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

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This Saturday: a happiness quotation from George Sand.

“One is happy as a result of one’s own efforts, once one knows of the necessary ingredients of happiness—simple tastes, a certain degree of courage, self-denial to a point, love of work, and, above all, a clear conscience. Happiness is no vague dream, of that I now feel certain.” –George Sand.

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The happiness of COMING HOME from a vacation.

As much as I’ve enjoyed our vacation, I’m happy that we’re heading home tomorrow.

I always feel this way on a trip, and it has bothered me that I don’t seem to be able to enter into the holiday spirit more completely.

Am I a slave to routine? Lacking in a zest for new experiences? A workaholic? Overly dependent on my familiar creature comforts?

But I’ve decided to “Be Gretchen” without judging. I should be happy that I’m always thrilled to be going home, instead of getting the Sunday blues that a lot of people feel at the end of a vacation. Why look for a reason to criticize myself, instead of feeling grateful for feeling that way?

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This Wednesday: A tip for buying groceries while on vacation.

Every Wednesday is Tip Day.
This Wednesday: A tip for buying groceries while on vacation.

Fortunately for me, the Big Man loves to go to the grocery store, wherever he is. Here on vacation, where the grocery store is the only store in town and just a two-minute bike trip, he once made five separate shopping trips in a single day.

I, however, am not a fan of grocery shopping. I decided to come up with a short list of the foods that we HAD to keep in the house. I realized that we could live for a week (well, I could live for a week, others might start to complain pretty quick) with just eight items.

1. broccoli
2. apples
3. whole wheat pita bread
4. non-fat plain yoghurt
5. crunchy peanut butter
6. raspberry jam
7. skim milk
8. Cheerios or Total cereal

Plus coffee and Diet Coke.

Am I advocating this list for others – or even my own family? Nope. I’m ADMITTING to it. I recognize the limits of the nutrition here. Obviously, we eat lots of other things. But these are the bedrock foods.

I’m not sure whether this is a “tip” or just an interesting exercise, though somehow it has seemed useful to identify our idiosyncratic food foundation. And here on vacation, it has made it easier to know what food supplies to watch carefully. Running out of grapes – not a big deal. Running out of apples – we must take immediate action.

(Yes, I realize that today is Thursday, but I couldn’t get online yesterday…and refuse to allow technical difficulties to spoil my holiday mood.)

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A key to happiness: over-the-counter medication. Don’t take it for granted.

One of my Secrets of Adulthood (see bottom left-hand column) is “Over-the-counter medicines are very effective.”

Why is this so hard for me to remember?

Last night, I couldn’t sleep because I was so uncomfortable. I had a scrape on the back of my thigh that was in the itchy stage of healing, and a rash on my other leg was also intensely itchy.

I lay there, in the heat and humidity (no air conditioning in our vacation spot), trying and failing to resist itching one leg and then the other.

Then I remembered: “Wait, maybe I can put some MEDICINE on my legs!”

I’d packed a tube of Lanacane for the trip. And you know what, although it surprises me every time, over-the-counter medication really DOES work. The itchiness stopped almost entirely.

Somehow, although I’m a firm believer in medicine, I always assume that the anti-itch creme, the cough suppressant, and the allergy medicine won’t really make much difference to my condition. But they DO. They really do work.

One habit I’ve developed as part of my happiness project has been to try to do a better job managing discomfort. Not letting myself get too hungry, too sleepy, too cold, or too itchy, makes it easier for me to stay patient and light-hearted.

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Why I started keeping a daily “one-sentence journal” (ok, a not-quite daily journal).

August 1 marked the first anniversary of my One-Sentence Journal.

For a long time, I’d been alarmed by how little I remembered about my own past. In particular, because one of my resolutions is to “Appreciate this time of life,” I felt the impulse to keep a record of the pattern of our days (not to mention the funny things my children said) so I’d remember this time of life later.

The idea of keeping a proper journal was far too daunting, so I decided instead to keep a “one-sentence journal.”

Each night, I write one sentence (well, actually, usually it’s three or four sentences, but by calling it a “one sentence journal” I keep my expectations realistic) about what happened that day to me, the Big Man, and the girls.

Right now, I can’t imagine forgetting the time when the Little Girl said politely, “Can I have some more pajamas on my pasta?” when she meant “parmesan,” but I will, I will.

And I’ll forget what it was like to have a child who still sleeps in a crib, or one who is reading Elizabeth Enright’s The Saturdays for the first time. I’ll forget the huge amount of meat that the Big Man once grilled in a single evening.

My hope is that, years from now, when I’m trying to remember what life was like at this point, I can look back at my one-sentence journal.

Of course, I’ve missed a lot of days. Although I’ve been trying to keep it up for a year, it still hasn’t quite solidified into a habit. I’ve let ten days go by, without thinking about the journal once. But still, I’ve managed to get a lot of memories down on paper.

When I get back from vacation, I’m going to use my beloved Lulu.com to print out three “books” of the journal’s first year – one for the Big Man and me, one for each of the girls.

My path-breaking happiness formula holds that to be happy, you must think about feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right, in an atmosphere of growth.

Keeping this journal is a project that adds to my happiness in all of these ways: it helps keep happy memories vivid (because I’m much more inclined to write about happy events than unhappy events); it gives me a reason to thinking lovingly about my family; it’s manageable, so it doesn’t make me feel burdened; it makes me feel like a good mother who is passing happy memories along to my children; and it gives me a feeling of accomplishment and progress.

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Once again: LifeRemix!

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