My Happiness Project: January

For 2018, I am going to spend each month either implementing a new habit or focusing the month on learning something new. This idea stems from a couple of sources. The biggest inspiration is The Happiness Project, a book by Gretchen Rubin. In her book, Rubin outlines a year where she chose an area to focus on each month, and actually set a number of more concrete goals in the month. It’s a fun read, and while each of us would choose different activities and goals for our own projects, she provides a number of great ideas as well as insights into the concept of happiness.

My project is far smaller–I will focus on just one particular thing each month. But in this way I think it is manageable for me, while also challenging; and if I follow through it will be a year of many new experiences as well as a year that will bring about new habits, and new insights into what works and what doesn’t work for me.

I am also inspired by someone who’s name escapes me, but whom I heard on a podcast describing a year of trying out different things. Some research suggests that it takes 21 days to build a habit; though I think it varies by person and certainly by habit. But I like the idea of focusing on things for a month to see if it is a habit I like, but letting it go if not.

The picture associated with this post is my plan for the year. For the month of January, my goal was to do something out of my routine or out of my comfort zone every day. I quickly discovered that I had a definition problem. What would I consider sufficiently out of my routine? On day four, I counted riding my bike to work. I hadn’t done it in months, so it was out of my normal routine…but it had been a practice I did fairly consistently, so should it really be counted as sufficiently out of my routine?

Furthermore, while I am definitely a person who gets stuck in her routine and finds leaving it to generally bring about discomfort, shopping at a different grocery store (which I counted as meeting my goal for day six) was far easier to accomplish than having a difficult conversation with somebody (days 21, 23, and 25). Choosing a different route for my dog walk (day 3) was far easier than going to a new exercise class in a new location with a new group of people (days 8, 9, 14, and 17).

So, I see why the advice for goals is to make them specific so that you know if you have met them. Perhaps this month was too vague to feel entirely accomplished. But, as I look back on the month of January, I was definitely more aware of my routine and how to make little tweaks; and while many of the things outside my comfort zone are things I would have done anyway, I think it was valuable to be more keenly aware of where my comfort zone is, and I think I had extra motivation to get past it. And I definitely gained some new perspective by doing things out of my routine, I had some nice walks in different places, experienced different group workouts, and tried some new ways of eating. There were 7 out of 31 days when I didn’t think I had done anything sufficiently out of my routine or comfort zone, but there were four days when I counted two things. I was both happy for February and the inward meditation focus, and thankful that I set this goal for January.

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