Thursday, January 31, 2013

How to Be Happier: January

A while back I chanced upon a book at the library called How to Be Happier Day by Day: A Year of Mindful Actions. I found it because the author, Alan Epstein, also wrote a book called As the Romans Do. (Unfortunately the CPL system doesn't have that book, and interlibrary loaning it is taking some time--but rest assured, I WILL find that book and see what it's all about.) His How to Be Happier caught my eye--I love day-by-day living, lists, and challenges, and this book has all three.

As I read through, I realized I had already done/currently do most of the things he suggests. I was curious to know how "happy" I should already be, so I went through and cataloged the year--his mindful actions, my interpretation of them, and whether I did/do/want to try them. Here's January:

  1. Say hello to everyone you see. Does eye contact/smiling count? That's the bare minimum I do, in a walking past each other on the sidewalk situation at least. Inside buildings I'm more likely to say something. I wonder what that says about me.
  2. Start a piggy bank. Yes. It's a bowl, not a piggy. I have an actual piggy bank somewhere though (mental note to look for it next time I'm in Wisconsin).
  3. File all your papers/documents. I'm decent at this. I love organizing paperwork when I have the time.
  4. Go through old magazines and cut out words/pictures that mean something to you. Make a collage. HELLO TO MY LIFE. I do this in my sleep. I have a file folder bulging with magazine cut outs that eventually get Mod-Podged onto any unclaimed surface--notebook covers, frames, boxes, cork boards. Ask Mom about how protective she's had to be over her magazines if you don't believe me.
  5. Recycle any papers/old magazines you don't file or use. Donzo.
  6. Exercise daily. LOL.
  7. Decide to have a prosperous year. Ok. (This was one of the actions where my re-action was, "Okay dude, you're obviously stretching," but he does have to come up with stuff for 365 days.)
  8. Phone old friends. Not a big phone person. I wrote letters to people and reconnected other ways.
  9. Make appointments for all the little things you put off. Not due for any appointments right now (and I don't have a car to change oil, etc), but I crossed off a lot of big to-do items this month, like Get a New Computer and Home Improvement.
  10. Ask someone for help. The "help" I ask for most is rides to places or use of a car to haul things.
  11. Volunteer. I did for a year! But I do feel out of practice. No worries, there is always a Mercy event on the horizon.
  12. Do something completely out of character for you. Right at the start of this year Britney was convinced that I was acting super weird, but by weird she meant more normal than usual. Apparently I was a certain character during our Mercy year, and for a bit I fell off...she thinks 2013 is my year to get my groove back.
  13. Think about someone you admire. I currently admire funny women, especially funny women writers and writers/actors. We live in a great time for funny women.
  14. Read an old (dated) newspaper/magazine. I do this when I'm making my collages. Fashion and makeup date quickly. Love/life advice, not as much. Recipes are ageless.
  15. Examine a prejudice you have. Note: Epstein doesn't say to end the prejudice, just to examine it. His example was, "Maybe you don't like lawyers. Hang out with one once and see what they are really like." I don't know that I have any tried and true prejudices. I may subscribe to certain stereotypes, which lead to pre-judging, but the judgments aren't necessarily negative or permanent.
  16. Be silent for a day. On a week day, If I don't go grocery shopping and M has basketball after school, I can literally go until 5:15 pm before seeing another person (roommates included), much less saying anything.
  17. Send someone flowers. I had no occasion to send flowers this month, even if Epstein is suggesting I do it just because. I bought several houseplants and a peace lily for our apartment.
  18. Start a journal. Child's play.
  19. Spend the day with a child. Literally child's play. Just kidding, I don't know any "children," only teenagers. I frequently befriend children in line at the grocery store/library.
  20. Take a long, slow, hot bubble bath. Did this one several times! I added candles, music, and sometimes wine (in a plastic cup, learned that the hard way).
  21. Look at your budget and buy something high quality. Considering I started budgeting all of four months ago (prior to that my financial philosophy went something like "I probably can't afford that."), I think I should get a handle on what budgeting actually is before I make "high quality" purchases. I'm a secondhand consumer at heart.
  22. Listen carefully to those around you. I do this, but it's always something I want to work on. More so being totally present to those around me, and hoping that careful listening follows. This means putting down the cell phone, iPod, book, etc and engaging.
  23. Go through an entire day without seeing/reading/hearing the news. Easy. 
  24. Dine by candlelight. I do this nightly in the winter. We depend on our candles for the heat and light they provide. The smells too.
  25. Plan your birthday celebration. Eight months in advance? Epstein, I don't even know how old I'm turning this year, I'm not about to plan a celebration.
  26. Join a support group. I don't know what group I'd join, or how they would provide me with more support than a bowl of ice cream and trashy TV.
  27. Enjoy the Super Bowl. It hasn't aired yet, but I just finalized plans for watching. The draw for me is Beyonce and the commercials. Go Niners, I guess.
  28. Take public transportation. I have and I will again. Not quite sure how CTA can make my life happier, other than helping me not take speedy transportation for granted. 
  29. Play hooky from work. On MLK, Jr. Day my boss gave me the option to stay home or come in. I stayed home and lived it up, pajama style. Best decision that week.
  30. Give up something you know isn't good for you. Remember, these are daily suggestions. Epstein really wants his reader to immerse him or her self in the action of the day and not worry about continuing it indefinitely. So for one day, no nose-picking.
  31. Keep a success log. I'm counting this as my success log, along with my paper-and-pen journal, where you can bet I write down any wins I gather throughout the day.
By my count, I attempted, began, or completed most of these. The important part (I think) is the mindfulness aspect, so even for things I couldn't or didn't do, thoughtful meditation about the action/why I didn't do it played a part. If this sounds like I'm making excuses for not following the suggestions to the letter, I am. It's only January, I have eleven more months of these.

Happy Level: I feel content. On a scale of 1-10, my happiness this month was a consistent 6.5/7. Points lost for rain, snow, and cold.

No comments:

Post a Comment