People may generally consider me a relatively happy person. I am generally pleasant, normally look on the bright side of things and have a panache for figuring out how to practice gratitude in seemingly ungrateful situations. So, why would I embark on something called a “happiness project” for an entire year? Why would this be something I would even bother spending my time on? Well the answer is pretty simple: because I want to try to generate more happiness into my very ordinary life. According to an overwhelming amount of research, people who consider themselves happier, have a lower heart rate, lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and lower risks of heart disease. In addition, people with a happier, more positive outlook not only get sick less often, but they recover faster. So, if nothing more, this project could give me a little extra fortification during cold and flu season!
But more than anything else, I figured if I’m happier, than it’s possible that those around me could become happier. That’s right, I have a very ulterior motive…if I’m happier than maybe my students would become happier. Maybe instead of passing on the stress that I often feel, I could pass on a little bit of happy (something perhaps a little difficult to come by in large amounts in a high school filled with emotional teens filled with angst, riding a daily emotional roller coaster).
So in addition to my normal New Year’s list of resolutions and commitments, I created a happiness project, following Gretchen Rubin’s guidance from her book The Happiness Project. In addition to her book, there are free resources found on her site. The premise for the book is that she realizes that she is not as happy as she “thinks she should be” and wants to create a project that will help her increase happiness in certain areas of her life. The process is pretty simple, although not necessarily easy: each month she comes up with a different theme and about 3-5 tangible, measurable resolutions. Then throughout the month, she works to keep track of each area of focus, checking in with her happiness along the way.
One reason I was intrigued by this project is that it’s different from normal goal setting. I’m focusing on one area of my life each month…not everything! I am looking forward to changing focus each month and mixing things up. I am looking forward to seeing how different focus areas manifest change in my life in different ways. Through doing this project, will I feel happier at work? By focusing on things like “play and fun” one month, will I be a more fun person even when I’m not participating in those activities at that time? If I commit to decluttering my house, will I feel less weighted down with stuff even when I’m not in my home?
It seems that accountability is a driving factor in keeping people honest and motivated about carrying out resolutions (or happiness projects) so I’m going to check in regularly each month about how the happiness project’s monthly theme is (or is not) working and specifically how it may be impacting my classroom environment, attitude toward work and my overall health and well-being.
January’s theme is “Environment” and my resolutions are to tackle a nagging task, be observant of the one-minute clean up, and keep up with weekly tidying and minimizing. My intention is to apply these resolutions to both my home and work environments. Perhaps by clearing away some physical clutter, the mental clutter will also start to lessen? Only time will tell. But I will be sure to report back on what I did each month, what worked (and what didn’t) and what I’m going to keep doing.
You can see a list of the whole year’s topics and resolutions here. If you are interested in starting a happiness project of your own, complete with your own topics and personal resolutions and goals, there are some great resources available at The Happiness Project. If you have any other questions, please feel free to message me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below.