Friday, September 23, 2011

The Happiness Project

Recently, I read a book called The Happiness Project by Gretchen Ruben. The author was basically trying to analyze the effect of happiness in her life so as to optimize her personal happiness. Of course, happiness is partially genetic -- so some of your general level of happiness is predetermined, but there is a factor that you can control. Gretchen put together a whole year in which she focused on different aspects of happiness each month.

While I don't think for me it makes sense to spend a whole year focusing on different areas of happiness, I understand what Gretchen is getting at. We should optimize how we feel so as to have the most positive interaction we can with our world. Basically, I think that people can regulate how they feel and adapt their feelings to create a better experience for themselves. I know that sometimes this is hard to do, but for the average day to day I think it's worth a try.

At the beginning of this month, I started my Phonathon season, which goes through April. This is a very busy period for me at work marked by a very varied schedule. I am by nature a very disciplined person -- I enjoy regularity, a fixed schedule, and dislike sudden changes to plans. Last year, especially at work, this was a challenge for me. I often found that I was not being as flexible as I might. I was also dwelling on minor issues, such as a slight schedule change and feeling cranky. Obviously, I try to always be cooperative, but this year, I want to focus on being happier overall and more adaptable. Changes occur and one needs to be able to deal with them -- there is no use in letting in get you down. In sum, I want to be less stressed overall. I can do this by (1) identifying the things that cause me stress, (2) making sure to regulate my emotions when encountering things that cause stress (after all, stress doesn't help anyone), and (3) focusing on areas of interest that reduce stress.

I think I have item one pretty ironed out -- I know what stresses me. I have been doing a lot of work on item two -- emotional self-regulation. Last spring I tried to do this to some effect and found it successful. This year I am trying even more. When I find something is stressing me out or making me agitated, I remind myself to relax and put it into perspective. I ask myself, "Am I going to do this this?" The answer is almost always, "Yes." So then I ask, "If you're going to do it anyway, the only thing you can control is how you feel about it. Do you want to feel good or bad?" Obviously the answer is always good. I try to adjust my mood to compensate. Honestly, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't, but in general, I have to say I have felt more happier this fall. Good news!

In order to help myself with number two, emotional regulation, I have been focusing on engaging in activities I find relaxing. One thing that always calms me down and makes me feel better is exercise. I am never stressed when I am exercising. Ever. As part of this, I have been exercising more and doing the Beachbody TurboFire workout I have been talking about. I am just through the first month of TurboFire (a 90 day program) now. I  am loving it! It has gotten me to do more stretching and some different strength training. My cardio is probably the best it's ever been. I feel great! I have been doing TurboFire in addition to my trips to the gym at work (I just take it easier at the work gym). This has been wonderful for allowing me to really de-stress.

In exciting news, I learned that my aerobics instructor at work, Rosalie, is also a Beachbody coach (meaning that she is an expert in their products and offers support to those doing the programs). I was super excited when Rosalie mentioned this to me and told her how I was doing the TurboFire workout. She mentioned to me that she has been taking one of their supplements, Shakeology, and recommended it to me. As part of my efforts to spend time on relaxing and fun things, I might take Rosalie up on the offer to order some and try it for a month with my TurboFire program. I will keep you posted on the results if I do.

I also want to make plans to try other Beachbody workouts when I am finished with TurboFire. I would like to do the Insanity workout, which I dabbled in last year, as a complete program and go all the way through. Then depending on how that goes, I might try the new Insanity: The Asylum workout, which is supposed to be even harder than Insanity.

Through all of this I tracking my workouts on an  app I purchased for my iPhone, Fitness Tracker 90 CE. Basically, doing the exercise program is combining everything I love. I get to exercise, I get to stick to a schedule, and I get to keep organized as I track the schedule in my app. All of this is keeping me relaxing and helping me focus on remaining so.

I am glad I read the book. I definitely feel like I've been feeling better as I spend time thinking more about how I am feeling. It's definitely making my free time more enjoyable, as I feel more relaxing and more pleasant. I am also making sure to look forward to things in the future (like the fun night I have planned out with Seth tonight or the trip to New York City to the Met). I'll keep you posted to my progress!

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