I recently read Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project, after JK recommended it. It’s a solid, useful read. Some of Rubin’s explorations into the more mindful and spiritual side of happiness I felt forced and a bit hokey, but her study of creating happiness in the home and in your relationships was eye-opening and practical. There are a lot of solid takeaways in this book and it serves as a reminder that you’re happier when you’re trying to be a better person.
One thing I really liked about The Happiness Project was the idea of a set of personal commandments: notions that guide your day-to-day life and decision making. Gretchen’s own happiness commandments are here. They are a great base for building your own, but I thought long and hard about what I wanted my commandments to reflect. What was important to me? What makes me feel happy and fulfilled? I wanted my commandments to be vague and inclusive, so each would work in multiple spaces in my life. Eg. “Be a better friend” is a worthy and lofty commandment, but I felt it is too specific for what I wanted my commandments to accomplish. I also wanted them to reflect me and what I wanted in my life.
With that in mind, here’s what I came up with:
1) Show up.
This refers to not only going to things I am invited to, but also showing up for friends and family. Be someone they can rely on and count on.
2) Be present.
Too often I will attend said event, but will be thinking about work or my grocery list or checking my phone. This happens at work, at yoga and even at parties. I will get a lot more out of what I do if I try to be in the moment. I’ll be a better listener, a more productive employee and a better friend.
3) Be fit.
Working out is important to me (obviously, you are reading my fitness blog after all!). By taking my bike instead of the TTC. By choosing healthy food. By using fitness as a social activity, instead of eating and drinking. I’m happier when I’m active, so let’s make it a priority. I want to keep my mind fit by doing challenging things and reading stuff that exposes me to new ideas. This means more crossword puzzles, newspapers and Scrabble games in my life and I’m excited by that.
4) Be with nature.
Here’s a truth: everything is better when you are outside. This is a reminder to go outside more, but to also think about where I am and what I want to do. Maybe this means going to Toronto Island more often, or choosing to run outside instead of doing a class inside. It also means to think about the food I eat (local and organic is closer to nature than pre-packaged and frozen) and to bring more greeney into my home. I want a beautiful garden and more inside plants. Flowers should be an everyday occurrence, not an occasional one. Let’s make it happen.
5) Be light.
If I can be light in my mind, I will be more carefree and more happy and will have less stress and worry in my life. I also think this is relevant to my body, and not just in a weight sense. Believing I am light will make me run faster and will make that elusive yoga handstand more possible.
6) Be thankful.
By being thankful for more things, I hope I will see everything more positively and recognize all that is good in my life, and not take things for granted.
7) Let go.
This goes hand in hand with “Be Light.” Don’t hold grudges. Don’t take yourself too seriously. I almost made “it’s more important to be supportive than it is to be right” a commandment (it will be one of my “secrets to adulthood” or “splendid truths” or another happiness-based list), but I feel “Let go” embodies that as well and encourages me to be happier and to find the humour in things.
8) Wait, but don’t procrastinate.
When it comes to work, email, I’m a big “do it now” person — to the point that doing it right away might not be the best thing in the world. I recently read Wait: The Art and Science of Delay by Frank Partnoy and his argument that procrastination can lead to better decision making and better work really resonated with me. That said, I’m terrible at cleaning up and didn’t want to become a procrastinator of everything in my life. “Wait, but don’t procrastinate” is a reminder to take a breath and assess before diving in — but to not put things off for so long that they become problems.
9) Make good, do good, feel good.
This is just a reminder that by being creative and being a good friend, neighbour or employee, I will feel like a better person. And a reminder to do what feels good, whether it’s run, go to bed early or have another glass of wine.
10) Be me.
I can improve who I am, but I can’t change who I am. “Be Gretchen” was Rubin’s #1 commandment and it drove a lot of her decision making in her book. I really liked this commandment and its premise resonated with me, but I feel I have a strong sense of self and am okay with who I am. That said, a reminder to embrace, love and celebrate who you are is always a good thing. Hence, “Be me” being my final commandment.
Another rule I love and try to live my life by, that isn’t commandment-worthy, but is worth sharing: you never regret taking a shower, going to bed early or exercising.
Try it, it’s true.