I think I’m sort of obsessed with Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project in the way that some people get obsessed with a TV series or fiction writer. I first read her book almost 2 years ago and, to be honest, I didn’t get into it at first. Gretchen sort of annoyed me: her resolutions seemed so virtuous, and she was so meticulous and good about tracking them and following through with them. I was bothered by the concept of a happiness project because I felt like I could never do anything like it.

But as I read more of the book (for whatever reason, I felt compelled to carry on), I realized that part of why Gretchen bugged me is because, well, I’m sort of just like her in a lot of ways. Once I relaxed about it, I found myself really enjoying her project and even cheering for her. I then started following her blog, which has great nuggets of happiness truth, and I’ve been to hear her speak. She was so much nerdier and dorkier than I envisioned, and it only endeared her to me more! It felt like listening to someone you really like talk, and it’s clear she’s so passionate about this whole happiness thing that the lecture didn’t feel like a lecture at all. So anyway, I’m pretty much obsessed with Gretchen Rubin and her happiness project.

I still don’t feel like I can do a full-blown project of my own, but using happiness as a frame of reference has been good as I reflect on day-to-day life. I’ve blogged before about my book club, which was somewhat inspired by her truth that “What’s fun for you isn’t necessarily fun for other people and vice versa,” as well as other related concepts, like her Secrets of Adulthood.

As I was washing the dishes the other night, somewhat begrudgingly, I must admit, I had a flash: this isn’t particularly fun right now, but the happiness boost I’ll get from having it done later (and seeing the kitchen clean) will be well worth it. That felt Happiness Project-esque to me.

And as I’ve pondered that realization, I think I’ve come up with a happiness resolution:

Do one thing every day that I don’t have to do.

I am extremely duty-driven. Often that fact that something needs to be done is enough motivation to power me through doing it. But lately I’ve been finding that I’ve felt more grudging about these tasks, things like doing the laundry and going grocery shopping. Grudging is not a productive emotion. It’s not like I want Andy to take over the laundry and the grocery shopping. In fact, I specifically want to be the one in our family who does these things. So what good is it for me to feel grumpy about them? I’ve been trying to be more conscious of my attitude when I announce that I’m going to the store or the laundry room, and it’s been helping to remember that I ultimately am glad to be in charge of these tasks, but it’s still hard to get to the end of a day and feel like everything I did that day was just out of utility, that nothing I did was fun or just for me.

So I’m going to try to add small things that are not required. (And I hope that by trying to add them they don’t start feeling required.) I really am not sure what these things might be. Unfortunately, most of the things I can think of require spending money: stopping to get a fancy coffee drink, getting a pedicure, buying a new shirt, or renting a chick flick to watch online. And things like watching a chick flick and getting a pedicure take a fair amount of time, which is often of the essence. But I feel confident that there are things I can do that will make me happy that don’t need to be done. It’s my goal to figure out what some of them are and incorporate them into my life on a more regular basis.

What are some little happiness boosters in your life? Do you spend much time consciously considering your happiness level?

Laura Lindeman

Laura Lindeman