Gretchen Rubin is the author of The Happiness Project where she writes about happiness. She regularly interviews people about happiness, and asks some very good questions. So – since I don’t think Gretchen will knock on my door asking these questions, I decided to do them on my own.
What’s a simple activity that consistently makes you happier?
Whenever I get the sense that something in my life is off track I do a progress meeting with myself and asks these questions:
1. What isn’t working?
2. Why isn’t it working?
3. What can I do to change it?
(4. Implement the changes)
It’s amazing how effective those questions are, and I find I even enjoy asking them and coming up with answers. It gives me the feeling of growing personally and makes me feel I have a rich inner life where a lot is happening.
What’s something you know now about happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?
That being happy is something that I have to work for, in the sense that I have to take care of and be sensitive to my own needs. I used to believe that having a boyfriend, having a career etc. was going to give my life purpose, but now my happiness is all about my inner state of being.
Is there anything you find yourself doing repeatedly that gets in the way of your happiness?
I work as a developer, and that entails creating functionality and fixing bugs on the way. During programming there’s a lot of problems that comes up that I have to solve and I connect my ability to work through problems to my worth. So if I spend a lot of time figuring out a small problem and getting nowhere, the frustration and stress levels rise exponentially. The underlying thought is that somebody more experienced would have solved it more quickly (which aren’t always correct).
If you’re feeling blue, how do you give yourself a happiness boost? Or, like a “comfort food,” do you have a comfort activity?
I used to eat chocolate, candy and chips for my happiness boost, but now I don’t any more because I have weight issues and it affects my health. I still haven’t found a way to give myself a happiness boost that replaces chocolate and cakes etc. I would love some advice here though (and don’t say exercise) . Going out to a cafe with a book and a cafe mocca is great though (but then I’m still on something connected to food and drinks).
Is there a happiness mantra or motto that you’ve find very helpful? Or a happiness quotation that has struck you as particularly insightful?
My mantra is: I’m the correct person, at the correct time, in the correct place – always!
So whenever difficulties arise or I’m having a bad time, I remind myself that I’m in the correct place. There is something to learn from that situation, or it is intended to make situations better in the long run. I just have to trust that God’s love is behind the situation.
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?
Giving and/or receiving advice can sour a relationship instead of helping it. It’s a mistake I have seen in myself and others, because when we give advice we expect them to follow it, and when they don’t we can become irritated and annoyed. So the next time something similar happens to the other person we say and act: “Well, I gave you my advice, you didn’t take it, so you deserve what you got”. The truth of the matter is that we give advice according to our personality and life, but the person on the receiving end of the advice has a different personality and life, so our advice in many cases will not match. Or even more importantly, they are not ready! When people are ready, they will change their actions. Advice may help, but it will not be a breaking point in most cases. I have learned to be very careful about giving advice, and I try to do it only when I’m being asked. A more careful approach I usually take is to tell the other person about what helps for me and situations where it has helped, but nor phrase it as an advice, but as me sharing my life with the other person.
Have you always felt about the same level of happiness, or have you been through a period when you felt exceptionally happy or unhappy – if so, why?
I have fluctuated a lot. I love to travel, being a free spirit without a thought in my head and only my own needs to take care of. I lived in australia for about a year, and I fell in love with the country. Warm, sunny – I loved going outside the door and seeing palm trees. There were many options for going out and doing different activities. It’s a beautiful country, and perfect for vacation travelling.
On the other side of the specter is stress, having obligations, having people depend on my work and that I finish in time etc.
Do you work on being happier? If so, how?
Yes, I work on it several days a week. I need a lot of rest and peace and quiet around me, so I try to meditate, focus on my spiritual needs by reading etc. If a couple of days go by without doing spiritual activities, I start feeling like I’m wasting my life, that something is missing in my life.
I read books about happiness (that in itself makes me feel happier). I go to a cafe and have a cafe mocca.
I have progress meetings with myself where I sit down and spend time evaluating how my life is going.
I keep a daily journal where I write everything down – including the progress meetings. I can really recommend a journal called “The Sacred Journey“. It’s a fantastic tool for looking at how life is going, working through issues, having monthly goals and just keeping track. I don’t use it for keeping track of events etc, it’s for my personal/inner life only.