A couple of months ago I was listening to my girl Oprah’s podcast (a post coming shortly on podcasts but this is a must listen!) and I was immediately intrigued by her interview with Gretchen Rubin, the author of The Happiness Project. If you know me, I love a good challenge or project. I’m always up for a month of whole 30, a new gym class, etc. I thrive off of the completion of projects and the accomplished feeling that comes with it. As I was listening to her interview, I couldn’t help but wonder…could I be happier? I am extremely confident in saying that everyone’s answer is “yes”. Now, I am fortunate to have a steady job, a loving husband, a kickass family, a beautiful home, some pretty amazing friends, etc. Overall, I live a fabulous life and I’m very happy. But, like many of you, I easily get bogged down with worry, stress and anxiety – about my future, about finances, about my body, about having kids, about my job. I think this is pretty normal and it’s important to not only be aware of these flaws, but to address them head on and always work on being the best version of ourselves that we can be. Not only for us, but for those around us. Thus, was born, my happiness project. So, for the next 12 months, once a month, I’ll be recapping my focus of the previous month – my goals, my achievements, my shortcomings and what I learned. I hope you’ll follow along in my journey!
When I decided to start this project, it was pretty difficult to organize all of the areas in my life that I thought either needed improvement, I should be working on, are lacking, or are flourishing. I want to not only identify areas that I desire improvement in, but also recognize what is working in those areas that I’m happiest in. As a 30-something woman, newly married with no kids, I realize that my goals may look different than someone else’s and that they certainly will change along as time moves along. With new life stages come new challenges and new thrills, but I think that the 12 different topics I decided on are a good fit for me and for where I am in life. I figured I would start off my yearlong happiness project with an area that I’m somewhat decent at: vitality. I’m breaking this down into two parts: health + clutter. That may seem like an odd combo, but let me explain.
Part 1: Health + Wellness
I think it’s fair to say that we could all use a “reset” in the health department every January. The post- holiday slump usually comes with a few added pounds and some poor habits to boot. We traveled so much July – December that I was definitely out of my ordinary routine. I used January as the perfect excuse to get back to it. Lucky for me, I really enjoy working out and my husband is the director of fitness at a gym, so I had no excuse. I quickly got back into the habit of working out 5-6 days per week. Naturally, with increased exercise comes better sleep (my body is tired), less stress (hello endorphins) and healthier eating (am I the only one whose eating habits are cleaner when on a high exercise plan?). There are two areas I tried hard to work on, but I’ll admit there are a few elements that could use improvement. First is going to bed earlier – I would ideally love to be asleep 11pm-7am but sometimes I stay up too late reading/working/watching Netflix. I’ve been a night owl my whole life so this is no easy task. Second is drinking more water. I love water and typically drink at least 4-5 of my large green Gatorade water bottles per day; however, my goal is 8. Hydration is key for sleep, skin, hair, appetite, workouts, etc. The benefits of being properly hydrated are truly never ending.
The Verdict: I feel really good about my health in January. Sure, I could hit the sack earlier, drink more water and indulge a bit less, but I’m about 80/20 right now and that’s okay with me.
Part 2: Clutter
Alright, so to me there are 3 types of clutter: physical, emotional and mental. I’m working on all 3 as I feel that you’re truly not at your healthiest without all 3 being addresed.
Physical Clutter: The obvious “junk drawer”, the storage unit, the overstuffed closets…everyone has areas in their home to de-clutter. I thoroughly enjoyed decluttering as much of my home as I could. I was ruthless while cleaning out closets (let’s be honest…that dress was never cute) and it was such a weight off my shoulders when I donated two large bags of home décor and three large bags of clothing to my local Goodwill. These items weren’t bringing me joy anymore, but hopefully they will to someone else. A few key takeaways that you can incorporate in your everyday de-cluttering: make the bed every morning and spend about 10 minutes cleaning up before bed at night. Also I created a weekly “power hour” where I spent one hour (11am-12pm for me) on Fridays doing those pesky, annoying tasks I procrastinated on all week: writing thank you notes, paying parking tickets, picking up dry cleaning, etc. I set aside this hour and at the end, I felt a HUGE sense of relief. I’m telling you, this is a good one!
Emotional Clutter: To me, this is working on “letting go” of emotional weight. For example, the friend who treated you poorly, the silly fight with your husband, the promotion you didn’t get at work, etc. It is stuff (typically in the past) that is emotionally weighing you down. Let. It. Go.
Mental Clutter: While similar to emotional, this is more chatter in the brain. Worrying about the 25 tasks I need to do, my mile long to do list, etc. Staying organized and focused was key here.
Emotional + Mental clutter had a lot of interchanging features so I treated them similar. For the past month, I’ve been using the “headspace” app every single morning. It only takes 5 minutes but with those 5 minutes of meditation and focus, I start my day grounded and calm. This turns off both the chatter in my brain (mental) and helps me focus on what’s important (emotional). It is an excellent tool and I hope to continue to use mediation on a daily basis going forward. Also, I’ve been trying hard to eliminate useless media intake – especially television & social media. I’ve shifted more toward reading and podcasts. It’s amazing how much your daily happiness can increase when you don’t give yourself time to play the comparison game.
The Verdict: The removal of physical clutter has had an immediate, direct impact on my overall happiness. Less is more to me, without a doubt. The emotional & mental clutter are going to be an ongoing exercise for me but I have already seen a shift in my daily outlook.
February for me is “marriage”. I figured that with Valentine’s Day, love is a good topic to address. No matter how happily married you are (and I am!), there is always room for improvement. Always a way to be a better partner. I look forward to sharing my February results with you in a few short weeks!
Have you read The Happiness Project? What’s a good monthly topic?