Now that we have explained what the Happiness Project is in the January 2015 of Be Inkandescent, we’re ready to launch into the next installment of author Gretchen Rubin’s year-long series on to help you keep moving along the path to personal bliss. — The BeInky Team
February’s goal: Remember Love
Why? Rubin writes: “One alarming fact jumps out from the research about happiness and marriage: marital satisfaction drops substantially after the first child arrives. The disruptive presence of new babies and teenagers, in particular, puts a lot of pressure on marriages, and discontent spikes when children are in these stages.”
Since a good marriage is one of the factors most strongly associated with happiness — because it provides the support and companionship that everyone needs — Rubin adds these resolutions to the ones outlined in January (see those below).
Here’s how to remember to nurture the love in your life:
- Quit nagging. Make a checklist of anti-nagging techniques. Because it’s annoying to hear a hectoring voice, find ways to suggest tasks without talking — drop an envelope by the front door to suggest your partner mail it on the way to work. Limit yourself to a one-word reminder. Don’t bark. Don’t remind your partner about the little things — taking an umbrella, eating breakfast, going to the dentist. If you feel really strongly that a particular task should be done, do it yourself.
- Don’t expect praise or appreciation. Do that work for yourself. The reason, Rubin explains, is that if you want others to praise you, you end up wanting them to acknowledge your acts of kindness, to be grateful, and to give you credit. But, she says, “If you do it for yourself, you don’t expect other people to react in a particular way.” So give yourself your own gold stars. It’ll make you happier.
- Hug. Fun fact: Hugging your partner for at least six seconds promotes the flow of oxytocin and serotonin, the mood-boosting chemicals that promote bonding.
- Fight right. Start by lightening your attitude. “Marital conflicts fall into two categories: issues that can be clearly resolved and those that can’t. Unfortunately, most conflicts fall into the open-ended, ‘How should we spend our money?’ and ‘How should we raise our children’ categories,” Rubin explains. When you realize that some disagreements are inevitable, and even valuable, you can start to lighten up. For example, “Try having fights that are more fun, where you joke around and are affectionate even while you are disagreeing,” she suggests.
- No dumping. Studies show that both men and women find relationships with women to be more intimate and enjoyable than those with men — mostly because women have more feelings of empathy. So ladies, realize you aren’t being ignored out of lack of interest or affection. According to Rubin’s research, men are constitutionally less oriented to having long heart-to-heart conversations. So avoid dumping all of your concerns on your male partner. Reserve that for just the biggest worries.
- Give proofs of love. Poet Pierre Reverdy wrote, “There is no love; there are only proofs of love.” So whatever love you feel in your heart, others will see only your actions. Make showing your love a pleasant habit: send love notes, drop by the office for a mid-day rendezvous, plan birthday celebrations for your in-laws … whatever helps your partner see the love you feel.
The bottom line, says Rubin, is to love your partner as they are. You can’t make them do a better job of doing household chores. You can only stop yourself from nagging, which will make you happier. She writes: “When you give up expecting a spouse to change (within reason), you lessen anger and resentment, and that creates a more loving atmosphere in a marriage.”
And remember January’s resolutions: Boost your energy
- Go to sleep earlier.
- Exercise better.
- Toss, restore, and organize.
- Tackle a nagging task.
- Act more energetic.
Stay tuned for more tips in March: Aim higher
Learn more about Gretchen Rubin and her happiness project in the December 2014 issue of Be Inkandescent magazine.