Happy Monday! It’s probably too soon, but we had some beautiful cool weather yesterday that got me dreaming of fall. I’ve never been a fan of summer, so I’m fine with saying goodbye to the heat and hello to the cool weather, cozy sweaters, and comfy boots. Of course, we’re heating back up to the 80’s this week, so I’ll be thrown back into reality soon.
I finished the book, The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin on vacation, and it really got me thinking about happiness and how our moods affect and are affected by so many things. I’m not about to start my own happiness project right now, because I’ve got enough on my plate this year, but it definitely motivated me to make a few changes to improve my happiness.
One of the big takeaways for me from the book is that if we act happy, we will feel happy. There are so many times in my life where I feel a heavy pit of frustration, depression, sadness deep in my being. What if instead of letting those emotions swallow me whole, I chose to be happy? Admittedly, I haven’t been good at putting this into action. Even this weekend I let my perceived hurt and embarrassment in a brief moment take hold and change my mood for the whole evening. Looking back, I see how I could have chosen to act differently, and likely improved my mood much faster.
Another part that spoke to me was being positive. I’m a naturally snarky person; my instinctive behavior is criticism and sarcasm. It’s hard to change this behavior, and Rubin explains why perfectly: “Giving positive reviews requires humility. I have to admit, I missed the feelings of superiority that I got from using puncturing humor, sarcasm, ironic asides, cynical comments, and cutting remarks.” This spoke to me more than I like to admit. It’s so much easier to be negative; it takes a lot of vulnerability to be positive, and that’s scary.
Anyone who’s gone to church for a period of time has heard of being “convicted” about an action or thought, and that’s the only way I can describe my response to this book: I felt convicted about my attitude. I should also point out for anyone who’s now worried about me, being convicted is not a bad thing, and it doesn’t mean I’m a bad person. It just means there’s an aspect of my life that could be changed to improve my life and the lives of those around me. In this case, I can see how my generally critical attitude is not serving me well, and how I could be a better, happier person if I were more positive.
I think it’s also worth noting that I have been happier in the past few months just by changing my diet. There are two reasons for this: 1) certain foods (like gluten and sugar) can actually affect your brain chemistry and exacerbate mood issues, like depression. 2) I haven’t binged or felt like I had to hide what I was eating in over two months. I had no idea how heavily that weighed on me before, but I hid that part of me from everyone, even my husband, and not having to hide is incredibly freeing. (seems obvious, right?) He’s commented on more than one occasion that I have been much happier since I started eating better, and he’s right.
So in my mind, I’ve already taken a big step towards improving my happiness: I reduced my exposure to mood-altering foods, and I’m honest about what and how I eat. That alone has made a huge difference, but there’s more work to do. I’m going to make an honest effort at improving my attitude by choosing to act happy. The hardest part will be to control my words, so if you know me IRL, you officially have my permission to (kindly) point out when I’m being unnecessarily critical or snarky.
As for the Happiness Project, I highly recommend that book, as well as her other books: Better Than Before (read this several years ago and love it), The Four Tendencies (reading it now), and Happier at Home (haven’t read it yet, but it’s on my list)