Sometimes words only diminish what we want to say.
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21 Day Relationship Challenge!
Warm relationships are essential to a happy life. Sign up for 21 days of resolutions to make your relationships happier and more loving.
For many people, I’ve noticed, the element of Happier at Home that resonates most is the discussion of relationships.
Ancient philosophers and contemporary scientists agree that a key to happiness–probably the key to happiness–is strong relationships with other people, so while I didn’t set out to write a “relationship” book, I’m happy to hear that the book is helping people so much in that area.
We all want a loving, attentive, and engaged atmosphere in our home. And warm relationships will do more than anything to make our home a happy place.
For that reason, in honor of the New Year, I’ve organized a 21 Day Relationship Challenge.
Here’s how it will work. Every morning, for three weeks, you’ll get an email with a resolution for you to try at home, as a way to strengthen your bonds with others. They’re some of my favorites from Happier at Home, plus a few longtime stalwarts.
In just twenty-one days, you really can take many small steps–without spending much time, energy, or money–to deepen your relationships.
In addition to the emails, each day I’ll post here so we’ll have the opportunity to exchange ideas and experiences with others doing the Challenge. We can all learn from each other, so I hope you join the discussion.
The Challenge officially starts on Monday, January 14 (part of the zest of New Year’s resolution, but with a slight delay so the dust can settle after the holidays). But you can join any time, even long after the start date has passed.
Here’s a short video:
Relationships are just one aspect of Happier at Home; it also examines other aspects of “home” such as possessions, time, body, and neighborhood. And it goes deeper into the subject of relationships than we can do in the 21 Day Challenge. But I hope this exercise will be FUN as well as challenging, and helpful.
Join in! A great way to start 2013.
Happiness interview: Marci Alboher.
I’m so excited for my friend Marci Alboher. She has a terrific new book coming out on December 18, The Encore Career Handbook: How to Make a Living and a Difference in the Second Half of Life. It’s an excellent guide for people hitting midlife who are wondering what to do next.
In honor of the new book, I’m re-posting her happiness interview from a few years ago. In the time since it ran, Marci has been immersed in the world of “encore careers“–second acts for the greater good. She just wrote a great piece for the New York Times: Switching Careers at Midlife To Make a Difference.
She has so many interesting things to say, especially about the relationship between happiness and work.
Gretchen: What’s a simple activity that consistently makes you happier?
Marci: Talking a long walk in the early morning hours.
What’s something you know now about happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?
That people really do have a natural happiness set-point, and that I am one of the lucky ones in that I generally wake up each day able to see the light, even in life’s darker moments.
Is there anything you find yourself doing repeatedly that gets in the way of your happiness?
Eating or drinking things that don’t agree with me — like coffee and red wine.
Is there a happiness quotation that has struck you as particularly insightful?
I don’t really remember quotes and call upon them when I need them, but the quote I chose for my high school yearbook — from the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young anti-war song, “Wooden Ships,” still works for me:
“If you smile at me, I will understand, because that is something everybody everywhere does in the same language.”
If you’re feeling blue, how do you give yourself a happiness boost?
I wake up very early, go outside, and take a long walk. This works wherever I happen to be, but it’s especially effective when I’m near the water. When I’m at home in New York, I walk near the Hudson River every morning, and when I’m near a beach, nothing beats a barefoot walk on the sand. Music also has the ability to transform my mood, so listening to something upbeat during my walk can instantly clear my head and take me somewhere else.
If I’m feeling mired in my own problems, the best way to get a lift is to go out and help someone. Doing something for an organization I care about — like The OpEd Project or Girls Write Now — also does the trick.
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?
As you’ve written about so many times, I believe that negative memories tend to have a tendency to linger — so it’s important to do the work of celebrating and memorializing the positive moments. When I see people recognizing achievements and milestones they want to remember, it reminds me to do the same. Taking and sharing photographs seems to be one of the easiest way to do this. I don’t have especially vivid memories of my early childhood years — but I do remember any event where there are photos documenting it or where there is an often-told story around it.
Here’s where technology can help us. My brother lives in Florida and he has a son that I don’t see nearly as often as I’d like to. Each day, my brother takes a photo of my nephew, usually doing something silly like covering his arms in little pieces of cheese. I open the photos on my iphone wherever I am and they instantly lift my mood.
Do you work on being happier? If so, how?
I do. I read a lot about positive psychology. I track what makes me feel good and what doesn’t and try to do more of the former and less of the latter. I have done a lot of therapy to better understand myself. And of course, I read your blog every day (really). [Ah, thanks, Marci!]
One thing I have increasingly started to notice is that I’m very much affected by the people around me. So I have become fairly vigilant about avoiding spending time with people who are relentlessly negative.
Have you ever been surprised that something you expected would make you very happy, didn’t – or vice versa?
One thing that repeatedly surprises me is that achieving a professional goal or completing a project gives me a happiness boost, but the emotional uptick tends to be short-lived. On the other hand, the daily details and rhythms of life — like being in a strong relationship, getting regular exercise, being near my dog, keeping the fridge stocked with good ingredients so that I can cook healthy/tasty meals, doing a favor for someone — really provide me with a deep sense of happiness. It’s just like what you say, Gretchen, about how the things you do every day matter more than the things you do once in a while.
For the weekly videos, I now tell a story. I’ve realized that for me, and I think for many people, a story is what holds my attention and makes a point most powerfully.
This week’s story: Sometimes words only diminish what you want to convey. I’ve never forgotten this story, ever since I came across it while doing research for 40 Ways To Look at Winston Churchill. I love it so much; I get choked up whenever I think about Eisenhower’s message.
If you’d like to see a photo of the actual document sent by Eisenhower, with its single sentence, it’s here.
If you want to read more along these lines, check out…
Zoikes, it’s not often that Dwight Eisenhower and Carrie Bradshaw appear together in one post.
You can check out the archives of videos here.
This morning, on my way home from the gym, I walked by a stand selling Christmas trees and holiday greenery (in New York City, these pop up on street corners every December). I loved getting the chance to smell that wonderful fragrance of Christmas tree.
It struck me: I’ve done a lot of holiday decorating, but we don’t have any holiday smells.
Because it’s so hard to deal with a real tree in a New York City apartment, and because we always spend a week at my parents’ house at Christmas–where my mother puts up the largest and most gorgeous display of holiday decorations you’ve ever seen–we don’t put up a live tree. We use a small grove of tabletop, goose-feather trees to show off our ornaments. I’ve been collecting one ornament a year since I was a baby, and my girls have, too, so we have quite a few.
But an artificial tree doesn’t have a smell.
My walk this morning inspired me to add olfactory decorations to enhance our visual decorations.
To create a holiday feeling, I want to add the smell of pine tree, paper-white narcissus, and wood smoke. I can’t buy the wood smoke, but I can buy a wreath and a bowl of paper-whites. Their fragrance would add a lot to the holiday spirit of our home.
However, I know myself. I say that I would love to do this, but as an under-buyer, it’s hard for me to buy such things–especially things that don’t last. Can I really get myself to do it? I’m really going to push myself this year. I’ll report back!
What smells do you associate with the holidays? Do you take steps to make sure that that smell is part of the holiday experience? Boy, I wish there were a nicer word for “smell.”