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the happiness project

Every year, starting from around November, I always become obsessed with the idea of a fresh start. That mythical new leaf that January 1st promises to turn for me, the idea that a new life and a new me is about to begin. A better me, and a better year.

I feel this every year, but this time around the desire for change is stronger than ever. This time last year, I was a complete, heartbroken wreck. The year was one of painfully slow recovery, interspersed with even more painful relapses. I was a crazy, miserable mess, flailing around aimlessly, feeling paralysed and endlessly frustrated. I just couldn’t shake those agonising memories, and for a long time I thought I’d never get better again.

But now. Things are starting to change. I can finally feel it, something inside me wants to really LIVE and be happy and enjoy my life. I want to do good things and be a good person and get my life back. So this year has to be different. I’m going to make this year the best year of my life.

So as usual, I started making my list of resolutions for a new me, all the things I want to achieve and improve about myself this year. It includes of course the same things I write down every year (lose 5 kilos, get all H1s in my course, get at least five articles published), and more ambiguous things like ‘be better person’ and ‘don’t let douchebag boys hurt me.’ All the same things, some more likely to be achieved than others. But nothing really life-changing.

Then I stumbled across The Happiness Project. This is a site that stemmed from Gretchen Rubin’s best-selling book (Also called The Happiness Project), which is an account of the year she spent testing out theories and studies about how to be happy. On the website, she brings together all these ideas and insights and encourages other people to create their own happiness projects.

To start finding the things that will lead you to happiness, she suggests asking yourself the following questions:

  1. What makes you feel good? What activities do you find fun, satisfying, or energizing?
  2. What makes you feel bad? What are sources of anger, irritation, boredom, frustration, or anxiety in your life?
  3. Is there any way in which you don’t feel right about your life? Do you wish you could change jobs, cities, family situation, or other circumstances? Are you living up to your expectations for yourself? Does your life reflect your values?
  4. Do you have sources of an atmosphere of growth? In what areas of your life do you find progress, learning, challenge, improvement, and increased mastery?

Thinking about these things, I started to realise that it all comes down to finding the things that make you feel whole and alive and human, and avoiding the things that compromise that.

So I made a list of the qualities I value. It sounds contrived, but it helped me to really clarify two things: the sorts of people I should nurture relationships with (and by the same token, people I should stop obsessing over and let go), and the sort of person I should always strive to be.

Easier said than done, but it has helped me to realise that I need to surround myself with people who inspire me and bring out the best in me, who I admire and respect and feel respected by in return. And I need to learn to let go of people who are bad for me, who turn me into a neurotic, obsessive, desperate madwoman, clamouring for the tiniest scrap of attention, and putting up with all the rudeness and disrespect and poor treatment that comes along with it.

But most of all, I need to remember who I am and who I want to be. I’m aware of how lame that sounds, but honestly- I think if I try to always keep in mind all those things that I value, and actually live out those values, I might get one step closer to being the new me, the happy me, the real me.

One thought on “the happiness project

  1. I read that book a few months ago and found it really helpful. I think it mostly helped me with trying to establish goals which are clear and achievable and reviewing them often, making sure you are on track to achieving them. I think she also gives good advice on not berating yourself for not being perfect. Best of luck with your goals!

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