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

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Do You Love Being Back in Your Routine? I Do.

doorknobcloseupI was out of town on vacation last week, but today I’m back in the usual swing (mostly) of my routine.

And I love it.

I’ve noticed that some people really enjoying being away from their usual routines; they try to avoid having a lot of habits; they feel freer, more energetic, and more creative when their lives are less predictable.

I’m just the opposite. I embrace habits and routine. For me, discipline brings a sense of freedom, and I love the sense of my day unfolding as I’ve planned.

How about you? Do you cultivate habits or fight them? Are you happy to be back from a trip, or do you dislike settling back into the usual routine?

As always, the secret of happiness is to know yourself. I used to feel bad about the fact that I was such a homebody creature of habit, but now that I follow my personal commandment to Be Gretchen, I embrace this aspect of myself.

If you’d like to read more along these lines, check out Happier at Home, chapter six.

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I've just finished writing my next book, Better Than Before, about how we can make and break our habits. If you'd like to pre-order the book, click here.

Happiness Is…Taking a Vacation.

openroadFarewell for a week–I’m off on a family vacation. It’s time for an “island of leisure,” as William Edward Hartpole Lecky put it: “Pleasure is a jewel which will only retain its luster when it is in a setting of work, and a vacant life is one of the worst of pains, though the islands of leisure that stud a crowded, well-occupied life may be among the things to which we look back with the greatest delight.”

“But Gretchen,” you may be thinking, “how can I possibly get along without a daily post about happiness?” Ah, all you need to do is to pick up a copy of The Happiness Project or Happier at Home. I can’t resist adding that both books were instant New York Times bestsellers, and The Happiness Project has been on the bestseller list for two years now. Yes, two years. Zoikes.

To learn more about Happier at Home, you can…

To learn more about The Happiness Project, you can…

  • Read sample chapters
  • Watch the one-minute book video
  • Request the one-page discussion guide or spiritual discussion guide
  • Listen to a sample of the audiobook (that’s me, reading from the Introduction)

Off I go–I’ll be back in a week. How about you? Have you taken a vacation recently?

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How One Quick Click Could Inspire You to Change Your Life.

Memento_MoriI recently ran across a reference to the internet site DeathClock.com.

I clicked over to it, and entered a few simple facts about myself—birthday, gender, temperament, BMI, smoker/non-smoker—and the site spat out a projected death date that was quite startling in its specificity: Saturday, February 25, 2045. (It also provided a countdown clock that showed the seconds of my life slipping away. Yipes.)

This was a bit horrifying, but also fascinating and useful, and served as a memento mori. A “memento mori” (Latin for “Remember that you must die”) is an artistic or symbolic reminder of death or mortality.  For instance, paintings depict skulls, soap bubbles, hour glasses,  burnt candles, rotting fruits and decaying flowers, or smoke, which illustrate the passage of time and its inevitable end.

The questions asked by the DeathClock are also a reminder that although we don’t have complete control over our lives, and we’ll all die (obviously), nevertheless, there are factors within our control that statistically affect the length of people’s lives. In the United States, for instance, poor diet, inactivity, smoking, and drinking are among the leading causes of death—and these are preventable behaviors.

The days are long, but the years are short. It’s useful to be reminded that actions have consequences, that what we do every day may influence our quality and length of life. Even if that reminder is a bit grim.

What do you think? Do you find such reminders upsetting, or helpful? Did you check your own date?

If you’d like to read more along these lines, check out Happier at Home, chapter eight.

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Secret of Adulthood: Soap and Water Removes Most Stains.

Further Secrets of Adulthood:

SoapAndWaterRemoves_124779

 

I’m embarrassed to say how long it took me to realize this–almost as long as it took for me to realize the similar Secret of Adulthood, that over-the-counter medications are often very effective.

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Do You Still Consider September to be the Beginning of the New Year?

Rubi_9780307886781_jkt_all_r11.inddEven though I haven’t been in school for a long time, for me, September  marks the beginning of a new year.  Orange is the new black, breakfast is the new lunch, Monday is the new Thursday, pork is the other white meat, and September is the other January. (And yes, it’s still September, even though most schools start in August nowadays.)

January is the official start of the new year, and I always get a burst of renewed zeal at that time, but September also gives the same feeling of an empty calendar and a clean slate. The air seems charged with possibility and renewal.

Back-to-school is a time of self-evaluation and reflection–and also a time when I feel the urge to buy myself some new office supplies.

Because of the new year feeling of September, when I wanted to do a a happier-at-home project, I decided to start it in September.

So many of the elements of a happy life come together in the idea of home: marriage and parenthood, in my case, though certainly not in everyone’s case; time; possessions; body; neighborhood; and, perhaps most enigmatically, the idea of now. I wanted to set aside a time to focus on the aspects of my life, to try to be as happy as I could be.

If you’re thinking about doing a happiness project yourself, now is always the best time to start–but if you do like to pick a particularly auspicious time, September is a good one. Think about it! From September to May, in one school year, you could take some steps to boost your happiness.

Blatant self-promotion: if you’d like to read something to get inspired to do a happiness project focused on your experience of home, try…Happier at Home. I love all my books equally, but my sister says Happier at Home is my best book.  One of my specialties as a writer is writing endings, and my best endings are the end to Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill, the end of my college application essay, and the end to Happier at Home. I have to say, I love the ending to this book.

“But Gretchen,” you’re thinking, “is there any way for me to learn more about the book?” Well yes there is! You can…

— read a sample chapter on the subject of “time”

— watch the one-minute book trailer, “Ten ways to be happier at home” (Can you guess which suggestion has caused some controversy?)

— request the one-page book club discussion guide

— read the Behind-the-Scenes extra (I had a great time writing this)

Summer is almost over,  and the fall brings fresh beginnings and new possibilities. Now is now.

Do you feel inspired to turn over a new leaf in September? Or is this just me?

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