How April Fool’s day can be a source of happiness.

I played a great April Fool’s day trick on the Big Girl (the Little Girl is still too little to understand the idea of “tricks”). Last night, I put a bowl of Cheerios and milk in the freezer, and this morning, I presented it to the Big Girl with a spoon.

I watched as she tried to dig in, then stopped in puzzlement.

“April Fool’s!” I yelled.

She really got a kick out of it. She took the bowl into the Big Man to show him. Then twenty minutes later, she played a trick on me, by telling me the wrong time so I started racing around, worried that we were going to be late for school. She was thrilled by the morning’s tricks.

But last night, already tucked into bed when I realized that I’d forgotten to prepare the bowl and freeze it, I was tempted to drop the whole idea.

Then all my resolutions started neon-flashing in my brain: Take time for projects, Spread family cheer, Cultivate family traditions, and “Laugh out loud.”

So I reluctantly got out of bed and headed for the kitchen. This morning, I was so happy that I’d taken the time to set up the joke.

That’s why I think that my Resolutions Chart works so well. Because I review my resolutions constantly, to give myself a star or X mark, my resolutions are highly “accessible” in my brain. They float through my mind many times a day – and that helps keep me on track. (If you’d like to see my Resolutions Chart, look in the left-hand column for how to get a copy.)

Because the fact is, life is more fun when I take the time to do silly things, like play an April Fool’s trick. Little kids really enjoy that kind of thing. And so do I.

Now, what would be a great trick to play on the Big Girl next year? All ideas welcome.

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A fantastic site with a huge amount of helpful, interesting information is 43 Folders.

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New to the Happiness Project? Consider subscribing to my RSS feed: Subscribe to this blog’s feed. Or sign up to get email updates in the box at the top righthand corner.
If you’re starting your own happiness project, please join the Happiness Project Group on Facebook to swap ideas. It’s easy; it’s free.

Surprise! Surprise parties don’t always make people feel happy.

I was talking with some friends the other night, and we got in a very interesting conversation about the fall-out from various surprise parties. Turns out that surprise parties are more perilous than I’d thought.

One friend threw a lavish party for her husband. “He loved it, but for months after,” she recalled, “he was very suspicious. He kept asking me what I was doing, whom I was calling. I think it truly unnerved him to realize that I could organize something that big without him knowing. What else was I up to?”

“I went to a party where the wife was absolutely flabbergasted that her husband could pull off the surprise party,” observed another friend. “It really shook her concept of her marriage. She thought of herself as the organized, logistically-minded one who had to take care of everyone. But it turned out her husband could do that stuff, too. So maybe she wasn’t so essential.”

“Yes,” added someone else, who had been at the same party, “plus I think she was a bit annoyed to find out that he COULD do that kind of thing. After all, for all these years, she’d been doing all the organizational work because she was convinced that he just didn’t have the capacity. But it turns out, he did.”

“Another problem is the resentment,” a friend chimed in. “When I was planning the surprise party for my boyfriend, I kept thinking, ‘He’d really better appreciate this!’ He did appreciate it, but still, I don’t think he realizes just how much work it was. I still feel a bit annoyed about it, actually.”

After talking about it, we concluded that surprise parties work best when children throw them for parents.

I have some experience with that. A few years ago, my mother, sister, and I threw a surprise party for my father’s birthday. Thinking back on that party — choosing the invitations with my mother, planning the toasts with my sister, conspiring my in-laws about what time they should bring my father over to our apartment from their apartment (my in-laws live right around the corner from us) for the reveal, and most of all, seeing the look on my father’s face when he realized that the party was for him — made that surprise party one of the highlights of my life.

But, this conversation showed, surprise parties aren’t always the unmitigated delight that I would have thought. Hmmmm.

What do you think? Any experiences with surprise parties, good or bad?

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Two very useful personal finance blogs that I enjoy reading are The Simple Dollar and Get Rich Slowly. There’s a lot of great content on both of them — not just about saving and investing, but generally about how to live more wisely. They’re both very entertaining, too.

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New to the Happiness Project? Consider subscribing to my RSS feed: Subscribe to this blog’s feed. Or sign up to get email updates in the box at the top righthand corner.
If you’re starting your own happiness project, please join the Happiness Project Group on Facebook to swap ideas. It’s easy; it’s free.

This Saturday: a happiness quotation from J. M. Barrie.

“John lived in a boat turned upside down on the sands, Michael in a wigwam, Wendy in a house of leaves deftly sewn together. John had no friends, Michael had friends at night, Wendy had a pet wolf forsaken by its parents; but on the whole the Neverlands have a family resemblance, and if they stood in a row you could say of them that they have each other’s nose, and so forth. On these magic shores children at play are for ever beaching their coracles. We too have been there; we can still hear the sound of the surf, though we shall land no more.” — J. M. Barrie, Peter Pan

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A thoughtful reader sent me the link to her post on her great blog A Little of This, That, and the Other, in which she talks about applying the First Splendid Truth: that to be happier, we need to think about FEELING GOOD, FEELING BAD, and FEELING RIGHT, in an ATMOSPHERE OF GROWTH. It was so encouraging to see someone really understand what I was trying to express. She focused on “feeling bad,” which is also the prong that I spend the most time working on.

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New to the Happiness Project? Consider subscribing to my RSS feed: Subscribe to this blog’s feed. Or sign up to get email updates in the box at the top righthand corner.
If you’re starting your own happiness project, please join the Happiness Project Group on Facebook to swap ideas. It’s easy; it’s free.

It’s Friday: time to think about YOUR Happiness Project. This week: Sing in the morning.

It’s Friday: time to think about YOUR Happiness Project. This week: Sing in the morning.

I’m working on my Happiness Project, and you should have one, too! Everyone’s project will look different, but it’s the rare person who can’t benefit. Join in — no need to catch up, just jump in right now. Each Friday’s post will help you think about your own happiness project.

One of my resolutions is to “Sing in the morning.” It’s hard both to sing and to maintain a grouchy mood, and it sets a happy tone for everyone in my family — particularly in my case, because I’m tone deaf and my audience finds my singing a source of great hilarity.

The idea to “Sing in the morning” came from the Big Girl, a few years ago.

“What did you do at school today?” I asked the Big Girl.

“Well, we all talked about how our parents wake us up in the morning.”

“What did you say?” I prodded, with curiosity and trepidation.

“With a good-morning song.”

Why she said this, I don’t know, because I’d only done that a few times. After hearing her comment, though, I began singing a good-morning song every day.

What a nice habit, to start the day with a good-morning song!

One of the most powerful happiness-project lessons, and the Third of my Twelve Commandments, is to “Act the way I want to feel.” We think that actions follow feelings, but often, feelings follow actions. By deliberately starting the day by singing – that is, by acting cheerful, light-hearted, and energetic – I can help generate those feelings.

Also, because of the psychological phenomenon of “emotional contagion,” we “catch” the emotions of other people. If I can manage to act light-hearted and energetic, I can infect the other members of my family with good cheer.

The morning sets the tone for the whole day, so I’ve found that it’s worth making a special effort to make mornings run smoothly – whether that means organizing everyone’s stuff the night before, doing the “evening tidy-up” before going to bed so the apartment isn’t too messy when we emerge in the morning, or singing a garbled version of “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” as I get the Little Girl up from her crib.

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One of the greatest challenges to happiness is pain. It’s very, very hard to be happy when you’re in pain, and managing pain is very difficult. I was fascinated to read this story on Gimundo, about a virtual reality game called SnowWorld that’s used to help burn victims manage their pain. It turns out that just as pain affects happiness, happiness (which can take the form of an engaging distraction) also affects pain.

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New to the Happiness Project? Consider subscribing to my RSS feed: Subscribe to this blog’s feed. Or sign up to get email updates in the box at the top righthand corner.
If you’re starting your own happiness project, please join the Happiness Project Group on Facebook to swap ideas. It’s easy; it’s free.

East or west…

One of the great joys of going away is — coming home again. Every time we come back home, I realize anew how much I love New York City, and also, being home.

Some of the lessons of happiness include: novelty brings happiness; deprivation of a pleasure sharpens it; and sharing happy memories is an important source of happiness. All served by going on, and returning from, a family vacation.

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Via Shifting Careers, I discovered Alltop, which is a fantastic new site that organizes blogs by category and displays large numbers of stories in dashboard format — makes taking in a lot of information very easy. It was created by the same folks who have the great site Truemors, about unusual news stories.

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New to the Happiness Project? Consider subscribing to my RSS feed: Subscribe to this blog’s feed. Or sign up to get email updates in the box at the top righthand corner.
If you’re starting your own happiness project, please join the Happiness Project Group on Facebook to swap ideas. It’s easy; it’s free.