Zoikes, it’s hard to believe that almost a full decade has passed since The Happiness Project first hit the shelves.
In many ways, my life is much the same—and of course, many things have changed as well. The Tenth Anniversary edition is on shelves today.
By far the most important thing that happened was that my husband Jamie’s hepatitis C was cured—a medical miracle.
As I write about in The Happiness Project and Happier at Home, Jamie got hepatitis C from a blood transfusion during a heart operation when he was eight years old. You really don’t want to have hepatitis C; eventually, it destroys your liver. Jamie tried many treatments over the years, but nothing worked.
When a new treatment was approved, Jamie went on it right away, and as of January 9, 2015 (a date we celebrate every year), Jamie was cured. You can read more about it in my post “Today is one of the happiest days of my life. Here’s why.”
After much discussion and pleading, my family got a dog, a delightful black cockapoo named Barnaby. If you want to hear me talk about this decision, Elizabeth and I discuss it in episodes 24 and 27 of the Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast.
Speaking of the Happier podcast, launching the podcast has been one of my favorite undertakings from the last ten years. My co-host is my sister Elizabeth Craft, the TV writer and producer who lives in Los Angeles, and together we talk about happiness, habits, and human nature. We’re sisters, so we don’t let each other get away with much! We’ve had so many terrific sisterly adventures together because of the show.
Since The Happiness Project came out, I’ve written four additional books: Happier at Home, Better Than Before, The Four Tendencies, and Outer Order, Inner Calm. (Plus I’ve written My Color Pilgrimage, but it’s still in the manuscript stage.)
In The Happiness Project, I write about starting a children’s literature reading group. Well, that group got so big that I started a second group, and now even a third group. Yes, I’m in three kid-lit reading groups, and these groups are a giant engine of happiness for me.
A big personal highlight was getting interviewed by Oprah Winfrey. She recorded the interview at her home in Montecito, so I got to visit “The Promised Land,” and I also got to bring my sister Elizabeth with me, on a terrific sisterly adventure. Oprah is so…Oprah. In person, she’s exactly the way I’d imagined her to be. (You can listen to the interview here.)
Another highlight was meeting the Dalai Lama. In fact, at the end of our meeting, we needed to walk to the other end of the conference center in the rain, so he grabbed my arm to help him stay steady—yes, I walked arm in arm with the Dalai Lama.
I had dinner with Nobel Prize-winner Daniel Kahneman—he’s notable for his work on the psychology of judgment, decision-making, and behavioral economics, subjects that fascinate me. He’s the author of Thinking, Fast and Slow, among countless other accomplishments, and a person I was thrilled to meet.
One very fun thing that happened—though I had nothing to do with it—was that “The Happiness Project” was an answer on the gameshow Jeopardy!
I’ve been on the cover of a few magazines. That’s surreal.
My blog (which I now call my “site,” because the very word “blog” seems old-fashioned) has been going strong for more than a decade. To celebrate the tenth anniversary, I created an e-book, The Best of the Happiness Project Blog—that was a lot of fun to put together.
I started “Ask Gretchen Rubin Live,” a weekly show on Facebook. It’s great to get a chance to talk about happiness, habits, and human nature with people in real time.
I launched the free “Better” app to help people make their lives happier, healthier, more productive and more creative—just search “Better Gretchen Rubin” in the app store. It’s a place where you can join discussions, ask questions, weigh in, and form accountability groups.
I also created my first video course to help more people harness the power of the Four Tendencies.
Of everything I’ve written in the last ten years, I think my one-minute video “The Years Are Short” resonates most with people. It was a truth that I felt deeply at the time that I wrote The Happiness Project, and I feel it more deeply with every passing year. The days are long, but the years are short.
Gretchen Rubin is the author of the #1 New York Times Bestseller The Happiness Project—an account of the year she spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific studies, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier—and the recently released Happier at Home and Better Than Before. On her popular blog, The Happiness Project, she reports on her daily adventures in the pursuit of happiness. For more doses of happiness and other happenings, follow Gretchen on Facebook and Twitter.
Image courtesy of Nicole Honeywill.
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(Ok, there may be some chocolate and Netflix, but only if they are right for you, and no unconscious choices and definitely no added guilt)
You know those days when you just can’t even?
When adulting or even getting breakfast feels a million miles away?
If you’ve had a bad night, a flare, a pain spike, the grief is doing a number on you or the anxiety just won’t quit and give you space to breathe?
I’ve been there, I feel you.
Often in these situations, we are told to get it together, to shift our thinking, shake up our mood and make the day AWESOME. And that’s all well and good, but I have found in my trailblazing wellness coaching practice and my personal experience that sometimes these exhortations to be great can feel bullying, shaming or yet another thing we haven’t reached.
I want to present an alternative.
Perhaps we are having a bad day for no reason we can see, but the fact is, we are feeling bad. That’s our experience. Sometimes it’s more compassion to ourselves and more healing, in the long run, to just let a bad day be a bad day. To not put pressure on it our ourselves and just let it be. Then see what happens.
Side note: I don’t actually call them bad days, myself. Because I am concerned with labelling sadness, anxiety, anger, regret, pain, grief, loneliness or similar feelings ‘bad’. I think they are painful, sure. They are uncomfortable, certainly. But they aren’t inherently wrong or worthless. They are a part, I believe, of being human. The other side of the coin of happiness, contentment, trust, confidence, ease, love, companionship and other feeling states we often label ‘good’.
But just as I have great respect for the shadows and what work our bodies and minds do in the darkness, I wonder if a life with only the ‘positive’ emotions would truly be like? Would it be a spiritual transcendence? Or would it be an exercise in denial and repression, always running away from the shadow side of life? How could we live in the world without being sad, angry, lonely or in pain, which so many things happen that are sad, and unjust and call those powerful, real, responses forth in us?
Just as I crave the rest of darkness and couldn’t live with the light on 100% of the time, so I find relief if letting myself be in the uncomfortable shadow times.
Instead of good days/bad days, I say optimum/non-optimum days, times when we feel at our optimum, perhaps with more comfortable, pleasant emotional sensations. And times when we don’t feel at our optimum. Because, no mistake, feeling all those darker emotions, can be painful, it can hurt hugely.
I have felt the hurt of a bad day we really, really wish was good.
The rising panic when they stack up and we can’t see an escape.
Growing resentment and self-doubt when we compare our painful reality to the edited online world which shows only the best. Which truly displays lives in only the best light (literally).
On a difficult day, what can we hope for?
Perhaps to contain it, to let it be a bad day and take action so that it doesn’t spiral and trigger other issues or expand into weeks.
To avoid the pressure and sense of failure from needing to make every day perfect.
Because you may have the same number of hours in the day as Beyonce, but you don’t have the same resources. So let’s give you a break, huh? @Grace_Quantock (Click to Tweet!)
And frankly, pitting women against each other without taking into account the intersecting frameworks for oppression and privileges that affect each one of us is simply an exercise engendering shame and disappointment.
So, what can we do?
1. Take care of basics
The pressure to feel wonderful can lead to further feelings of stuckness and disempowerment. Have you ever got to the point where you are so full of information and inspirational material that you can’t even get out of bed with the weight of all the wonderful, self-care things you aren’t doing?
The solution? Stick to the basics. I love this website (NSFW re. language)
Why? It takes you through the basics that humans need. So often we forget the basics. I know I all too often forget to drink water, say I will get up/go to the loo/take a break just when I finish this one thing….
Often when we feel awful it feels like we need a nuclear level solution.
I once had really, really awful nausea. It was so disabling, so awful.
Everyone told me to try ginger. Ginger tea, ginger capsules, ginger essential oil. Well, I’m afraid to say, I scoffed.
I thought, ‘Ginger? I don’t think you understand, I am sick! It is serious, it will take more than just ginger to sort this.’
I went for the powerful anti-emetics. Of course, you’ve guessed the end of the story. Eventually, I tried ginger and it helped so much, without any side effects.
Just because we feel seriously awful, doesn’t mean the only solution is a serious treatment.
Sometimes the simple, day to day things can make a huge difference. And if you want to go nuclear, try setting up all the basics first (if you are bed or housebound check out my new book on doing this accessibly) and then if you are still struggling, the nuclear option will still be there for you.
Often this saves a lot of hassle and money e.g if I take care of my back. I don’t need to see the osteopath so much. It’s boring, day to day work, taking breaks, using my roller, stretching in the morning, checking in to see where my pain levels are and what I need, but it makes the difference, daily and long term.
2. Take off the pressure
Often we are struggling, we are under a lot of pressure.
Have you ever had the experience of feeling awful and then feeling awful about feeling awful and then feeling trebly awful about all the things you aren’t getting done because you are having such a difficult time?
It’s so easy to fall into this cycle and it generally spirals downwards and feeds any sense of shame or not-enoughness we may already be carrying.
How to handle this? The useful question here can be ‘what can I do to take the pressure off?’
Often we feel we have ‘got’ to do things, but do we?
What are the things you have got to do? And how can you give yourself a break from everything else, just to take the pressure off?
In my work, Blazing Hearts Flight School Coaching: Pursuits and Passion for People Living With Limits (previously Phoenix Flight School) we work on setting up systems. Systems hold things so you don’t have to. We can often automate much more than we out think – and I don’t mean by outsourcing your life to underpaid overseas virtual assistants – but by, as systems goddess and all around good
Systems hold things so you don’t have to. We can often automate much more than we out think – and I don’t mean by outsourcing your life to underpaid overseas virtual assistants – but by, as systems goddess and all around good
We can often automate much more than we out think – and I don’t mean by outsourcing your life to underpaid overseas virtual assistants – but by, as systems goddess and all-around-awesome-human, Michelle Nickolaisen teaches, looking at what you do over and over and making a formula for it. Then checking if any of those sites can be held by someone/thing other than you.
e.g meds on repeat prescription, reminders to book your next chiropodist appointment when you finish your current one, having the groceries you may use on repeat order etc.
An ‘at the very least list’ is a list you make if what you will do even on a ‘bad’ day.
This will be individual to you, but it could be; getting dressed, taking your meds (if any), having some food, having some non-screen time, connecting with someone or doing something restful.
3. Dip into our self-care kit resources
How do you make your own Self-Care Kit? Well, I’d love to help you design one, so book a free consult here. But if you’d like to put together your own, the first thing is to get a box, designate it as your Self-Care Kit and then keep it in mind. Fill it with things you love, you can begin by looking around your house and asking if there are any letters from loved ones, postcards that make your laugh or funny cartoons etc. that you like and add them to the box. Keep thinking of your box and you will keep adding resources, and use the box when you need.
I’ve made us a Virtual Self-Care Kit here. I hope you enjoy it.
When we dip in, we are literally resourcing ourselves, remembering that we have tools, options and support.
We can use out self-care kit to prevent a difficult day spiralling into a difficult week or longer.
Really, it’s a process of listening to ourselves and adding nourishment where we need it.
If you need to talk, call:
(UK & ROI) Samaritans – 116 123 (their new freephone number)
(USA) Suicide Prevention Life Line – 1-800-273-8255
(Australia) LifeLine – 13 11 14
If these ideas resonate or intrigue you, why not conduct a personal experiment, try and see how you find it?
- Bookmark this page and come back to it when you are low.
- Make your ‘At the Very Least’ list and save it in your journal or your phone. Try setting a five-minute timer now and making a draft list, then try it out when you next have a difficult day and refine as needed. Each non-optimum day will give you more data to polish and personalise your plan.
- List the three things you repeat most regularly (like paying a bill, ordering food, running out of something or repeating something). See if you can find a system for one of those this week. Set up a standing order, get a repeat delivery or prescription, set up a reminder to order or write a canned response in gmail). Your future-self will thank you.
- Begin making (or order) a self-care kit and use it when needed.
What’s your way to manage non-optimum days? Let me know in the comments!
Grace Quantock is an award-winning international wellness expert, coach, author, motivational speaker, certified Reiki master and spiritual response therapy practitioner. She is the founder of Healing Boxes CIC and The Phoenix Fire Academy. Currently living – and thriving – with often debilitating illness, she is the real deal and knows, firsthand, the emotional and physical roller coaster that accompanies diagnosis and life struggle. Currently, a resident of Wales, Grace loves reading, gardening and early mornings. She firmly believes that life is meant to be celebrated, and has made it her mission to help others do just that …joyfully and on their own terms. You can follow Grace on Twitter.
Image courtesy of Yuris Alhumaydy.
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