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

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In honor of Blog Action Day: Seven tips for how simultaneously to boost your happiness and safeguard the environment (in your own small way).

BlogactiondayToday is Blog Action Day, and bloggers across blogland are posting about the environment.

So, in honor of Blog Action Day, here are seven tips on how simultaneously to boost your happiness and safeguard the environment (in your own small way).

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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Sarah Lindner, of the Austin American-Statesman, wrote a very nice article — Want to Be Happier? Read This — about the Happiness Project. It’s a great piece; also, it showed me that I need to make a new resolution: to stop saying “sort of” and “kind of” so often!

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This Saturday: a happiness quotation from Henry David Thoreau.

Thoreau“I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavor.” — Henry David Thoreau.

It’s true, conscious endeavor (or, as I less loftily call it, sticking to your resolutions) can allow you to change your life — but it can be hard. For example, many people struggle to keep a resolution to exercise. This post offers some suggestions. Or you might try creating your own resolution charts, which have really me.

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Visiting sites like the incomparable Lifehacker often fill me with a zeal to make useful changes in my life.

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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 you should (and shouldn’t) let a child stay up late.

WmcTonight, that terrific new television show, Women’s Murder Club, airs for the first time – ABC, 9:00 Eastern. My sister and her writing partner happen to be Executive Producers.

The Big Man’s parents are coming over to our apartment to watch, and I’m irresponsibly allowing the Big Girl to stay up late to watch, too. It seems like one of those things she just shouldn’t miss, even if it makes her cranky the next day – like visiting a bookstore at midnight to pick up the last Harry Potter book. It’s an adventure.

When I think back on happy childhood memories, they often involve violations of some usual rule. My maternal grandparents bought us Pop-Tarts. My paternal grandmother let us stay up late watching TV. On Christmas and Easter, my parents let us eat candy before breakfast.

I must say, however, that after reading Po Bronson’s article in New York Magazine about the importance of sleep for children, Snooze or Lose, I’m not going to permit too many of these late nights.

Nevertheless my happiness-project resolutions include “Spread family cheer,” “Take time for fun,” and “Cultivate family rituals and traditions.” Breaking the parental rules once in a while, and building an event into a celebration, seem in this spirit.

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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.

Need a simple way to boost your mood in one minute? Look at a photograph of someone you love.

ShellsA reader sent me an email telling me about a strategy she uses when she needs a dose of happiness: she imagines the smiling faces of her family and other beloved people in her life.

That certainly rang true for me. We have a long line of photographs along a windowsill in our bedroom, and I often stop to look at each photograph, even though I’ve seen them all a thousand times, and it always cheers me up.

I read a note in the May O Magazine about a study in which people were asked about their moods before and after eating chocolate, listening to music, and looking at photographs of loved ones. The only activity that altered their moods was looking at photographs – they got an 11% lift.

I’ve never been one to carry photos of my family in my wallet (I figure that it’s safe to assume other people aren’t as interested in my children as I am), but now I’m going to start – not to show other people (though I’m sure I won’t be able to resist), but for my own benefit.

I was surprised, however, that this study suggested that listening to music didn’t boost people’s moods. I’ve read other research showing that listening to music is one of the most effective ways to get a lift. Maybe the people in this study didn’t get to pick music they liked.

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Countdown continues! Tomorrow is the big day! The first Women’s Murder Club airs — ABC, 9:00 Eastern.

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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: Six tips for preparing yourself for a vigorous, healthy old age.

OldageEvery Wednesday is Tip Day.
This Wednesday: Six tips to prepare yourself for a vigorous, healthy old age.

“Old age ain’t no place for sissies,” H. L. Mencken proclaimed.

We all want to be energetic and pain-free for our whole lives, but just watching how older people walk down the street (or are pushed in a wheelchair) is a reminder of how differently people age.

Some people look great and move easily; other people who are about the same age are obviously frail.

One of my happiness-project resolutions is to take steps now that will lay the groundwork for my life decades from now. Studies show that even modest changes can have a dramatic effect on health and longevity.

Here are six tips I follow that will, I hope, set me up to be strong and healthy in my old age:

1. Exercise regularly. There are different theories to explain why aerobic exercise promotes brain regeneration and wards off decline, but for whatever reason, it does have that effect.

2. Yoga. Falls are a major danger to older adults, and working on flexibility and balance means that we’re less likely to fall.

3. Strength-training. We naturally lose muscle as we age, and working out with weights helps offset that process. I started working out with weights fairly recently, and I’ve been astounded by the difference it has made in my body. I thought I was one of those people who just couldn’t develop muscles; turns out I was one of those people who didn’t have a very effective exercise regimen.

4. Wear sunscreen every day. Dermatologists agree that this is the best way to ward off wrinkles. (Okay, this is about vanity, not frailty, but still important to me.)

5. Floss and go to the dentist. My father is haunted by a line from the movie “Peggy Sue Got Married,” when one character remarks that she wished she’d taken better care of her teeth. I hate to admit this, but I’ve always been pretty lax about tooth-care, beyond brushing — but I’ve reformed.

6. Act happy, be happy. Montaigne observed, “It seems to me that in old age our souls are subject to more troublesome ailments and weaknesses than in youth.” No one wants to age into a querulous, isolated person. Being happy is a safeguard against many ills. Having fun, making time for friends, and keeping up with family traditions are important steps to happiness now and forever.

I don’t need to quit smoking, take blood pressure medication, lose a bunch of weight, or keep my cholesterol down, but these are obviously important steps to take if necessary.

A key to all these steps is being able to stick to your resolutions. If keeping resolutions is a challenge, you might be interested in this post.

I’m sure there are many other things I should do…any suggestions?

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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.