My current emphasis: how to make good habits and break bad ones (really)

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“What a Difference a Few Small, Consistent Changes Can Make.”

Crystalpaine

Happiness interview: Crystal Paine.

One of the most complicated and emotionally charged topics within the larger subject of happiness is the relationship between money and happiness. Figuring out how to live within your means, dealing with financial anxiety, spending money in ways that boosts happiness instead of undermining it…these are common, major challenges.

I was happy to make the e-acquaintance of Crystal Paine, who has a new book coming out next month: The Money Saving Mom’s Budget: Slash Your Spending, Pay Down Your Debt, Steamline Your Life, and Save Thousands a Year. That certainly covers a lot of issues that people grapple with, just in the subtitle! She also has a very popular blog, Money Saving Mom.

Because Crystal has thought a lot about how to create the life that reflects your values related to money, I was curious to ask her specifically about happiness.

Gretchen: What’s a simple activity that consistently makes you happier?
Crystal: I usually have to drag myself to the treadmill in the mornings, but I never regret getting on it and running–even if it’s just for a mile. It gets my blood pumping, it helps to clear my head, and it makes me feel much more energetic and efficient the rest of the day.

Is there anything you find yourself doing repeatedly that gets in the way of your happiness?
I often get distracted, procrastinate, or choose to do what I want to do over what I should do (i.e. surfing the web versus writing an article that is due). Any time I do this, I end up feeling frustrated at myself for wasting time. And I usually end up stressed, too, because it results in me being behind schedule or late to an event.

If you’re feeling blue, how do you give yourself a happiness boost?
Singing is a guaranteed mood-lifter for me. Sometimes, when I’m feeling particularly low, I’ll force myself to start singing, even though it’s the last thing I feel like doing. It only takes a few minutes of singing and I will feel ten times better about life. I’m not sure why or how that is, but it always works!

Do you work on being happier? If so, how?
I’ve been working on consistently sticking with three daily habits recently (going to bed early, getting up early, and tackling my laundry pile every day instead of letting it pile up) and I’ve been amazed at what a difference a few small, consistent changes can make. I’m getting more done since I’m getting up earlier, I’m more energetic due to getting more sleep, and there’s a weight off my shoulders since I’m no longer waking up to face a mountain of laundry every morning.

What’s something you know now about happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?
When my husband and I got married, we moved to a town where we knew no one so he could start law school. We had committed to stay out of debt while he was in law school, so we lived on a very meager beans and rice budget of $800 to $1000 per month to pull it off.

Sticking with our goal of staying out of debt meant that we gave up a lot of stuff–cable tv, magazine subscriptions, eating out, gym memberships, many social engagements, buying new clothes, gifts, travel, and much more. We drove an old car, we lived in a little basement apartment, we used coupons, we ate a lot of meatless meals, and we checked out a lot of books and DVDs at the library! It wasn’t easy–especially when we were almost out of money and we were tired of the beans and rice ritual–but we learned invaluable lessons through those law school years.

Most importantly, I learned that my joy and contentment with life wasn’t dependent upon the car we drove, the food we ate, or the clothes we wore. Contentment is a state of the heart, unaffected by outward circumstances. If I have a cheerful attitude, it will make a dismal situation seem so much more brighter. I can choose joy, I can choose to make the most of whatever circumstances I find myself in, and I can choose to be thankful for the blessings I do have.

* Shameless Self-Promotion: I can’t resist announcing that as of yesterday, The Happiness Project has been on the New York Times bestseller list for nine months. Nine! Thanks so much, readers, for your enthusiasm and support. I appreciate it very, very much.
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