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

Want to get the "Moment of Happiness"? A daily happiness quotation in your inbox. Sign up here close daily quote

“‘Home,’ By Contrast, Is the Place Where Least Has Happened.”

GeoffDyerIn the introduction to his book Yoga for People Who Can’t Be Bothered To Do It, Geoff Dyer writes,

For several years now I’ve been puzzled by some lines of Auden’s–actually, I’ve been puzzled by many of Auden’s lines, but the ones I have in mind are from “Detective Story” (1936), where he talks about

home, the centre where the three or four things

That happen to a man do happen

I think I have trouble getting my head round this idea of home because I can’t refine down the number of things that have happened to me to ‘three or four’–or not yet I can’t anyway. Auden might turn out to be right, but for the moment, there are a lot of things that have happened, and they’ve happened in a lot of different places. “Home,” by contrast, is the place where least has happened. For the last dozen or so years, in fact, the idea of “‘home” has felt peripheral and, as a consequence, more than a little blurred. Or maybe, like Steinbeck, “I have homes everywhere,” many of which “I have not seen yet. That is perhaps why I am restless. I haven’t seen all my homes.”

As someone who has spent so much time thinking about my own experience of home, I found this fascinating.

Do you feel like “home” is the place where the things that matter happen–or that those things happen elsewhere? For me, the things that do happen happen at home.

I'm deep in the writing of my next book, Before and After, about making and breaking habits, and there's nothing more satisfying than reading the success stories of people who have changed a habit. If you have a Before-and-After story of a habit you changed, and you're willing to share it here on the blog, please contact me here. Once a week, I'll post a story. We can all learn from each other.

Embrace Good Smells. In a Museum.

scentexhibitMADOne of my very favorite resolutions is my resolution to Cultivate good smells. I’m obsessed with the delights of the sense of smell.

Loving beautiful fragrances quickly leads to a greater appreciation of perfume, and I’m now a perfume fanatic.

So you can imagine my delight at visiting the Museum of Arts and Design’s exhibit, The Art of Scent 1889-2012. The exhibit present twelve pivotal fragrances in history of scent.

I visited it for the second time last night, and had the chance to hear the brilliant Chandler Burr, organizer of the exhibit, explain why these particular perfumes were chosen. Jicky, Chanel No. 5, Drakkar Noir, Angel, Light Blue, L’Eau D’Issey, Osmanthe Yunnan, Untitled…such intriguing scents.

You might think, “How do you exhibit a perfume?” The room is spare, with a wood floor and white walls. Along the walls are twelve depressions; you lean your head into a depression, and a puff of perfume rises up.

It was such a pleasure to experience these perfumes in a beautiful place, and to learn about them and their histories. It also reminded me (though I don’t really need reminding) to appreciate the fragrances of my ordinary day, as well: the smell of vanilla, cinnamon, clean laundry, hardware store, baby lotion, my husband’s shampoo, rainstorm, flower shop.

What are some of your favorite smells from your ordinary day? Or favorite perfume or cologne?

What Are Your “Broken Windows”? Here’s a List of Mine.

broken-windowThe “broken windows theory” of policing holds that when a community tolerates minor examples of disorder and petty crime, such as broken windows, graffiti, turnstile-jumping, or drinking in public, people are more likely to commit more serious crimes.

As a law-enforcement theory, it’s controversial, but whether or not it’s true on a city-wide level, I think it’s true on a personal level.

My “broken windows” are the particular signs of disorder that make me feel out of control and overwhelmed.

  • Unsorted mail
  • Messy stacks of newspapers
  • Shoes in odd places
  • Cluttered counters
  • Dirty dishes scattered around the apartment (for my husband, as he often emphatically reminds me, dirty dishes left overnight are broken windows; for me, as long as the dishes make it into the sink, life feels under control)

From what I’ve observed, people’s other “broken windows” often include:

  • Staying in pajamas or sweats all day
  • Eating food straight from the container
  • Wearing stained or ripped clothes
  • Goofing off at work, even if no one notices
  • Piles of laundry or trash
  • An unmade bed

About the last item: surprisingly, whenever I ask people what resolutions they’ve tried, and that make them happier, “Make my bed” is the most common resolution that’s mentioned. It’s a very trivial thing, but it makes a big difference. (By the way, a survey by the National Sleep Foundation showed that people who make their bed are more likely to report a better night’s rest.)

Does fixing a broken window really matter? After all, in the context of a happy life, a pile of unsorted mail isn’t a big deal. In themselves, perhaps, these broken windows don’t matter much. But enforcing small signs of order make us feel more in control–and happier.

What are your “broken windows”? They’re different for different people. Do you agree that small signs of disorder can make you feel out of control, generally?

Epiphany: It Takes a Lot of Energy To Decide To Go To Bed.

toothbrushincup

I can’t believe it took me so long to realize this.

I’d always assumed that feeling tired would push me to go to bed. Makes sense, right? I’m tired, so I want to go to bed.

Nope! It’s a Secret of Adulthood: Going to bed takes a real burst of psychic and physical energy.

When I’m tired, I find it too taxing to switch tasks, and I can’t face the thought of washing my face,  taking out my contacts, and all the rest, so I stay on Facebook for forty minutes.

In fact, research shows that lack of sleep leads to dithering the next day, too. One study estimated that for every hour of interrupted sleep during the previous night, people wasted 8.4 minutes in online puttering—checking email, refreshing celebrity-gossip websites, and the like.

What do you think–do you find that it takes a lot of energy to decide to go to bed? Are you ever so tired you stay up, rather than go to sleep?

Secrets of Adulthood: Think More About Yourself So You Can Forget About Yourself.

Further Secrets of Adulthood:

ThinkMoreAboutYourself_124732

 

Agree, disagree?