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Pursuit of Happiness

Gretchen Rubin's "Happiness Project" is a book-in-draft collection of "rules for living" that occasionally hits a home run. A recent list of 10 tips, for instance, suggests:

1. Don't start with profundities. ... start with the basics, like going to sleep at a decent hour and not [getting] too hungry ...

2. Do let the sun go down on anger. ... Expressing anger related to minor, fleeting annoyances just amplifies bad feelings, while not expressing anger often allows it to dissipate.

3. Fake it till you feel it. ... Feelings follow actions. If I'm feeling low, I deliberately act cheery, and I find myself actually feeling happier. If I'm feeling angry at someone, I do something thoughtful for her and my feelings toward her soften. This strategy is uncannily effective.

4. Realize that anything worth doing is worth doing badly. People who do new things—learn a game, travel to unfamiliar places—are happier than people who stick to familiar activities that they already do well. ...

5. Don't treat the blues with a "treat." ... The pleasure lasts a minute, but then feelings of guilt and loss of control and other negative consequences deepen the lousiness of the day. ...

6. Buy some happiness. Our basic psychological needs include feeling loved, secure, and good at what we do and having a sense of control. Money doesn't automatically fill these requirements, but it sure can help. I've learned to look for ways to spend money to stay in closer contact with my family and friends; to promote my health; to work more efficiently; to eliminate sources of irritation and marital conflict; to support important causes; and to have enlarging experiences. ...

7. Don't insist on the best. There are two types of decision makers. Satisficers (yes, satisficers) make a decision once their criteria are met. ... Maximizers want to make the best possible decision. ... Satisficers tend to be happier than maximizers. ... Sometimes good enough is good enough.

8. Exercise to boost energy. ... Exercise is one of the most dependable mood-boosters. ...

9. Stop nagging. ... I knew my nagging wasn't working particularly well, but I figured that if I stopped, my husband would never do a thing around the house. Wrong. If anything, more work got done. Plus, I got a surprisingly big happiness boost from quitting nagging. I hadn't realized how shrewish and angry I had felt as a result of speaking like that. I replaced nagging with the following persuasive tools: wordless hints (for example, leaving a new lightbulb on the counter); using just one word (saying "Milk!" instead of talking on and on); not insisting that something be done on my schedule; and, most effective of all, doing a task myself. ...

10. Take action. ... Although it's true that genetics play a big role, about 40 percent of your happiness level is within your control. Taking time to reflect, and conscious steps to make your life happier, really does work.

OK, so some of these aren't deep, or even consistent with one another—but all of them are worth thinking about and maybe even trying.

(cf. UnenviableHappiness (2006-02-27), ...) - ^z - 2008-11-19

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