I’ve never found success doing affirmations, but if I catch myself speaking negatively to myself, then I’ll think about what supportive thing I would tell a friend and say it to myself.
2. Take your own advice. When I have a problem, I ask what I would advise a friend in the same situation. Then I do it.
3. Tell people directly when you want someone to do or stop doing something; don’t hem and haw or think you’re being loving by letting it go, but secretly being angry. If they can’t honor your request, accept it, don’t fight it, and figure out your next step.
4. Always, always, always be true to yourself! Even if you feel like someone is pushing you to be someone else.
5. Recognize that most people’s opinion of you has nothing to do with you, but with them. So work to let go of your defensiveness and insecurity. Only then can you hear if what they are saying is truly something you need to address or just their issue. You are loved just as you are, but maybe not by that person. That’s okay.
6. Enter every “problem” with another person with the belief that the other person wants to resolve it. I got this idea from Lousie Hay’s You can Heal Your Life and I’m actually finding it really useful especially when having to call customer service people. I remind myself of it before I calling and I’ve genuinely been finding people more helpful. But when someone can’t help, or can’t help in the way you’re looking for, accept it and figure out your next step. I’ve wasted way too much time in my life trying to persuade customer service people to take action that they had no power to take.
7. Remember that everyone is doing their best. Accept them as they are and act accordingly. It doesn’t mean allowing someone to disrespect you, instead see #3 above.
8. Always try to be kind. This has become somewhat of a mantra for me.
9. The world is chaotic and people will make mistakes and be inconsiderate, whether intentionally or otherwise (including you). Accept it, deal with it to the extent you can or need to, and then move on. Don’t complain about it, yell, or act as if the world should be different.
10. Make it a goal when you’re angry about something to stay quiet and calm. Even better if you can sound nice. You’re stronger when you’re calm and quiet than when you yell. And people will often use your angry behavior to justify their own bad behavior. This may be the hardest of the resolutions to keep.
11. When stuck in traffic or a line, think of it as a meditation. This was an idea I gained from Rubin and I’ve found it surprisingly helpful. When stuck in traffic, I think, “I’m meditating in traffic” or “I’m doing my traffic meditation.” I do the same thing when on hold with customer service. It almost instantly calms me down if I’m feeling impatient.
12. Tackle a project(s) in the house or garden at least four days a week for an hour. I find weeding and clearing paper clutter off my desk meditative, but it’s hard to motivate to do it when the garden and my desk look like a jungle and I think it will take more time than I have to give to it. If I keep projects to an hour, they’re more manageable and inviting. It doesn’t need to be done all at once. It’s really gratifying to accomplish these tasks and to see progress over time.
13. Pray/meditate/journal every day for an hour. I often let this one go when I get busy and it has a noticeable effect.
14. Write for your blog, book, or another project for at least an hour every day, five days a week whether you feel like it or not.
15. Post on your blog three days a week. Posts don’t need to be perfect or monumental, but just need to be related to your search for what it means to love yourself.
16. Read a book. So often I am inspired by what I read.
What would you put on your happiness resolution list?
Also published on Medium.