So here I am at the end of Week One.
Theme: Boost Your Energy.
Before we go any further, I would just like to put it out there that this is probably the most unscientific experiment you will ever read about. Everything is either measured on a scale of 1-10 or in colorful sparkly star stickers.
I was really excited about reading the Happiness Project. The moment I purchased it from the bookstore, I opened it and walked down Bloor Street with my eyes glued to the page. Alas! The first chapter itself sounded like the biggest debbie downer. Rubin wisely chose to begin her project with boostin your energy. Normally for me, that would be achieved by going for massages, exercising and maybe eating a vegetable or two. Rubin had a different idea. Although she did include exercising, her other remedies were random very loathsome sounding things. But for the sake of the experiment, I decided to humor her and go with it.
Here’s a supposed energy booster I really wasn’t happy about. Rubin suggested spending the last 15-20 minutes before bedtime cleaning. This meant I couldn’t just throw my work clothes on the chair. I couldn’t go to bed without packing my lunch. And I certainly couldn’t go to bed without cleaning out the dirty dishes in the sink, a task that was usually left until I had to eat my dinner out of coffee mugs. I was exhausted at the end of the day. These were not things that I wanted to drag myself to do. But for the sake of the experiment and getting a sparkly golden star, I did it. I purposely kept the coveted golden star for the task I loathed the most.
Go to sleep earlier:
This was a no-brainer. To make things official I set my bedtime to 10:30pm. After years of going to bed at all hours of the night, I have come to learn that I function best when I have exactly 7 hours of sleep give or take half an hour. Anything more or less than that made me monster grumps. Going to bed at 10:30pm put me exactly at my usual 5:30am wake up time. With evening cleanup at 10:15pm, all lights were out by 10:30pm.
I instantly noticed how Rubin didn’t just say exercise. She said “Exercise Better”. As a kinesiologist, no one had to tell me twice about the benefits of exercise on happiness and moods. While any exrcise is good for you, to exercise better was to find the type of exercise that was most fun for you to do and to also remember that exercise wasn’t just confined to the gym.
Toss, Restore, Organize:
Another one of Rubin’s genius tasks I couldn’t have cared less about. Nonetheless, I spent a little time each day cleaning out my closet, tossing out clothes I didn’t need anymore into garbage bags and ridding my shelves and draws of unwanted bills, reciepts and paper. This wasn’t the happiest of times.
Tackle a Nagging Task:
Nagging tasks were a step up from the tasks of the evening clean ups. Nagging tasks were the tasks I kept putting off all the time. I made a list. While some were more nag-worthy than others (get your jeans zippers fixed vs. get your work published). I made up my mind to clear out my whole nag list by the end of The Happiness Experiment.
Of all the ridiculous things I did this week to be happier, this by far was the hardest and made the least sense. Studies apparently show that even though ”we presume that we act because of the way we feel, in fact we often feel because of the way we act. Basically, if I’m going to be sitting at my desk on Facebook with a plate of food every evening, I was more likely to feel like not moving ever again. So I took a deep breath on Monday morning and went through with a “fake it till you feel it” stratergy.
The results were suprising and yet not so suprising at the same time. The evening clean up was a pain in the ass but I felt so much more calmer in the mornings knowing my lunch was packed. I wasn’t running late to catch my bus and I wasn’t literally running out the door either. Happy might be too strong a word, but I was definately more relaxed. Coming home to a clean house and clean dishes in the evening wasn’t such a bad thing either.
The whole “act how I want to feel” was a challenge especially at work. But I made every effort to act extra energetic. I offered to help out even if it wasn’t required. I saw to it that I didn’t sit at my desk for more like 15 minutes straight, I laughed at every joke, made silly ones of my own and was animated and enthusiastic. And while it was draining, it was amazing to see how well my most of my patients and co-workers responded to good energy with some of their own. As much as I hated to admit, “fake it till you feel it” kind of worked. And I knew this was the best way to keep happiness intact at work. Was my boost in energy due to my attitude or was it the sunshine and warmer temperatures we’ve had all week? I don’t know. Maybe both. Maybe it really doesn’t matter.
As for tossing, organising and handling nagging tasks, I didn’t expect to have it all done in a week but while this work was tedious and boring, I did see the merit in cleaning out your closet. I now had more space to hang my clothes, cleared out some hangers and filled three garbage bags to give to goodwill.
What I learnt this week:
Act how you want to feel. It may be exhausting but its effective.
A clean house and an empty sink have more to do with your happiness than you think
Getting too much sleep is exhausting and ineffective
Making a Resolutions Chart and sticking sparkly stars for every task completed is a happiness booster in and of itself.
Oh yeh, I forgot to mention. I also made a Resolutions Chart. For every task completed I gave myself a brightly sparkly star.
Happiness-o-meter for Week One for perceived happiness: 7/10.
Not too shabby.
Until next week…stay happy!
Comments? Criticism? Complete indifference? Email me or comment on this page/Facebook. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
You can read more about the Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin at http://www.happiness-project.com/