Now that the clutter is slowly clearing away from the corners as a result of my successful January Happiness Project, I thought February would be a great time to start focusing on some other places that I often feel like I don’t appreciate enough: relationships, both at home and at school. When I was making the original list, I had this nagging realization that I don’t see my family too much unless it’s a holiday or birthday. Unlike some other people I know, I don’t have traditions to go out to coffee just because or stop by my parents’ house unexpectedly. I also realized how much I don’t call my grandparents and I was really feeling guilty. It’s not that I didn’t have intentions to do these things, plan more outings, or pick up the phone. It’s just that when life really gets rolling, I have little energy to plan or pick up the phone.
Likewise, I have relatively decent relationships at school, but I don’t see myself as going above and beyond to reach out to people I may not know well. Nor, do I make too many contacts home to parents (except for those dreaded phone calls). As a way of inclining my mind to kindness, I thought it would be great to start building in some small, manageable relationship building habits at the beginning of the year that I could see through. The hope is that some of them stick (like January’s Tackle a Nagging Task and the One-Minute Tidy).
One of the major reasons I wanted to do this Happiness Project was to figure out how to create new traditions with my family that would be year long, not just holiday specific. Hopefully by the end of the month a family dinner will be planned and executed. Most importantly before we leave to go home, planning the next day we will get together the following month will insure that we always have a next date tentatively scheduled and don’t have to find ways to successfully coordinate.
Like most teachers, I try to build community with my classes. We just started a new semester full of new students. Creating and sustaining a new tradition with each class would be a great way to continue community building throughout the school year. Something as simple as a Monday morning check-in about their weekend could be a great tradition that would help me know them and help them understand that they are cared about for more than just how they perform on a test.
I am the worst at calling first! This relationship building practice is one that needed to be a part of the Happiness Project because I am notorious for calling people back but rarely calling anyone first. Reaching out first is something I want to do more, especially with my extended family who live out of town. I am riddled with guilt for all the time that passes between phone calls. This guilt causes me to freeze. Freezing causes me to not pick up the phone. Not picking up the phone causes me to feel guilt. Guilt causes me to freeze. Do you see the pattern?
My hope for this resolution is that I get over my uncomfortability and realize that just the gesture of a phone call is meaningful. I often psych myself out about not having anything to say or feeling bad about calling at an inconvenient time. I talk myself out of dialing the numbers before I even have the phone in my hand. What I’ve realized is that the phone call is not entirely about me. It’s about maintaining and building a connection. If I want the connection, I need to pick up the phone: uncomfortable or not.
In my classroom, this resolution is all about calling home to parents before there is an issue. I’m notorious for only making a call when there’s a problem (and even then I still manage to procrastinate!). Because I teach high school students, I rationalize that this is fine because most of the time the students and I work out solutions to problems without needing to involve parents.
However, making the first phone call home, unprompted, when there’s even a good report will be a great tactic to employ. For all of you teachers out there who are judicious about phone calls home, I’d love some tips. This is one area where I’ve always felt lacking. Which is exactly why this made the list!
Above and beyond making a phone call, this resolution is all about doing random acts of kindness for my family, friends, strangers, students and co-workers. By deliberately trying to do random acts of kindness without expectation or only in response to someone else’s behavior, I am hoping to cultivate happiness and joy where there wasn’t before.
According to recent scientific research, not only our germs but also our feelings are contagious. So, stress is contagious….but so is happiness! In fact, there are studies that show that happiness is contagious at least up to two degrees of separation. So if you help cultivate some happiness within a person, their happiness can impact someone else, who may pass it on to someone else! Think about that: with a simple act of kindness we can may be able to impact the happiness level of people we don’t even have direct interaction with!
So January was about cleaning up and cleaning out and February is all about building. Through creating traditions, making the first call and reaching out just because I am hopeful that by inclining my mind to kindness I will be able to create more opportunities to really savor moments of relationship with all people I encounter. This month is sure to show me how being deliberate with my intention and time, I can create more happiness in my life than I ever thought possible. And if that doesn’t happen, I think my heart will be happier by February 28th!