• August 2015

August Happiness: Contemplate the Heavens

We continue the discussion of Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project, and this month we invite you to embark on her goal for August: Contemplate the Heavens.

Why is it important to turn to the spiritual realm?

Rubin, who describes herself as “a reverent agnostic,” points to research that suggests spiritual people are relatively happier than others. In fact, they tend to be more mentally and physically healthy, deal better with stress, have better marriages, and live longer.

Here’s how Rubin recommends that you contemplate the heavens:

  • Read memoirs of catastrophe. Novelist Leo Tolstoy famously wrote, “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” By reading about the accounts of people who have grappled with sorrow — including Stan Mack talking about having cancer, Gene O’Kelly writing about his experience with a brain tumor, and Martha Beck sharing her experience of having a child with Down syndrome — Rubin says: “I found myself with a greatly heightened appreciation for my ordinary existence. Everyday life seems so permanent and unshakable — but, as I was reminded by these writers, it can be destroyed by a single phone call. Reading these accounts gave me a new and intense appreciation for my obedient body — for the simple ability to eat or walk or even pee in the usual fashion.” Her advice: Cherish health and appreciate ordinary life!
  • Keep a gratitude notebook. Reading catastrophe memoirs also fulfills another mission, Rubin explains. “Because we often measure ourselves relative to others, our happiness is influenced by whether we compare ourselves to people who are better or worse off. In one study, people’s sense of life satisfaction changed dramatically depending on whether they completed sentences starting, ‘I’m glad I’m not …” or, “I wish I was … “ in the days after September 11, 2001.” Gratitude, she insists, is important to happiness. So for an entire week, write down everything you are grateful for each day. From living in a stable democracy to being sure of your parent’s love, and getting to read the newspaper each morning — “focus on what you do have!”
  • Imitate a spiritual master. Christians study Thomas à Kempis’ “Imitation of Christ,” and ask themselves, “What would Jesus do?” Students of all ages study Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln, Oprah, and Warren Buffet to learn from the examples of their success. To help find your own happiness, pick a spiritual leader to follow. For Rubin and the followers of her blog, choices included Vincent Van Gogh, Charles Darwin, Anne Lamott, and Dr. Andrew Weil. The goal: Being able to give a sincere “yes” when asked: Do you feel lucky to be alive?

Stay tuned for more tips in September on Books: “Pursue a Passion.”

And don’t forget:

January’s resolution focuses on Vitality: Boost Your Energy

  • Go to sleep earlier
  • Exercise better
  • Toss, restore, and organize
  • Tackle a nagging task
  • Act more energetic

February’s advice regarding Marriage: Remember Love

  • Quit nagging
  • Don’t expect praise or appreciation
  • Hug
  • Fight right
  • No dumping
  • Give proofs of love

March’s goals about Work: Aim Higher

  • Launch a blog
  • Enjoy the fun of failure
  • Ask for help
  • Work smart
  • Enjoy now

April’s insights are on Parenting: Lighten Up

  • Sing in the morning
  • Acknowledge the reality of people’s feelings
  • Be a treasure-house of happy memories
  • Take time for projects

May is time to: Be Serious About Play

  • Find more fun
  • Take time to be silly
  • Go off the path
  • Start a collection

June was the perfect opportunity to: Make Time for Friends

  • Remember birthdays
  • Be generous
  • Show up
  • If you gossip, say something nice
  • Make three new friends

In July we focused on the best thing we can use our money for: Buy Some Happiness

  • Indulge in a modest splurge
  • Buy needful things
  • Spend out
  • Give up something

This month, we take a spiritual turn and: Contemplate the Heavens

  • Read memoirs of catastrophe
  • Keep a gratitude notebook
  • Imitate a spiritual master

Learn more about Gretchen Rubin and her Happiness Project in the December 2014 issue of Be Inkandescent magazine.