Will You Join Me in a Happiness Project?

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I’ve been reading and thinking about happiness – and discovered a blog by Gretchen who went on a Happiness Project for a year (and has since written a book on it which will be published in December 2009 The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun), every day trying out something to see if that made her happy – and I thought that doing something like this, albeit on a smaller scale would be a good idea – even though I’m a pretty happy person, it doesn’t hurt to try and improve on what I already have, rather than take it for granted.

The most attractive and beautiful people are those that are more positive than negative, few people want to hang round with people who constantly rain on their parade. So as beauty comes from within, and this is all about finding the most attractive ‘inner you’ and wearing her on the outside – I think that there is a lot of relevance to the work I do.
So each week, I’ll try out something – a theory or two and see what works for me and report back here – I’d love you to come along for the ride and share your experiences.
This week I’ve started doing dance classes – trying some different styles. I grew up doing ballet, and then took up tap dancing when I was 27, but haven’t done that for a few years. Watching myself in the mirror last night I realised that I’ve lost (or maybe never had) any gracefulness, I move way more stiffly now, but maybe if I keep going, I’ll get some of it back. But even though my brain and feet don’t necessarily work together, I found myself smiling through the class, and feeling good afterwards, and wanting to go back again – so I think that this falls into the class of something that does work to make me a little happier.
How about you? What makes you happy?

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32 Comments

  • For me it's singing.
    I joined a choir last year that wasn't really a good fit for practical reasons but i did SOOOOOO love the positive weelbeing from meeting the challenge of learning new songs without being able to read music as well as just lifting my voice in unison/harmony with others. Time to find a new choir methinks!!

  • I love to knit! Any time I have an extra half hour or more to just unwind and knit a scarf or hat or baby blanket to give to someone, I love it! Knitting helps me relax and unwind….I also am happy about making gifts for people…some friends/family, and some friends I've never met in person (via blogs, etc.)…it's a lot of fun!
    Speaking of dancing, some co-workers and I just signed up for five weeks of bellydancing classes, starting next week! I am sure I won't be that coordinated, but it should be great for toning and stretching! πŸ™‚

  • Imogen, I love your idea, and I think it would be great to play along.

    How funny that you mentioned dance! My head & feet don't always work together either – though after a few years it's easier than it used to be – but dancing is one of the activities I've truly grown to love. I'm going to a dance workshop all weekend and can't wait – good friends, lots of learning and exercise opportunites.

  • I love that you are taking ballet, Imogen! Just love it. I did the same thing when I was about 42 or so–revisited my childhood interest as my daughter was taking classes herself.

    I did this for over a year, and it made me very very happy. I don't need to continue though. It was just glorious.

    Today, I'm throwing myself into refashioning wool sweaters.

    This is a lovely idea and I will follow along.

  • I'm in. I've been trying to do the gratitude thing, myself – through some rather trying times – and it does make a difference. Also, I swear by meditation. I'm such a frantic, list-making, multi-tasker, that sitting still and focusing on NOT doing for half an hour is really amazingly effective … Plus yoga and running.

  • LPC – thanks!

    PinkApple – anything else you plan to do?

    Kelly – I'm go glad that knitting does so much for your state of mind!

    Kari – sounds fabulous fun!

    Katie – I look forward to finding out what you plan to do.

    Sallymandy – I expect to see some of your handiwork on your blog!

    Tiffany – I so wish I could run – it just doesn't work for me!

  • after 30 years I have gone back to riding! I learned as an adult and then with family & kids didn't have the time or the money. I love the horses, the classes and the laid back stable environment complete with dogs and friendly goat. a little bit of country in the city…wonderful…
    Laura

  • This post came as a surprise ! Actually I am very satisfied at the moment, I have all I need, even more. What possibly could I wish for, what do I lack ? Ok. I used to enjoy reading books and watching movies. Somehow; I donΒ΄t know why, I have totally lost interest on the mentioned. I have this feeling, that I must be efficient all the time, that it is wrong for me to spend time on myself. Maybe I should at least try to take a book ( or a magazine ) in my hand..

  • Great idea…& it's actually perfect timing for me. I just lost my job & with the fantastic US economy, I'm at home. I have mixed feelings about that, but I have plenty of time on my hands.

    So, this week, I'm cleaning the master bedroom closet!

  • Imogen great idea. I used to follow Gretchen's blog n found it great for helping with my tendancy to see the worst! I love (LOVE!)sewing and started classes this year- it's my time. Will be delighted to follow your lead. Moz, Ireland

  • do you know what a loaded question this is??
    i am generally an optimistic, positive person. i have activities that i enjoy and practice on a regular basis. but happy? that goofy, ilovesmilingattheworld look on my face – not so much. what would take me from contented enjoyment (a state i love)to outright happiness?? hmmmmmmm
    i'll be watching for your next installment and hopefully have an answer…..

  • What a fabulous project! I've been making a concerted effort to be more adventurous – take advantage of my incredible city – but I'm always in favor of increasing my happiness. Will have to discuss with the hubs and make a plan.

  • Like you I'm generally a happy person, but I'm more than happy to join you in this project!

    I did actually take up tap dancing about 4 years ago after longing to do it since I was a child – sadly it didn't make me as happy as I thought it would – I was rubbish!

    At the moment I find my Body Combat class makes me happy πŸ™‚ But I need to find something new!

    For the next week I am going to challenge myself to make my house presentable to guests – that should not only make me happy, but should cheer my husband up too!

  • I totally agree that positive people are more attractive than negative; unfortunately, my personality tends towards the negative/pessimistic side, so I need to consciously nurture the positive. I think it's great you are incorporating it into your blog, and it will help remind me to strive towards happiness.

    What makes me happy? Right now, it's drumming! I'm starting a drum circle and am taking drumming classes.

  • Not working full time as of this year is making me very happy; more time for simply living. It's more difficult to be happy under intense time pressure and fatigue of the 'double shift' of work and family many women face.

  • So many things make me happy, I can't begin to list them. But cooking, singing, good dinners on a patio, beautiful environments, dancing, sex, reading, blogging – the list goes on!

  • I love reading fashion magazines and blogging! I do it every day now that Ive graduated from law school and have yet to find a job.

  • Hi Imogen! Believe me, people who are born with a naturally happy disposition like you and me and many others who have posted here are very fortunate. My mother, bless her, had severe depression and three of my friends are on anti-depressants. I cannot imagine what this must feel like as they literally see NOTHING of beauty in their own lives but plenty in the lives of others.

    What makes me happy? Writing (fact and fiction), The Great Outdoors, my family, my pooches, my ability to create in many media, the sun, the sky, the sea. I love the sea and feel I belong to it. Reading makes me happy, especially blogs like yours that are so engaging and prove that no woman is an island. I'd better go as Katie wants me to check my tabs…lol!

  • imogene,
    i had to post again because i've thought about this all afternoon. i actually put pen to paper and wrote out a list. here are a few:
    road trips (i scheduled one!). singing aloud to the car radio. being in the mountains. being with certain people. 'real' mail. baking to share.
    thanks for posing such an evocotive question. my day was brightened just thinking about these things.

  • Gretchen is following the work of "happiness researchers" like Martin Seligman, who think that psychology has too often focused exclusively on fixing what's wrong with a person instead of trying to also take people who feel fine and make them feel even better.

    These researchers have found a number of things that correlate with increasing one's happiness. Definitely, engaging in an activity that you love (like dance for you, Imogen) is one of them. Others practices that have been proved to make a person happier include "forgiving and forgetting," "temporizing the negatives" (work on telling yourself things like like, this is a bad day rather than my life sucks, or he nags when I don't do the dishes instead of he's always such a nag), and helping others.

    I'd really love it if we could focus on different area together, each month.

  • Laura – that's so great that you've found a new passion!

    Metscan – this is more about increasing your happiness or taking out insurance on it in a way!

    Claire – let me know how happy cleaning makes you feel? Do you enjoy the process or the satisfaction afterwards?

    Moz – thanks for commenting – so many of us lose our hobbies over the years – yet they can bring so much joy.

    DowntheGardenPath – I'm interested to see how much more enjoyment it can bring making a concerted effort!

    Sal – I look forward to hearing what you and husband Mike come up with!

    Tat – hoping that clearing isn't too onerous!

    cciele – drumming is amazing – I think making noise in that rhythmic fashion can be really great for your soul.

    Duchesse – too much work does not usually = happiness!

  • WendyB – sorry you're having a down day!

    K.Line – I think it's focussing that makes us appreciate what makes us happy – I get the feeling you do this a lot naturally.

    ChristinaE – what else makes you happy?

    Rosina – I too have gone through bouts of depression in my life – to the point of medication once. There is heaps of research that shows that focussing on the positive can make a big impact on mood. Loving the new tabs by the way!

    Downthegardenpath – that is so great – from what I've read about this so far, it's actually focussing on the good, rather than letting it slip by – glad that you're in a good mood!

    Anonymous – thanks so much for your input – I've read Learned Optimism by Marin Seligman (some years back) which I remember being great. Can you explain what kind of things you'd like as a focus -feel free to email me.

  • this is a great idea and I think it's especially usefull regarding the fact that autumn and winter are comming. usually, with less natural sunlight we also tend to be less happy. so I guess I'm in on the journey!

  • Great post Imogen, I felt the same way (like I almost wanted to start another blog) when I found 'the daily asker' it's such a great structure to ask for something you normally wouldn't every day for a year and also being happy, even better. Love your idea I need to figure out how to incorporate something like that into my blog since it is about happy as well as colour πŸ™‚

  • I'm a dancer from way back too Imogen. Although I don't do classes any more I do love to dance around the house like a mad woman. However, not being as agile as I used to be I need to be careful to do a little warm up. A few years back I tore my hamstring after leaping around during an episode of Dancing with the Stars – LOL! Sad but true.

    For me, nothing beats doing craft. There's something very therapeutic about playing with paper and ink and creating something (hopefully) beautiful. I'm in the process of making this my full time "job" – not that I'd call it work!

  • One of the earliest structured uses of dances may have been in the performance and in the telling of myths. It was also sometimes used to show feelings for one of the opposite gender. It is also linked to the origin of "love making." Before the production of poker rooms review written languages, dance was one of the methods of passing these stories down from generation to generation.

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