What Makes You Happy?

I’ve written before about my interest in Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project. Each week, Gretchen posts an interview — whether in person or virtual — with someone who strikes her as having an interesting perspective on happiness. I love reading their responses to the same set of questions that she asks everyone; it’s fascinating to me how different people’s approaches to cultivating and maintaining happiness can be, and yet how much similarity often runs through the interviews.

(Getting enough sleep seems to be a common thread for happiness, and it’s one that I have realized makes a HUGE difference in my quality of life. I’ve been captivated by the results of sleep studies that have recently been released — no chance that I’m one of those people who can get by on less than five hours of sleep. In fact, I’ve discovered over the last year that I’m one of the people who needs more than eight hours a night. How many nights a week does that happen? Yeah, not enough.)

Anyways, I’ve still yet to start my own Happiness Project — add that to the post-graduation list — but I thought it might be interesting to take a spin through Gretchen’s questions, assuming that she won’t be knocking on my door in the next few days. (Also, I was looking for something to do while half-watching the Bruins game — other than schoolwork.)

What’s a simple activity that consistently makes you happier?

These days, doing anything unrelated to school usually qualifies, but a few things consistently make the list: 1) cooking; 2) taking time to pet Clar; 3) making it to yoga; 4) visiting the library. Even the most rotten day can be improved immeasurably by a homemade meal, a happy dog, a calmed mind and a bit of physical activity, and a good book.

What’s something you know now about happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?

Trying to be perfect doesn’t make for a perfect life. I’m still working to shed my perfectionist tendencies, an effort that has been helped plenty by this semester of school. Sometimes, good enough really is good enough, and the extra effort I might have put toward making it perfect can be used to make something else better (like dinner).

Is there anything you find yourself doing repeatedly that gets in the way of your happiness?

Procrastinating. Ugh. It’s my worst habit, and has only gotten worse as I’ve gotten more connected to social media like Twitter and Facebook. Undoubtedly part of my happiness project is going to be trying to multitask less, and focus on (and complete!) single tasks more. My rational brain knows that I’d be so much happier if I just finished whatever I’m working on and checked Facebook/sent that email/watched Bethenny later, and yet….rationality doesn’t always win out.

Is there a happiness mantra or motto that you’ve found very helpful? (E.g., I remind myself to “Be Gretchen.”)

“This, too, shall pass.” It’s a good reminder that nothing lasts forever — not terrible, awful, no good, very bad times, and not the happiest days on earth. That makes it all the more important to recognize the great days when they happen, and not to take them for granted. It’s a big part of why I restarted my gratitude journal.

Is there anything that you see people around you doing or saying that adds a lot to their happiness, or detracts a lot from their happiness?

I envy friends who can say no. Saying “no” also means saying “yes” — whether to time for yourself, for a friend, for a partner, for sleep — and it’s a valuable skill to have. My friends who say no do it respectfully and honestly, but also firmly and without guilt. I try to emulate them as best I can (but often not all that well).

Do you work on being happier? If so, how?

I’m trying. I’m pretty sure that the next 15 days might not be my happiest ever, but I also know that they are only 15 days (“this, too, shall pass”). My gratitude journal is a small step that I can take on days that, on their face, don’t seem all that great, and in reading back through the journal, I’m reminded of small things that really do brighten my days.


Of course, I’d probably be happier, too, if I weren’t a Boston sports fan. I’ve long said that people who don’t follow sports — maybe, perhaps, the Red Sox in particular — must live longer.

Then again, I wouldn’t trade the pure joy of October 27, 2004 for anything.

I wonder if part of my happiness project could be helping Theo Epstein sort out the pitching staff?


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