At the end of the day, we are all just trying to figure out how to be happy in this crazy life. Balancing what is important now (traveling, puppies, cute apartments) with what will be necessary for the future (umm, hello saving for retirement) can be pretty tricky. To find some inspiration, I started taking a page from an expert’s book – quite literally. Here are two books that have changed my outlook on what is important and where happiness is derived:
“The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin
This book quite literally changed my life. Here is what it is about, from Rubin’s website: “One rainy afternoon, while riding a city bus, Gretchen Rubin asked herself, “What do I want from life, anyway?” She answered, “I want to be happy”—yet she spent no time thinking about her happiness. In a flash, she decided to dedicate a year to a happiness project. The result? One of the most thoughtful and engaging works on happiness to have emerged from the recent explosion of interest in the subject.”
This book resonated so deeply with me because Rubin was not unhappy, she just realized that she could be happier. She has children and a supportive husband, a job she loves, and an awesome family. And yet, she still wasn’t an exuberantly happy person. So Rubin decided to spend a year making the conscious effort to be happy, overtly happy. I felt the same, my life didn’t suck, but at 23 years old, I really had to shake things up.
Here are some of Rubin’s Rules that I have taken into my daily life:
Have a ‘Follow Up’ Journal: When you are suggested to do something, write it down so you can follow up with the suggestion later. Some easy examples of this are noting books to read or shows to watch. Rubin extends this further by jotting down things she wants to research, like Joan of Arc or Buddhism. Some of the things that I have written down based on suggestions are: San Luis Obispo weekend trips, the book “The Art of Thinking Clearly”, the podcast “Serial”, a career in public relations, the TV show “Mad Men”, and the rapper Kendrick Lamar.
Spend Out: Do you have things around your house that you are saving for a special occasion? Yeah, me too. And what Rubin found, and I agree with, is that often the perfect time to use that fancy Jo Malone candle or break out the good silver never comes. What Rubin suggests is spending out. Break out Grandma’s antique China, use the fancy stationary, and burn that Orange Blossom candle because it brings you happiness, not because you are finally hosting that fancy dinner party. For me, this really centered around using sample sizes of products I have been given. I found that I was hoarding them, waiting for a time when I would be traveling and would be able to save money by not having to go out and buy travel sizes. There were two problems: 1) I wasn’t traveling 2) When I was (infrequently), I didn’t want to use a sample of a new product, I wanted to use my tried and true products. So I never used them. After reading about this Rubin Rule however, I decided to spend out and start using up the products I have already paid for or was given. I would not purchase any new products until I had used up my stash! This has actually been a very liberating process. I feel lighter, less weighed down by the guilt of purchasing a lotion when I already had 2 sitting in my cabinet (one too thick, one too scented). I either sucked it up and used it, or I sent the product on its merry way to a happier home.
Start a One-Sentence Journal: Rubin would end her night on a positive note by recording in one sentence something that made her happy from her day. I took this idea and ran with it. For 6 months now, I have been recording nightly one thing that made me happy and one thing I am grateful for from my day. It is the best way to end my night, and if I am having a bad day, I will flip through and read back through the previous months. This has taught me how easy it is to find the good in every day if you stop to look for it.
Night time tidying: Taking just 15 minutes to tidy up before bedtime really can make a world of difference the next morning. Washing the dinner dishes, folding the blanket on the couch, and sorting mail were a few of Rubin’s suggestions. For me, having a tidy house with dishes and dog toys put away at night eased anxiety about having people pop over to my house straight after work the next day. I also took time to set myself up for success the next morning by laying out my work clothes and vitamins, packing breakfast and lunch and even pre-scopping my dog’s breakfast into her bowl. Little things like this made a world of difference. I saved money by not purchasing coffee at work because I had a thermos ready to go, and I stopped feeling rushed. I really was waking up on the right side of the bed every morning.
“Year of Yes” by Shondra Rhimes
This was a more recent read of mine, but still influential. Here is what “Year of Yes” is all about: “With three hit shows on television and three children at home, the uber-talented Shonda Rhimes had lots of good reasons to say NO when an unexpected invitation arrived. Hollywood party? No. Speaking engagement? No. Media appearances? No. And there was the side-benefit of saying No for an introvert like Shonda: nothing new to fear. Then Shonda’s sister laid down a challenge: just for one year, try to say YES to the unexpected invitations that come your way. Shonda reluctantly agreed―and the result was nothing short of transformative. In Year of Yes, Shonda Rhimes chronicles the powerful impact saying yes had on every aspect of her life―and how we can all change our lives with one little word. Yes.”
I have heard of being a ‘Yes Man’ for a night or so, but saying ‘yes’ for an entire year, now that is dedication! But reading through Rhimes’ memoir has really influenced me to push the boundaries of my comfort level. Take a spontaneous trip to New York? Yes. Rescue my Ex in LA when his flight was canceled? Yes. Go to brunch at my mom’s boss’ house knowing I would have to explain to all of her coworkers why I am unemployed? Yes.
Like Rhimes, I have learned that saying yes to (most) of life’s opportunities is revolutionary. When you open yourself to possibilities, more often than not, good things come in. And at the very least, it is an opportunity to learn from a new experience.
This book has inspired me to take a year, and hopefully a lifetime, of saying ‘yes’ to myself. ‘Yes’ to doing what makes me happy. ‘Yes’ to moving to a new city. ‘Yes’ to a second round of drinks. ‘Yes’ to traveling. ‘Yes’ to grad school. ‘Yes’ to sleeping in. ‘Yes’ to reading. ‘Yes’ to creating a blog. ‘Yes’ to trial and error. ‘Yes’ to an early morning hike. ‘Yes’ to a movie night with mom and dad. And ‘Yes’ to finding an adventure.
Yes. Yes. Yes. It is so simple. And when you think about it, easier than saying ‘no’ because you don’t need to come up with an excuse for ‘why not?’
I hope this post inspires you to check out these great reads. I highly recommend reading “The Happiness Project” in paperback as Rubin writes out lists which are easier to understand visually, and to listen to “Year of Yes” in an audio book format. Rhimes is the narrator and does an amazing job. Depending on her level of sass, she channels either Olivia Pope (“Scandal”) or Dr. Miranda Bailey (“Grey’s Anatomy”). If listening to either of those formidable women doesn’t inspire you to feel the fear in a new situation and say ‘yes’ anyways, then nothing will.
Cheers to happiness. Cheers to ‘Yes’
Do you have a book suggestion for me? Let me know below.