After listening to Gretchen Rubin speak at World Domination Summit, I immediately checked her best-seller The Happiness Project out of the library.
When searching for what makes you happy, Rubin instructs you to ask yourself what you did for fun when you were 10 years old: I loved reading and riding my bike. No surprise that I still read every night before bed (and whenever I take the subway, and whenever I have a spare moment in the sunshine) and that I ride a bike every day to and from work (and around the Prospect Park loop, and along the West Side Highway). She encourages readers to create their own “happiness project” and while I didn’t come up with a specific plan to inject more happiness in my life, I did enjoy reflecting on the practices that make me happy–particularly since it reminds me to be intentional about doing them, and doing them more often.
A main part of the book is figuring out what makes YOU happy, and not forcing yourself into habits that you think “should” make you happy. I’d rather go to sleep early on a Friday night and run errands on Saturday morning than stay out late and fight a hangover. My favorite T.V. show is Jeopardy, and I will absolutely switch my schedule around to be on the couch at 7 p.m. I’m obsessive about being on time, staying on topic in email chains and sending thank-you notes. I want and need a lot of alone time. It’s being able to accept those personality quirks, and even embrace them: Rubin cheerfully notes that those “weird” things about yourself are often what people love most about you.
When I sense myself tense and on edge without an easily-discernable cause, I’ve realized it’s usually because I haven’t worked out in a few days. I grew up playing sports every day; in college, I went to the gym every day in addition to playing lacrosse. No matter how busy I am, I’ve realized that working out MUST be a priority for me: it’s an hour where I leave the phone at home, release all the stress of the day and do something good for myself. I prefer to do yoga or Pilates at least once a week, but even commuting by bike is rewarding.
Meditation most mornings
I had never really meditated before attending a quiet yoga retreat in the Berkshires this February. The first time I sat, I was absolutely miserable for the entire 40 minutes: my legs kept falling asleep, my mind was racing. But the second time was easier (especially since it was guided), and after the third time, I was hooked. Since then, I downloaded Insight Timer app and now I sit for 10 minutes four to five mornings a week. 10 minutes to quiet my mind, take a deep breath, clear my head for the day ahead: honestly, the best addition to my morning routine.
Reading for pleasure
As a kid, I used to spend my Saturday mornings at the library and my Saturday afternoon reading my borrowed books. I easily read three to five books a month: my Brooklyn Library membership is compatible with my Kindle Touch, which is pretty much the most amazing thing EVER for a bibliophile on a budget.
Eight hours of sleep
When I don’t get enough sleep, I simply can’t function. Along with this: I like keeping a regular sleep schedule, even on the weekends. I wake up between 7 and 7:30 a.m. without an alarm, and I’m now obsessed with “productive Saturdays.” How many errands can I run before noon (laundry, gym, Trader Joe’s before the crowds wake up) so that I can relax and play for the rest of the weekend?
When it comes to splurges, I always prefer experiences to objects. I’m not one for expensive purses or lots of makeup, but I do regularly treat myself to spa sessions. Nail salons are the hallmark of New York City streets, and I love cheap manicures and pedicures. Occasionally, I treat myself to a nice massage or a facial: the whole experience always leaves me with such a wonderful lasting feeling of calm.
Connecting with my friends
I’m the friend who is constantly making plans: organizing a regular dinner with three girls from college, setting up a book club to double as pesto party with another group from college, constant “California in New York” get-togethers. I get such a kick out of bringing my friends together, and watching them become friends with each other! It’s led to such an incredible network of friends in the city, for which I am SO grateful every day (on that note: gratitude lists. Crazy how much they help create and maintain happiness!).
Of course, travel is still something that brings so much happiness to my life (even if I’m not doing much of it at the moment). My trips to Jordan and Iceland this spring are still the highlights of my year; I thoroughly enjoy every day that I get to experience a new museum, restaurant or neighborhood in New York City. Even though there’s still so much to see and do here, I still daydream about heading back to the history-soaked cobblestone streets of France and Germany and Italy: kind of obsessed with checking out all the possible routes and train/flight/bus combinations on GoEuro. 2014, perhaps?
What are the things that make you happy?