Wednesday, April 29

Lighten Up / The Happiness Project

For those of you who do not know, I have decided to read the Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin and follow along on her journey to find Happiness right where we are in life. I will be posting every month in response to the chapters topic that are set up in her book. You can follow along in my journey here.
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April: Lighten Up
I cringed while reading the title of this month's happiness project. Growing up the term "lighten up" was always said in such a negative tone and usually meant that I was being too serious or taking things too personally.  I was that kind of kid though, words had a way of sticking to my heart, even if said in a joking matter. Tease me about something and I might cry. Now, depending on where my heart is at that moment, tease me and I might cry on the inside, but usually I just laugh. I like to think that I have 'lightened up,' but I definitely need to grow in this area.

However, Rubin doesn't just talk about the idea of not taking things to personally. Emily breathes a sigh of relief, another issue for another day. Gretchen talks about what its like to really enjoy the process of doing something rather than just waiting for the end goal to occur. I have a perfect example, near the end of my pregnancy of Bug I got to the point of not being able to wait for her arrival any longer. All I did was wish, stress, dream, and take part in all of the natural remedies that would help induce labor. I couldn't just be happy, be in the moment, enjoy the process. I had to meet her NOW. I had to see her face NOW. I moaned and groaned - and now, nearly a year and a half later, I miss being pregnant. Isn't that how life works though? We always miss and wish for what we cannot have. Maybe its this ever-need, that I have, to cross things off my life list - you know, the huge list we have in our heads that include: finish school, get married, buy a house, have a kid, just to name a few. Just waiting for the next awesome thing to happen in my life. Plus I was not comfortable at the end of my pregnancy, so the goal for me to have my own body back was high on my need-to-get-done list. I couldn't wait. Even now, when bug is 16 months old, I sometimes get caught up in the idea of hurry or I-don't-have-time-for-this attitude. Where do I need to go? What do I have to do that is so important - more important. "The days are long, but the years are short." I need to remember this, I need to slow down, I need to hush my cries of hurry, I need to indulge in the idea of play, I need to lighten up.

1. Sing in the morning.
What a lovely thought, hey, to sing in the morning. My mom always said that she could tell when I was happy because I would be singing or humming. However, the idea of singing in the morning struck me as hard. Morning is usually when I am at my grumpiest. I like my sleep, I am not ready for the day, I couldn't sleep - my usual morning grumbles and quite frankly, why would I sing when I would rather be sleeping? Then, I hear Bug's giggle come from her bedroom so I go over to investigate. Big smiles, some giggles, and a "a-boo" later, I am left happy and eager to sing. Why not enjoy the moment? Why not act out the way I want to feel.

2. Acknowledge the reality of people's feelings.
"Experts say that denying bad feelings intensifies; acknowledging bad feelings allows good feelings to return."
This one really helped me out this month. Of course everyone has feelings, but I always feel like I need to either fix them or blame myself for them? Everyone is justified in feeling the way they do. Wow. No more arguments of, "I am angry" "well, let's talk about something happy" or "Bug stop crying, you are fine." I feel as if a huge weight has lifted off me actually. People are allowed to be angry, sad, or hurt. I don't need to fix those - just acknowledge that they feel so in a loving way. My child is allowed to be angry or sad, however, instead of dismissing or ignoring them by saying such things as "you are fine," I should be communicating in a "you are upset because of this..." I should be trying to understand and communicate in a manner that shows that their feelings are important and valid. "...it was far more gratifying to me to act in a loving way, instead of giving in to my impulse to act in a dismissive or argumentative way." I would rather my child thought me a mother who took the time to understand and listen to their problems than me telling them that 'they are fine' or being too 'sensitive.'

3. Be a treasure house of happy memories.
"... happy people remember happy events better, and depressed people remember sad events better."
I want to remember all the happy moments that I possibly can which just makes me want to think of new ways to have fun around here. I want to take a million pictures of Bug each moment yet I want to sit right beside her so that I can also be a part of the fun, the laughter, and the scrunchie faces. I want to remember it all; the good, the 'bad,' the new. All. One thing I haven't done in our home is put up photographs of family members. I don't know if its because I always take pictures of my home and I want to keep some things private, or if its really because its work. I need to pick pictures, print pictures, frame pictures. I think its more of a latter issue. Even though I consider my home very friendly and inviting, I think having baby pictures or wedding photographs would make it so much more. I love looking at photographs. Actually, I will look at anyone's photographs, I just enjoy the story each picture tells so much. I need to make a photo album.

To do
- Make a photo album
- Print photos for wall
- Home videos
- Journal
- Take time to enjoy the memories as they are happening.

4. Take time for projects. 
"Any single happy experience may be amplified or minimized, depending on how much attention you give it." 
Take time for projects and enjoy the process of each project. The process is what I need to work on. Like I have mentioned before I am not someone who enjoys waiting or doing. I just get so excited for the end goal that being "stuck" in the middle of it, working on whatever it is, I get frustrated, annoyed, or even give up. Rubin gives the perfect example of enjoying the process when her daughter wanted to pick out her own birthday cake. She states that "(she) will enjoy eating the cake for only five  minutes, but she can have hours of enjoyment from planning the cake." Her daughter had so much fun from something that Gretchen could have so easily just done herself or she could have told her daughter to "hurry up." How often do I think like this? - Just get it done, get it done, hurry up, hurry up. I do this to myself more than anyone, but why cannot I slow down and enjoy the whole process. I need to get out of this mind frame that I can only be happy when I have reached said goal. "...we must anticipate it, savor it as in unfolds, express happiness, and recall a happy memory." Enjoy the whole process. Which means : that I should not put off the millions of projects that I have in my head just because I might be freaked out by the process time. I should do it, I should love it, I should enjoy every ounce of it until its over. Like the photos in the photo album, I need to just do, and love, so that I can look at it and remember. "Fog happiness is the kind of happiness you get from activities that, closely examined, don't really seem to bring much happiness at all - yet somehow they do."

Review
I am really enjoying this book - I know, I know, I have said it all before, but hear me out. I love that each focus of this book is built from the focus the chapter before. I don't know what I thought it was going to be like when I started this book, but I just love how each chapter just builds on what I have learned before. Love it. It makes it simple, not easy in any way, but the process is simple, straightforward, and possible - and that is what I love.
I am just going to leave you with a couple more quotes that have stood out to me this month, that I 100% believe in and wish I could find a better way to write it than the great Gretchen:
"...my resolutions have added more sources of fun, engagement, and satisfaction and had also eliminated some significant sources of bad feelings, such as guilt and anger."
"I could tell that my happier mood affected the household atmosphere ... each member of a family picks up and reflect everyone else's emotions ... of course I could change no one's actions except my own."
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I would love to hear from you, readers comments and discussions are always welcome. Have you read this book before? What are some of the things that you found challenging or easy? What was your favourite thing to learn? Without even reading the book, have you discovered these challenges in your own life? 

It is never too late to start a happiness project. If you would like to join in on it with me, I would love to hear about your journey. xoxo 

2 comments:

  1. What a great post!!! Just what I needed to hear today!! Thank you!

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    Replies
    1. I am so glad that you liked it, thank you so much!

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