Nature is impersonal, awe-inspiring, elegant, eternal. It's geometrically perfect. It's tiny and gigantic. You can travel far to be in a beautiful natural setting, or you can observe it in your backyard - or, in my case, in the trees lining New York City sidewalks, or in the clouds above skyscrapers.
I realize that in a happy life, making your bed should play a very small part, I don't know why this is so helpful to people getting started on a happiness project, but for some reason, making your bed - it's concrete, it's manageable. There's a big difference between having a bed that's unmade and a bed that's made. That little bit of outer order in people's lives seem to help them get started. So, that's a very small thing that you can do.
Often, if there's something that I want to do, but somehow can't get myself to do, it's because I don't have clarity. This lack of clarity often arises from a feeling of ambivalence - I want to do something, but I don't want to do it; or I want one thing, but I also want something else that conflicts with it.
In 'Before and After,' I identify the sixteen strategies that we can use to make or break our habits. Some are quite familiar, such as 'Monitoring,' 'Scheduling,' and 'Convenience.' Some took me a lot of effort to identify, such as 'Thinking,' 'Identity,' and 'Clarity.'
It was time to expect more of myself. Yet as I thought about happiness, I kept running up against paradoxes. I wanted to change myself but accept myself. I wanted to take myself less seriously -- and also more seriously. I wanted to use my time well, but I also wanted to wander, to play, to read at whim. I wanted to think about myself so I could forget myself. I was always on the edge of agitation; I wanted to let go of envy and anxiety about the future, yet keep my energy and ambition.
Sometimes, counter-intuitively, it's easier to make a major change than a minor change. When a habit is changing very gradually, we may lose interest, give way under stress, or dismiss the change as insignificant. There's an excitement and an energy that comes from a big transformation, and that helps to create a habit.
Happiness can seem like an abstract, transcendent notion, but in fact, I found that getting enough sleep (very important!!), getting exercise, not letting myself get too hungry, not letting myself get too cold (I'm a person who is always cold), made a big difference. Partly because I felt happier, partly because feeling physically comfortable makes it easier to keep other difficult happiness-boosting resolutions like biting my tongue.
No leader did more for his country than Winston Churchill. Brave, magnanimous, traditional, he was like a king-general from Britain's heroic past. His gigantic qualities set him apart from ordinary humanity; there seemed no danger he feared, no effort too great for his limitless energies.
A 'treat' is different from a 'reward', which must be justified or earned. A treat is a small pleasure or indulgence that we give to ourselves just because we want it. Treats give us greater vitality, which boosts self-control, which helps us maintain our healthy habits.
What I've also noticed is the term happiness, or happy is intimidating to some people. Some people deny that it's even possible to be happy, or to achieve happiness. Happiness sounds like this magical destination that you arrive at and then everything is sort of solved, or it's different.
I've found that I snack less and concentrate better when I chew on a plastic stirrer - the kind that you get to stir your to-go coffee. I picked up this habit from my husband, who loves to chew on things. His favorite chew-toy is a plastic pen top, and gnawed pen tops and little bits of plastic litter our apartment.
Did I have a heart to be contented? Well, no, not particularly. I had a tendency to be discontented: ambitious, dissatisfied, fretful, and tough to please...It's easier to complain than to laugh, easier to yell than to joke around, easier to be demanding than to be satisfied.
According to current research, in the determination of a person's level of happiness, genetics accounts for about 50 percent; life circumstances, such as age, gender, ethnicity, marital status, income, health, occupation, and religious affiliation, account for about 10 to 20 percent; and the remainder is a product of how a person thinks and acts.
It's about living in the moment and appreciating the smallest things. Surrounding yourself with the things that inspire you and letting go of the obsessions that want to take over your mind. It is a daily struggle sometimes and hard work but happiness begins with your own attitude and how you look at the world.
Turns out that people who try new things, go new places, learn new skills, etc. are happier. This can be tough, because novelty and challenge also bring frustration and irritation - but if you can push through that, novelty and challenge can bring enormous happiness rewards.
[Benjamin Franklin]identified thirteen virtues he wanted to cultivate--temperance, silence, order, resolution, frugality, industry, sincerity, justice, moderation, cleanliness, tranquility, chastity and humility--and made a chart with those virtues plotted against the days of the week. Each day, Franklin would score himself on whether he practiced those thirteen virtues.