During my study of happiness, I’ve noticed that I often learn more from one person’s highly idiosyncratic experiences than I do from sources that detail universal principles or cite up-to-date studies. There’s something peculiarly compelling and instructive about hearing other people’s happiness stories. I’m much more likely to be convinced to try a piece of advice urged by a specific person who tells me that it worked for him, than by any other kind of argument.
Today’s interview is with Amanda Freeman of the popular health and wellness daily email, Vital Juice Daily. It delivers a daily shot of info and tips in the areas of fitness, nutrition, healing, green living, social responsibility, and beauty. Lots of great material there, delivered painlessly into my in-box each morning.
Amanda is the friend of a friend, so we met for coffee and had a terrific conversation. (Triadic closure at work!) Now that I’ve sent out my first monthly newsletter, I’m staggered at the thought of sending out a newsletter every day, but Amanda makes it seem fun.
Gretchen: What’s a simple activity that consistently makes you happier?
Amanda: It’s cliché, but I would have to say the doing some form of exercise always lifts my spirits. I try to vary my workouts as much as possible, because I’ve also found that variety also makes me happier. I’m big into having lots of experiences, so no matter where I am, I try to make exercise an experience.
Gretchen: What’s something you know now about happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?
Amanda: I’ve certainly gotten more reflective about happiness since my more carefree younger years. Back then, happiness just sort of happened and came more naturally to me. Now, it’s more of a challenge to make the many decisions I face on a day to day basis in my quest for happiness. So, I guess I’d say that I’ve learned that happiness requires work and effort.
Gretchen: Is there anything you find yourself doing repeatedly that gets in the way of your happiness?
Amanda: Oh, yes! I think regret and guilt are my two biggest obstacles towards happiness. I waste a lot of energy rehashing the past and feeling badly about things that I’ve done or haven’t done. I also spend time worrying about present decisions and whether our regret or feel guilty about them in the future.
Gretchen: Have you always felt about the same level of happiness, or have you been through a period when you felt exceptionally happy or unhappy – if so, why? If you were unhappy, how did you become happier? Amanda: I’ve definitely seen my happiness quotient fluctuate over the past few years and I’ve found that it’s when I have an unclear vision of the new future that I’m the most unhappy. I’m the type of person who likes to plan, and when I don’t have a plan it’s very unsettling. But, I’ve also found that if I insist on sticking too closely to my plan and am unwilling to “go with the flow” than I’m not happy either. There’s a happy medium.
Gretchen: Do you work on being happier? If so, how?
Amanda: As of recently, the exploration of what makes me happy has become my #3 priority (behind my loved ones and my business). I totally agree with something I read on The Happiness Project recently, that novelty and challenge are two of the keys to happiness. As a result, I am constantly making the effort to try new things. Recently I’ve started to take Bridge lessons. And I have a mental list of other things that I want to have tried at some point in my life. I’m also trying smaller, every day things like smiling more and being friendlier to strangers. I used to never converse with strangers sitting next to me on an airplane, but now I make sure that I’ve at least been friendly and learned a bit about who they are. I’ve also become more open to the idea of self-help books, which I used to be very cynical about. For me, this happiness exploration is about trial and error.
There’s always so much good information on LifeRemix. I’m never sorry that I jumped over there to take a minute to explore.
I’ve started sending out a short monthly newsletter. If you’d like to sign up, click on the link in the upper-right-hand corner of my blog. Or just email me at grubin, then the “at” sign, then gretchenrubin dot com. No need to write anything more than “newsletter” in the subject line. I’ll add your name to the list.