I’m working on my Happiness Project, and you should have one, too! Everyone’s project will look different, but it’s the rare person who can’t benefit. Join in — no need to catch up, just jump in right now. Each Friday’s post will help you think about your own happiness project.
The First Splendid Truth is that to think about happiness, we should think about feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right, in an atmosphere of growth.
Examining each of these elements is ESSENTIAL to happiness.
Sometimes, we all know, something that makes you feel good also makes you feel bad. These things demand a special look.
One argument I hear a lot, from people interested in happiness, is that “It’s better to focus on the positive. Instead of telling yourself ‘no’ or ‘never’ or ‘don’t,’ focus on what you want, and be moderate.”
This is a good point to keep in mind, but I don’t agree that it’s always true. Sometimes it feels good to say, “I’m going to stop!” “No more!”
Also, personally I find that it’s easier to give things up altogether. Moderation is pleasant to the wise, but I’m more like Samuel Johnson, who remarked, “Abstinence is as easy to me as temperance would be difficult.” In other words, I can go cold turkey, but I can’t indulge occasionally.
So this Friday, see if there’s something you want to give up, or stop doing. And give it up.
I did this recently. I read Gary Taubes’s book, Good Calories, Bad Calories, and I became convinced, finally, that I had to stop eating so much fake food. Last year, one of my New Year’s resolutions was to give up fake food, and I hadn’t been able to keep that resolution. But somehow reading the Taubes book last month shifted something in my thinking.
I have to admit that my friends laugh at my definition of “fake food.” I haven’t given up Diet Coke, or candy, or frozen yoghurt. All of which I consume in enormous amounts.
But until I gave up fake food, I was also eating a lot of Snackwell’s cookies, Glenny’s 100-calorie brownies, sugared cereal in single-serving packages, Quaker Oats bars, etc. “You haven’t given up all fake foods – you’ve given up food that comes in crinkly packages,” a friend explained.
It feels GOOD. I miss my fake food, but now that I don’t eat it, I realize that I’d been feeling quite bad about eating so much bad food. It weighed on my mind. Also, fake food was crowding out healthy food. I’d think, “I could have a bowl of vegetable soup – or I could have a package of Snackwell’s cookies! I want the cookies!”
Have I lost weight? No. Do I feel healthier or more energetic? No. But I feel happier, freed from those bad feelings about knowing that I wasn’t eating well.
Also, as the happiness experts tell us, just making a decision and sticking to it is a source of happiness. It gives us a feeling of control, of efficacy, of responsibility. Also, any positive change enhances the “atmosphere of growth.”
I’ve asked around, and here are some things that my friends have given up in the last year, and report being happier for having done so:
– grabbing treats from Cinnabon in airports
– buying things on eBay
– sleeping until noon on Saturday
– owning a television
– drinking wine
– checking TMZ.com more than once a day
– buying bottled water
– getting the latest cell phone
– eating cereal
Obviously, people’s choices will be different. Just because someone gives up TV doesn’t mean we all need to give up TV. But if you think you’d be happier without a TV, give it up! It sounds all renunciatory and Spartan, but it can feel good.
I always find something thought-provoking and/or hilarious when I read Michael Melcher Reports — particularly because we’re both former lawyers (well, really, once a lawyer, always a lawyer, so I suppose I should say “non-practicing lawyers”).
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