I liked Mindy Kaling's interview on The Happiness Project this week. So I borrowed the questions to ask myself. Attribution is to Gretchen Rubin at The Happiness Project Blog.
Voila, instant blog post. Enjoy.
What's a simple activity that consistently makes you happier?
Running or walking. I'm better when I just step out the door. Running helps me to clear my head. It helps me to listen to my body but also to be alone with my thoughts. Sometimes it helps me just to be silent. Sometimes I feel like a kid--it's my chance to play and enjoy the fresh air on my face and smile at the rabbits and ducks. It helps me to feel much more connected to nature and it reminds me that my body is capable of quite a lot. I always feel better after a run. Sometimes I'm just glad I'm finished, but I never regret a run. Walking gives me peace. It forces me to slow down, to enjoy where I am rather than where I will be. It helps me to think quietly through whatever is bothering me. I always finish a walk feeling settled and calm. When I get the time to walk or run with a friend, I really enjoy that connection.
What's something you know now about happiness that you didn't know when you were 18 years old?
You can't choose your way into happiness. At 18 I thought if I was good enough, smart enough, careful enough, I'd choose all the right things and I'd get to happy by 20 (then I figured I'd just coast). I didn't realize that even when you're all of those things, life happens in a messy way. People let you down. You let people down. You make wise choices that don't end up being what you really want. You change your mind. You change. People change. True happiness happens in the moment rather than when you get to some magical finish line of calm. You have to enjoy life wherever you are rather than waiting for all the stars to align.
Is there anything you find yourself doing repeatedly that gets in the way of your happiness?
I worry. I really worry. I have a hard time letting things go and I can turn them over and over in my own mind until I convince myself that they're much more significant than they actually are or should be. I'm much better than I used to be, but it's hard for someone as emotional and analytical as I am to not see things as the most important thing ever. As an adult I find myself spending my thoughtful time trying to sort out what really matters from what is just not important. I think it will always be a battle.
Is there a happiness mantra or motto that you've found very helpful?
It's an opportunity, not a threat. I tell myself this before anything that makes me nervous. I convince myself that it's my chance to shine instead of something to fear. It works for tests, interviews, running, calling people back on the phone, basically anything I'm afraid of (which is a long list).
Is there anything that you see people around you doing or saying that adds a lot to their happiness, or detracts a lot from their happiness?
I see my kids dawdling all the time. They waste time beautifully, and I think it really adds to their happiness. When we tell Henry to brush his teeth and he locks himself in the bathroom for 45 minutes of naked toothpaste finger-painting in the sink, he's really adding to his own happiness. I love that kids don't have any guilt about doing what they want. Sometimes it might drive me nuts, but I know that their happiness is taken care of. I wish there was a way to carry more of that guiltless freedom into my adult life. I think I'd be a little happier.
Do you work on being happier? If so, how?
I was way better at this in the fall, but I really worked for a time on redefining Mondays. That actually made a huge difference in my life. I work on being happy in my relationship with E by choosing love when I don't feel it. It's not work, but I allow myself the freedom to enjoy my family and my pets. I ferociously protect my free time and my time at home. That makes me incredibly happy. I think leaving space in my schedule for life to just happen is the best way I work at being happier.