If seeing this book trailer made you think, “Goodness, Gretchen, I want to pre-order Happier at Homeright this minute,” then here are the links you need! Pre-orders are a big help to me, so thanks for pre-ordering.
I get a big kick out of Pinterest, a visual site where you "pin" images of your "interests" (hence the name). My boards are here. If you'd like an invitation to join yourself, just email me hereor through the blog.
Want to win a free copy of Happier at Home? I’m giving away one book each day until publication.
Enter your name and email in the sign-up formhere, and every day, a name will be picked at random. U.S., Canada, and U.K. only–sorry about that restriction on the give-away.
As I mentioned a few days ago, I’m going to start posting the videos for the 2010 Happiness Challenge separately, as their own posts, so look for the new video every Tuesday. In the past, I’ve been cramming too much material into the posts that included the videos.
For those of you following the 2010 Happiness Project Challenge, to make 2010 a happier year — or even if you’re not officially doing the challenge — this month’s focus is Money.
The relationship between money and happiness is one of the most complicated and emotionally charged subjects within the larger issue of happiness. I really couldn’t do justice to its complexities in such a short video. (For a more nuanced discussion, read Chapter Seven in the book!)
People often tell me is that “Happiness is a choice.” They say this with such emphasis, and such conviction, that I can tell that this is a very meaningful insight for them; it’s also one of the most widespread observations about happiness.
I understand what this means. But for me – and I’m just speaking for myself – it’s very hard to put that observation into practice. “I wake up every morning and decide to be happy,” one person said to me. I can’t really do that. It’s too…huge.
What works better for me is to decide what changes in my life would make me happier, and choose to make those changes. Same idea, just a different way of putting it into action.
So, for example, I realized that our mornings were not as happy a time as they could be. There was too much rushing, nagging, complaining, and foot-dragging. So I choose to:
• get up an hour earlier than my family, so I have plenty of time to get ready myself before helping everyone else get ready, which meant I also have to…
• go to bed earlier so I can get up at 6:00 am, yet still feel well-rested, and also…
• do an “evening tidy-up” each night so I don’t feel like I need to rush around, tidying up the apartment, as part of the morning routine
• sing in the morning to set a cheery tone
• make a deliberate effort not to “talk in a mean voice,” as my younger daughter puts it
• make an effort not to repeat myself over and over: “Put on your shoes,” “Is your backpack packed?” etc.
• touch everyone in my house with affection
• give my husband a real good-bye kiss
For me, it’s easier for me to imagine making these choices than choosing to be happy. I do better when I keep my resolutions very concrete.
How about you? Can you choose to be happy?
* 2010 Happiness Challenge: For those of you following the 2010 Happiness Project Challenge, to make 2010 a happier year, this month’s focus is Work. Last week’s resolution was to Ask for help. Did you try to follow that resolution? Did it help to boost your happiness?
Every night, when I tuck my older daughter into bed, I lie down next to her for ten or fifteen minutes. Every once in a while, she asks me to “tell a happy story,” and the following story is one of her favorites. I’ve repeated it to her many times.
I got the story from an acquaintance who lives in Geneva, who emailed me this account:
“I went into Harrods in London (huge department store I am sure you have heard of!) to buy some Minton China plates for a wedding anniversary which was to be a group gift from friends to other friends in Geneva. Having only 30 minutes between meetings, I whizzed there in a taxi from the office and battled through the milling people on the 2nd day of the sales on the ground floor up to the 5th to the china department. There was a chap standing there who was obviously a sales person who I rushed up to and asked if he had this particular china? in stock? would it take long to wrap? etc., He was amazing. He got the plates in seconds, wrapped them up, asked me if I wanted a store card to which I replied no, because I lived in Switzerland, to which he replied asking if, as I lived abroad would I like a tax rebate form, showed me what to do and produced a map of the store of where I should go for the formalities. Amazing, so I thanked him and said what wonderful service he had given me and did he give this to everyone? With that a tall man in a grey suit approached me offering his hand to shake mine saying, “Can I introduce myself, I am the Chief Executive of Harrods and what an interesting conversation I have just heard”…. He had been wandering through the store (as you should do as a hands-on CEO!) and had overheard me thanking this salesman – whose face, I can hardly describe, was – frozen in a mixture of delight awe and astonishment! Can you imagine the salesman going home to his family and friends recounting, “the day the CEO spoke to him after overhearing him being praised by a customer”……….
For me, one of the most satisfying basic story lines is “Virtue rewarded.” I love all stories in which virtue is recognized and rewarded. To have been an instrument to see virtue rewarded…thrilling to contemplate. Apparently my daughter feels the same way!
* 2010 Happiness Challenge: For those of you following the 2010 Happiness Project Challenge, to make 2010 a happier year, this month’s focus is Work. Last week’s resolution was to Enjoy the fun of failure. Did you try to follow that resolution? Did it help to boost your happiness? This week’s resolution is to Ask for help.
* If you’ve never checked it out, Chris Guillebeau’s site, The Art of Non-Conformity, has a huge amount of great material. When I was at SXSW, it occurred to me that every time I’ve met for the first time a blogger whose blog I read, the blogger has always matched the blog. I met Chris for the first time, and his blog perfectly reflects him.
My husband and I record The Office and watch it together, so I felt a little guilty for catching this scene on live television the other night, until I realized it was a re-run. But I couldn’t turn the channel – the scene featured my two favorite characters, Pam and Jim, and I’d never seen it before.
A friend told me that when she was studying to be a family therapist, they’d watch clips of the Carol Burnett show, Mama’s Family, because it showed how to do everything wrong. I love watching Pam and Jim, because it’s the rare instance on television of watching people behave in a loving way in a loving relationship.
In this scene, Jim surprises Pam by driving her to his parents’ house and announcing that he’s bought the house. At first, he’s excited and proud of his cleverness – by buying from his parents, they’ll save a ton of money, etc. We see Pam’s stunned look as she takes in the low ceilings, the ugly art bolted to the wall, the shag carpet, the garage that Jim tried to fix up as a makeshift art studio for her.
Jim begins to panic as he sees the house through her eyes and realizes the magnitude of what he’s done. This is where the beauty of the scene begins.
Instead of getting angry or defensive, Jim acknowledges the reality of how Pam might be feeling. He acknowledges that he made a huge step that involved both of them without consulting her. He acknowledges that she might hate it, might want them to do something else. He gives her a way to disagree with what he’s done.
There’s a long, agonizing pause. Then Pam says, “I love it.” Jim can’t believe his ears. Pam repeats, “I love it! You bought me a house.” She hugs him, and says again, “You bought me a house.”
It made me so happy to see watch that unfold. I have to say, it brought tears to my eyes.
Then it occurred to me…
One of my resolutions is to Imitate a spiritual master, and my spiritual master is Saint Therese of Lisieux. I often puzzle over a particular line she wrote, an observation that seems very significant to me, but that I don’t really understand: “for the love of God and my Sisters (so charitable toward me) I take care to appear happy and especially to be so.”
What does Therese mean by this, exactly?
But this scene from The Office suggests the meaning of Therese’s words. What if Pam looked around the house and hated it — but then realized that the truly loving thing to do for Jim would be decide to love it, to love Jim’s gift to her, of which he was so proud, that he had worked so hard to give? And not just to pretend to love it, but actually to love it? To appear happy but especially to be so.
Now, to pretend to be thrilled to live in a house that you hate is beyond the capacity of ordinary people. But a great saint like Therese, who practiced heroic virtue, could do it. Something to think about.
(When I tried to watch this scene again on the internet, I couldn’t find it – but I did discover that it’s “Frame Toby,” the ninth episode in the fifth season, and aired November 20, 2008. Please post the link if you know where it is! I’m paraphrasing from memory here.)
* 2010 Happiness Challenge: For those of you following the 2010 Happiness Project Challenge, to make 2010 a happier year, this month’s focus is Work. Last week’s resolution was to Aim higher. Did you try to follow that resolution? Did it help to boost your happiness?
Once in a while, I learn a new word or phrase that allows me to see the world in a clearer way. In law school, I remember that after I learned the concept of “acting in reliance,” suddenly, I saw people acting in reliance all over the place. (For example, when my friend John signed a lease for a two-bedroom apartment because Michael promised to room with him, he’d “acted in reliance,” so when Michael wanted to move in with his girlfriend instead, John was entitled to hold him to his word.)
The other day, I received a very nice email from a reader who used the term “demand resistant” in her note. I’d never heard that term before, so I looked it up. I don’t recall seeing this phrase in the academic or scientific research I’ve read, and I’m not sure where it comes from – but whatever its origin, it’s a useful phrase.
A person who is “demand resistant” has a negative response to expectations, pressure, or obligations. They don’t respond well to demands or to being told that they “should” do something – sometimes, even when they’re trying to place those demands on themselves.
What a useful term! I see human nature more clearly now.
I’d already been grappling with a variation of this idea. I’d noticed that when people make resolutions, some people really resist “No,” “Stop,” and “Don’t” resolutions. They don’t want to tell themselves to give something up or to stop a behavior.
But I’ve seen that some people respond very negatively to the idea of this kind of resolution – and sometimes, to any kind of resolution. They don’t like the idea of putting constraints on their behavior, at all.
Sometimes, they seem to respond better when a resolution is frame in a positive way. Instead of resolving “No more French fries or potato chips,” they might resolve to “Eat five servings of fruits or vegetables a day.” Instead of “Stop nagging my sweetheart,” they might focus on “Touch more, kiss more, hug more.”
But some people, I’ve noticed, bristle at the thought of putting any expectation on themselves. In that case, I think a happiness project would require a very different kind of approach from mine. Resolutions work for me, but for a very demand-resistant person, they might backfire.
As with all things related to happiness, the key is to know yourself (I remind myself of my First Personal Commandment, to “Be Gretchen”). It’s really true: I can only build a happy life on the foundation of my own nature.
Are you demand resistant, or have you noticed this quality in other people?
* 2010 Happiness Challenge: For those of you following the 2010 Happiness Project Challenge, to make 2010 a happier year, this month’s focus is Work. Last week’s resolution, in the month of Love, was to Kiss more, hug more, touch more. Did you try to follow that resolution? Did it help to boost your happiness?