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

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This Saturday: a happiness quotation from Horace.

Horace“Dare to be wise! Begin now. The man who puts off the day when he will live rightly is like the peasant who waits for the river to drain away. But it flows on, and will flow on for ever.” –Horace

Good advice. Start YOUR happiness project today.

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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.

I'm just about finished writing my next book, Better Than Before, about how we can make and break our habits. If you’d like to hear when the book goes on sale, sign up here.

A happiness challenge: the boomerang errand — when you think you’ve rid yourself of some task, but then it flies right back to you.

BoomerangI am awaiting an answer from Typepad tech support. I am carefully drafting this post to omit any symbols other than periods and commas.

As I feared, when I fixed the formatting problems some people saw in the posts, I wreaked havoc on other people’s versions. So now I must find a solution anew.

Thus, I am facing a good example of a boomerang errand, which I find to be a major, recurring challenge to maintaining a cheerful mood, day to day.

A boomerang errand is one where, just when you have successfully got rid of some task, it drops right back into your lap.

You buy light-bulbs, but you buy the wrong size. Back to the hardware store. You call the air-conditioner repair people, but then you have to call the electrician. Another appointment to keep.

I thought I had hit on a solution to my problem, but it turns out that to solve one problem is to create a new problem.

The secret to dealing with the boomerang errand is to stay calm. Studies show that the notion of catharsis, or relieving bad feelings by expressing them, is not accurate. Acting angry just makes you feel angrier, acting frustrated just makes you feel more frustrated.

So I consider my formatting problem with a serene and mild mien. Eventually, this will get worked out.

Maybe I will write my posts with nary a curly quote or dash. Hmmm. Do apostrophes also format in a bizarre way, or do they keep their shape? What about ellipses? Le’t m’e k’now…

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I recently came across two interesting happiness-related sites that are definitely worth a look: In the Know and The Happiness Notebook. This weekend I plan to spend some time cruising around on both.

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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.

In which I finally accept someone’s offer for help. Two months late.

HelpinghandKeeping a blog makes me very happy, for many reasons. One reason is that it’s a source of challenge and novelty, which, studies demonstrate, are critical to happiness.

Unfortuantely, along with challenge and novelty come frustration and feeling stupid.

A very kind reader—I’ll call her CB—emailed me to say that when she read my blog in her RSS feed, symbols like “curly quotes” showed up as ???. To help me, she thoughtfully included instructions on two separate ways to fix this problem.

I was so overwhelmed by trying to fix this glitch that I just…did nothing. I didn’t try to fix the problem. I didn’t respond to her email. I just left her message in my in-box, where I’d read it from time to time, and feel guilty and defeated. I didn’t even write her back! Which was so, so rude. This was in early AUGUST!

Yesterday, another reader wrote about the same problem. Okay, I decided, now I really need to get a grip on this.

I went back to CB’s email and tried to see if I could follow her directions. There was something I didn’t understand, about using Wordpad. Remembering one of my Secrets of Adulthood, I told myself, “It’s okay to ask for help.”

So I wrote CB back, apologized for my rudeness, and asked for more help. She answered, just as nice as before. I followed her directions.

So, here goes. If you’re reading this in an RSS feed, does the post look better? Does it look worse? Have I fixed anything?

I hope that CB’s good deed makes HER feel happy – that’s the “Do good, feel good” principle.

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I’m finding Gimundo dangerously addictive — I started reading this post about the importance of scent to happiness, and then clicked from one story to the next for about half an hour. And I’m supposed to be fixing my formatting problem!

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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 Wednesday: Seven tips on how simultaneously to boost your happiness and safeguard the environment.

GlobeEvery Wednesday is Tip Day.
This Wednesday: Seven tips on how simultaneously to boost your happiness and safeguard the environment (in your own small way).

Monday was Blog Action Day, and bloggers across blogland posted about environmental issues. In honor of the occasion, I posted this week’s tip early. Here they are in their proper time slot — tips for the pursuit of happiness with a green twist:

1. Walk a mile instead of driving. Walking means you’re not adding gas fumes and rubber particles to the air, and at the same time, studies show, even a ten-minute walk lifts your mood and gives you a burst of energy.

2. Skip the bottled water. Fact is, there is no evidence that you need to drink eight glasses of water a day—this is a myth, folks! And you CERTAINLY don’t need a fresh plastic bottle each time you want some water!

3. Pause before you buy anything. Do you really need that gadget or gizmo? One study suggests that the average household could cut back on 40% of housework by cutting back on clutter, which almost certainly would boost your happiness considerably. And by not buying, you save resources that would be spend in production, transportation, and disposal.

4. Buy a gas-efficient car. Because of the hedonic treadmill, you quickly adapt to changed circumstances. Although you may fall in love with a gas-hog in the showroom, once you’ve had the car for a while, you’ll take it for granted—but stopping for gas is annoying every time.

5. Carpool. Unfortunately, a bad commute is something to which people never adjust; it’s a pain every single day. Studies show that we enjoy activities more when we do them with other people, so carpooling is better for your happiness as well as for the environment.

6. Pick up other people’s litter. Do good, feel good is a happiness truism that really is true. Act like a considerate citizen of the world, and you’ll boost your self-esteem.

7. Work in your garden. Research suggests that working with soil may boost mood by strengthening your immune system and flooding your brain with serotonin.

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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.

Why happiness doesn’t always make you feel happy, or, my fun is making me blue.

CabbageleafwestonLately, I’ve been feeling overwhelmed by some of the very things that are supposed to make me happy.

My resolutions are invaluable for keeping me on track to staying happy, but right now, they’re also stressing me out. I have too much to do. All these items are voluntary, all contribute to my happiness, but they’re time-consuming, energy-consuming, or brain-consuming –- or all three.

Plus, I do have a book to write!

Just off the top of my head, I can think of the following things I want to get done, to fulfill various resolutions.

“Spread family cheer” “Take time for projects” “Be a storehouse of happy memories”:
 I need to write the captions for the Shutterfly photo album I’m putting together of our summer photos (and it’s already October)
 I bought a special album for a series of photos of the girls as flower-girls in my sister’s wedding (in May); I need to paste them in

“Follow my curiosities” “Force myself to wander”:
 A biography of St. Therese of Lisieux recommended by Flannery O’Connor just arrived, Etienne Robo’s Two Portraits of St. Therese, and I’m dying to read it
 I just got Janet Malcolm’s Two Lives, and can’t wait to read that either, I loooove Janet Malcolm

“Cultivate rituals and traditions”:
 We need to decorate the apartment for Halloween and carve a pumpkin; thank goodness, we already have costumes
 In keeping with annual tradition, I took photos of the girls in those Halloween costumes, now I need to choose the best one, order copies, buy Halloween-themed picture frames, and give our annual Halloween memento photograph to both sets of grandparents, for their collections

“Give proofs of love” “Think of small treats or courtesies”:
 I told the Big Man I’d stop by the library to pick up a book he wants
 I need to buy the Big Man a birthday present (he wants new towels, of all things)

“Show up”:
 I want to see a friend’s new baby and visit a friend on bed-rest
 I’m trying to meet my friend target of three friends for the new school year

“Put things in circulation”:
 I got out a huge box of hand-me-downs from the Big Girl, and I need to sort through them to see what fits the Little Girl

“Keep a one-sentence journal”:
 I’m three days behind

“Take notes without a purpose”:
 I have a stack of books that I’ve read and marked, now I need to copy the marked passages into my notes (one book is Edward Weston’s Daybook, my inspiration for including his breathtaking photograph of a cabbage leaf, above)

Looking at this list is actually making me feel better. WHY am I complaining? I enjoy every single item on this list (well, except buying towels). I feel overwhelmed, but only because I’m allowing myself to feel that way. None of this is urgent, except that we need a pumpkin before Halloween and I’d like to visit my friends before months have passed.

Note to self: Remember, this is the fun part! Sheesh.

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A friend sent me this clip from YouTube, The Mom Song, in which comedian Anita Renfroe condenses everything a mother says in 24 hours into a 2 minute, 55 second song, which she sings to the William Tell Overture. It’s hilarious, plus I have to admit, I’m such a softie that I got a little teary-eyed too. Another reminder to parents…The days are long, but the years are short.

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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.