Kicking off our Happiness Project (Pt 1)

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Booking under: Keith

The first chapter of Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project is titled “January: Boost Energy”. I find the theme to be quite appropriate as I had often felt drained in 2015, especially in the final months of the year when pressure at work was high and deadlines were approaching. Entering a new year, it seems like now is the best time to make some small changes to my daily living that will help me feel more energized and positive about the things I set out to accomplish in 2016.

In this first chapter, Gretchen lists five categories of actions that she has carried out in the first month of her happiness project. I don’t intend to merely copy her actions for myself (and I frankly won’t be able to follow through with everything if I took on all five) and so I’ve decided to work on the following two categories, with two actions in each category:

1. Exercise Better

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Maybe not like this. But you get the idea.

People who know me may be a little surprised at this one. After all, I’m a huge football (or soccer) fanatic and will play at least once a week. Besides, I’ve always been big on walking instead of taking public transport (where the former is feasible and not overly time consuming). So why would I set this as a goal for myself?

To begin with, I’ve come to realize (read: admit) that I only get a lot of exercise on Sundays when I play football. Otherwise, I only exercise (run, work out, play other games of football) when I feel like doing so or when people tell me there’s a game happening. This means, realistically, I only have one guaranteed day of exercise per week (assuming there was no rain causing the pitch to flood and the game to be cancelled). Besides this one day, I could be doing anything from between 0 to 3 extra days of exercise per week, according to how I feel on the day.

So, taking in Gretchen’s research that “just by exercising twenty minutes a day three days a week for six weeks, persistently tired people boosted their energy”, I will do three days of exercise a week in addition to Sundays, with each session lasting at least 30 minutes. I may not be a persistently tired person, but I do recognize and appreciate the burst of freshness and clarity in my head that comes after a good running and push-ups routine.

In addition, I will also walk 10,000 steps a day. Like many people, I have a pedometer on my phone and feel a warm sense of accomplishment each time a little buzz on my phone tells me I have hit the 10K mark for that day. I’ll also make sure I show or tell Nicole I’ve hit the mark (just ask her, I do this all the time). But I realize my results in this area can be highly fluctuating, I’ll have days (due to external appointments) when I can easily challenge for 12,000 steps but also have days (due to sitting around at work) when I barely crack 4,000. So, ignoring Sundays (since I don’t carry my phone on me while playing ball), I’ll aim to hit 10K every other day.

2. Toss, Restore, Organize

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Do you know why my room will never look like this? Because I don’t use Macs.

Like most other guys (or people in general), I like to keep things in a way that is convenient for me. And, like most other guys (or people in general), I tend to hold on to what Gretchen calls “Nostalgic Clutter” and “Freebie Clutter” (things we hold on to for nostalgia’s sake and things we got as gifts that we don’t actually use). Combining these two habits, I tend to have everything I own, including stuff I do not actively use, “conveniently located” in my room, leading to jackets being draped on the back of my chair instead of properly hung or bits of mail accumulating on my table because I think I might need to refer to them soon.

To fix this issue, I will commit to clean out my room once a month, where I will go through all of my clothes, books, bills, and old gadgets and get rid of the stuff I do not need anymore/organize the remaining items in a more systematic way. Doing so should add a little more orderliness to my room and save me many hours of scrambling around to find the things I need to use. Mom should be happy about this one.

As she was going through this exercise for herself, Gretchen implemented a “one-minute rule”, which is to simply not “postpone any task that could be done in less than a minute”. Much like how exercising a little each day is better than only doing a strenuous workout once a week, the gains behind this rule should accumulate and prevent problems from piling up later. So to round out my actions for the first month, I will follow the one-minute rule.

Summing Up

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Well that’s quite a bit to get started with! But to recap, my four actions under the two categories are:

  1. Exercise Better
  • Do three days of exercise a week (minimum 30 minutes a day) in addition to Sundays
  • Walk 10,000 steps a day
  1. Toss, Restore, Organize
  • Clean out my room once a month
  • Follow the one-minute rule

I’ll report back in two weeks time on how I’ve done in these areas, and Nicole will of course be my accountability partner as we kick off this first month of our own happiness project. Check back here next week for Nicole’s thoughts on Chapter 1 of The Happiness Project and her resolutions! And if you’ve done something similar yourself, leave a comment and let us know how it went for you!

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