Thursday, January 27, 2011

My Happiness Project

Originally posted on livejournal on December 31, 2010.

New Year's Resolution time! I don't want to do anything that puts a lofty numerical goal on me, because while the Six Lists of One Hundred Things resolution from this year was successful in many ways (overwhelmingly so, in my view), I did not fulfill even one of those lists to a hundred. And the last few years have been like that. I will find at the end of the year that, although I've accomplished/learned much, I will have failed on a technicality. So this year, I'm taking away some of the technicalities, because I don't really work like that anyway. I'm leaving room for the goals to breathe - to expand and contract as necessary throughout the process.

So, I read The Happiness Project (Gretchen Rubin), and I liked it. And as I happened to read it around the time I started pondering what my New Year's Resolutions were going to be this year, it played an integral role. In the section on getting started, she said, "I had everything I could possibly want - yet I was failing to appreciate it." Well, I may not have everything I want, but that's no excuse. I'm still woefully slack in appreciating what I do have. So my resolution this year is to take on my own sort of Happiness Project. I'm even stealing the title. It's not that I'm particularly unhappy (although I could definitely list a few areas of my life where I could stand to be happier - couldn't we all?), but I am restless and dissatisfied (even more so than usual). I would like to spend the year tunneling out of that, or at least putting it to good use.

I identified eleven areas where I see a need for improvement, giving me a month to jumpstart each one (and December to practice all of them). I haven't thought through all of them yet, so I will just post at the first of each month to detail the additions of the month (you know you're excited).

January: Vitality

I borrowed her first month, because vitality seems essential to all other goals. So in January, I'm going to focus on this relaxation-action dialectic and see if I can't find some sort of balance between the two. I started by asking myself when I can remember feeling the most relaxed and when I can remember feeling the most energized. The answer to both questions was the same - the vacation to Cape Cod. In looking back at my writing that week, I found several key elements on which I usually don't focus in my everyday life - cooking (or, more specifically, eating) foods made from wholesome ingredients, sharing drawn-out meals (and perhaps a bottle or two of wine) with people, reading, writing, being outside, having an uncluttered living space, seeing new places, praying. So my vitality goals to start in January are as follows:

1. Eat more vegan meals. I know that this is not everyone's ideal diet, but one thing I learned this past year is that it's the diet that gives me the most energy. I am not at the place yet where I am committed to go full vegan, but I want to be more mindful of how I fuel my body.

2. Do something to unclutter my living space every day. Whether this means loading things into the dishwasher or putting away clothes/shoes or organizing CDs or adding things to the Goodwill pile, I have a few minutes a day to spend on where I live. I'm currently relishing the tail-end of my luxurious two weeks off. Some of these days have been productive. And some days, I have sat in front of the television and watched the first season of Lost. And I feel rested and energized. Rome was not built in a day, and my messy apartment will not become suddenly spotless in one day either. I've tried several methods before, but I think that this one is more practical for me.

3. Have someone over to dinner at least once a week. This was my favorite part of every day at Cape Cod - the evening meal. We would sight-see or lounge all day, but then we would gather for a meal and sit around and talk. I miss doing this. Besides, having people over will give me a little extra incentive to stick to my uncluttering. I definitely tidy up for company.

4. Read something. Write something. I'm simply more focused when I'm exercising my mind, and these are the primary ways that I enjoy doing it. I would like to read and write something every day, but I'm not going to be a stickler about it. More specifically, this year I'd like to re-read at least one book I have loved (Starting with the book of Isaiah in January. The Chronicles of Narnia, The Stand, Crime and Punishment, and The Eye of the World are a few others that spring to mind) per month and finish my Fishbowl story.

5. Take at least one long walk a week. I define a long walk as anything that takes me more than half an hour.

6. I would like to visit a new place every month. My budget won't allow for that visit always to be out of town, but there are plenty of places nearby that I haven't seen. There are B&B's I can't recommend because I haven't stayed there and wineries I haven't toured. I think it's time to explore them.

Prayer is vital. I want to have a month to focus solely on prayer, so that will lead us into February.

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