Wednesday, July 31, 2013

|| My Happiness Project ||

Have you had the chance to read Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project yet?

Yeah? Cool beans. Then maybe you don't have to read this post. Or maybe you will choose to anyway.

No? Well, my friend, it is a treat for the soul. I suggest you get on your unicorn and fly to your nearest bookstore and pick up a copy. Also, wouldn't it be sweet if we really could ride unicorns to work or to Target or in my case, to the village store down the street? Mine would be bright green with electric blue dreadlocks.

Back to the point...

Gretchen Rubin is one smart lady. You'll see why later.

But first things first...
Are you happy? Like truly, unbelievably, irrevocably happy? I know that's a pretty big question and I would venture to guess that 98.75% of people aren't happy all the time. Unless you're a Buddhist Monk or a Saint or maybe Odie from Garfield and Friends. I bet even Oprah isn't a ray of sunshine every waking moment.

I consider myself a glass-half-full type, a girl who has a good head on her shoulders, smiles most of the time and is overall pretty content, but I still sometimes complain about things more than I should. I've attempted to work on this in the past. I want to be happier. My personal history includes making valiant efforts to strive to be a better, cheerier, more fulfilled person. Subscribing to the self-help flavor of the month, receiving weekly emails about soul searching and passions and living life fully, creating checklist after checklist of the person I think I should be (based on others' opinions) - these are temporary fixes and many times have ended with me feeling like I failed at trying to be better.

There's a lot that goes into being happy. A healthy dose of self-love, a choice to be so, surrounding yourself with those that bring out the best in you, and making decisions in your life that reflect your interests (If you like what you are doing, chances are you are going to be overall happier, right?). It all involves you. You are the only person who can make you happy. I know this and that's why I'm setting out to learn more about me and what it means to "Be Mandy".

The Happiness Project makes this quest in being happier a lot more accessible. Rubin first looks deep into herself to find her interests, what makes her happy, uncomfortable, areas of improvement and then lays out a year-long plan - a courageous quest -  to find a way to be happier. To be honest, the first few pages I was thinking Rubin was a little nuts... she is way too organized and has turned the idea of becoming a happier person into an arduous task, but as the book progresses you see that her way really works for her. And I think that's what it's all about. Finding ways to work towards happiness that sit well with you - and knowing that the journey that you take to being a happier person is just that, a journey and it's uniquely yours. 

I'm currently in the middle of a season of uncomfortableness. I'm not really sure what else to call it. The newness and excitement of this place is waning, I'm questioning my role, my job, why I do what I do, what I'm passionate/not-so-passionate really it's the perfect time to take up a new project. Changing things up without changing my physical location or job.

I thought I'd write about it here. I have a plan. A theme each month for the next year. And since it's August 1st why not start now? No point in waiting for 2014 to start. Plus, if I become happier in the process that will only make me a more effective Peace Corps Volunteer. When we are more content with who we are, we can help others more effectively. I'm empowered and excited and ready to look inward to see if I can cultivate a happier life. So I'm going to start today. Even though I feel happy most of the time now, this project is aimed at growth. There is always room for improvement. Always. 

Each month is going to include a theme and a set of daily resolutions that connect to the theme (which Rubin lets us know are better than goals because they are something we are constantly working on where as once a goal is met it's met...).

So here's the plan for August.
Theme: Vitality - I am striving to boost my energy.
1. Exercise better (which includes a commitment to a consistent yoga practice including 6 sessions a week).
2. Act more energetic (...even when my energy is waning around my students and fellow community members). 
3. Toss, restore and organize (even in Peace Corps it's easy to accumulate unneeded stuff and the battle in keeping a shack clean that has a history of rat problems and the addition of a new kitten is going to be quite an interesting task! Plus, when your life is organized you tend to be more productive!). 
4.  Eat mindfully. (Instead of focusing on when I should be eating, I am going to focus on whether or not I'm hungry and what/how much I'm putting into my body)

How will I be accountable to myself? I made a sweet looking journal full of pictures and little trinkets that I've collected that make me smile and included inside is a resolutions chart. It's got a box for each day and each resolution. I just ask myself... "Mandy, how did you do?" Maybe I'll show it to you sometime. During my morning coffee/tea time before school I will look back on the day before and ask myself if I really completed what I set out to. The empty box either stays empty or gets a check. It also will help me focus on creating mindful intentions for my day.  

Here I go. 

I invite you to think about a happiness project, too! Maybe yours doesn't have to be a year long... maybe it's just a month, or a week or a day ... or for the next five minutes?

One of my favorite quotes from Gretchen Rubin: "One of the best ways to make myself happy is to make other people happy. One of the best ways to make other people happy, is to be happy myself."

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