• November 2015

November Happiness: Keep a Contented Heart

In this month’s discussion of Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project, we invite you to contemplate the goals for November: Keep a Contented Heart.

Why is it important to embrace this attitude?

Rubin says: “I wanted to cultivate a lighthearted, loving, and kind spirit. If I could put myself into that frame of mind, it would be easier to stick to all of my other resolutions.”

Here’s how:

  • Laugh out loud. Rubin firmly believes that if you act the way you want to feel, you’ll be happier. And it follows that feeling lighthearted would be easier if you laugh. Plus, there’s an added benefit: “Laughter is more than just a pleasurable activity. It can boost immunity and lower blood pressure and cortisol levels. It increases people’s tolerance for pain. It’s a source of social bonding, and it helps to reduce conflicts and cushion social stress within relationships — at work, in marriage, among strangers. When people laugh together, they tend to talk and touch more and make eye contact more frequently.”
  • Use good manners. Tolstoy wrote: “Nothing can make your life, or the lives of other people, more beautiful than perpetual kindness.” Thus, Rubin believes, kindness in everyday life takes the form of good manners. And she realized that for her: “It’s easier to feel happier and use good manners when I make an effort to stay physically comfortable: to dress warmly, snack more often, and turn off the light as soon as I feel sleepy.”
  • Give positive reviews. “I knew it wasn’t nice to criticize, but it was fun,” Rubin admits. “Being critical made me feel more sophisticated and intelligent.” But when she examined her reactions to other people, Rubin realized it’s hard to find pleasure in the company of someone who finds nothing pleasing. “Giving positive reviews requires humanity,” she notes, and once Rubin started giving positive reviews, she began to understand how much happiness she took from the joyous ones in her life. So Rubin embarked on seven days of what she called “Pollyanna Week.” Although 100 percent compliance was an impossible ambition, “making the effort jolted me into an awareness of my unusual attitude.”
  • Find an area of refuge. Rubin says that she often noticed her tendency to brood, and to counter this effect, she invented the idea of “refuge,” where she’d think of things that made her happy — from her husband in his underwear to Winston Churchill’s speeches. “By the end of November, I’d realized that one of the most important lessons of the Happiness Project is that if I keep my resolutions and do the things that make me happier, I end of feeling happier and acting more virtuously. Do good, feel good; feel good, do good.”

In December, stay tuned for more of Rubin’s final chapter of the Happiness Project: Boot Camp Perfect

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

July 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

In August, we take a spiritual turn and: Contemplate the Heavens

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

In September, Rubin encouraged us to go deeper into ourselves to: Pursue a Passion

  • Write a novel
  • Make time
  • Forget about results
  • Master a new technology

In October, we focused on mindfulness: Pay Attention

  • Meditate on koans
  • Examine “True Rules”
  • Stimulate the mind in new ways
  • Keep a food diary

This month we got an attitude adjustment: Keep a Contented Heart

  • Laugh out loud
  • Use good manners
  • Give positive reviews
  • Find an area of refuge

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