I'm a compulsive note-taker, and I used to feel self-conscious about pulling out my little notebook and taking notes during a casual conversation. Then I noticed that people really seemed to enjoy it; the fact that I was taking notes made their remarks seem particularly insightful or valuable. Now I don't hold myself back.
During my study of happiness, I noticed something that surprised me: I often learn more from one person's highly idiosyncratic experiences than I do from sources that detail universal principles or cite up-to-date studies.
If I can do something in less than one minute, I don't let myself procrastinate. I hang up my coat, put newspapers in the recycling, scan and toss a letter. Ever since I wrote about this rule in 'The Happiness Project,' I've been amazed by how many people have told me that it has made a huge difference in their lives.
Getting paperwork under control makes me feel more in control of my life generally.
Watching TV is companionable: you share an experience, you can comment on the action here and there for a bit of conversation... it's a way of showing someone that you want his or her company and engaging in a low-key, pleasant, undemanding way.
I do better with routines and predictability. I don't react well when there's a sudden change in the schedule.
When accepting a responsibility, imagine that it's something that you'll have to do next week. That way you don't agree to something just because it seems so far off that it doesn't seem onerous.
One of my most important 'Secrets of Adulthood': Outer order contributes to inner calm.
Nature is impersonal, awe-inspiring, elegant, eternal. It's geometrically perfect. It's tiny and gigantic. You can travel far to be in a beautiful natural setting, or you can observe it in your backyard - or, in my case, in the trees lining New York City sidewalks, or in the clouds above skyscrapers.
Embrace good smells. No cost, no calories, no energy, no time - a quick hit of pleasure.
Although we often assume that feelings inspire actions, in fact, actions also inspire feelings. By pushing myself to act happier, I make myself feel happier.
A 'treat' is different from a 'reward,' which must be justified or earned. A treat is a small pleasure or indulgence that we give to ourselves just because we want it. Treats give us greater vitality, which boosts self-control, which helps us maintain our healthy habits.
One of the most important elements of my identity is my identity as a reader. I love to read - really, if I'm honest with myself, it's practically the only activity that I truly love to do.
When Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's government fell in May 1940, the nation turned to Churchill. At last, his unique qualities were brought to bear on a supreme challenge, and with his unshakable optimism, his heroic vision, and above all, his splendid speeches, Churchill roused the spirit of the British people.
If you've had something for more than six months, and it's still not repaired, it's clutter.
Sometimes, counter-intuitively, it's easier to make a major change than a minor change. When a habit is changing very gradually, we may lose interest, give way under stress, or dismiss the change as insignificant. There's an excitement and an energy that comes from a big transformation, and that helps to create a habit.
Whenever I'm trying to decide how to spend my precious time, energy, or money, I ask myself a series of questions. 'Will this broaden or deepen my relationships?' 'Will this contribute to an atmosphere of growth in my life?' 'Is this a way to 'Be Gretchen?' and 'Will this help connect me to my past?'
Skillful conversationalists can explore disagreements and make points in ways that feel constructive and positive rather than combative or corrective.
If you'd like to watch less television, try putting the remote away in a very inconvenient place and making yourself put it away every time you use it. If it's a big pain to turn on the TV and to change channels, you might find yourself drifting to other activities that will be more satisfying in the long run.
Happiness is a critical factor for work, and work is a critical factor for happiness. In one of those life-isn't-fair results, it turns out that the happy outperform the less happy. Happy people work more hours each week - and they work more in their free time, too.
Try to never say 'yes' on the phone; instead, say, 'I'll get back to you.' When you're actually speaking to someone, the desire to be accommodating is very strong, and can lead you to say 'yes' without enough consideration.
They say that people teach what they need to learn. By adopting the role of happiness teacher, if only for myself, I was trying to find the method to conquer my particular faults and limitations.
Growing up in Kansas City, I was always neat, the teacher's pet, know-it-all type.
Give warm greetings and farewells. I was surprised by how much this resolution changed the atmosphere of my home.
People are powerfully moved by imagination, belief, and knowledge. They can consider the past and future. They can make changes in their behavior out of reason in a way that animals can't do.
I have a lucky perfume. I love beautiful smells, but I save one of my favorite perfumes to wear only when I feel like I need some extra luck.
When we're trying to form and keep habits, we often search - even unconsciously - for loopholes. We look for justifications that will excuse us from keeping this particular habit in this particular situation.
For quotes, I have one document for general quotes; the other for happiness-related quotes, which I use for the 'Moment of Happiness,' my daily emails of happiness quotes.
I'm constantly on the hunt for insights about happiness or ideas about how to be happier - which probably makes me a somewhat tiresome companion at times.
Do I need fifty finger-painted pictures by my toddler, or is one enough to capture this time of life? Mementos work best when they're carefully chosen - and when they don't take up much room!
A person with 'oppositional conversational style' is a person who, in conversation, disagrees with and corrects whatever you say. He or she may do this in a friendly way, or a belligerent way, but this person frames remarks in opposition to whatever you venture.
A series of small but real accomplishments gives people the energy and confidence to continue. For instance, a person who wants to write a novel might resolve to write one sentence each day. Or a person who wants to start running might resolve to run for one minute.
I always feel calmer when I exercise. In fact, that's probably the main reason I exercise.
If you want someone else to do a task, don't do it yourself.
Don't let yourself fall into 'empty.' Keep cash in the house. Keep gas in your tank. Keep an extra roll of toilet paper squirreled away. Keep your phone charged.
Keep in mind that to avoid loneliness, many people need both a social circle and an intimate attachment. Having just one of two may still leave you feeling lonely.
One of my key realizations about happiness, and a point oddly under-emphasized by positive psychologists, given its emphasis in popular culture, is that outer order contributes to inner calm. More than it should.
We need to have intimate, enduring bonds; we need to be able to confide; we need to feel that we belong; we need to be able to get support, and just as important for happiness, to give support. We need many kinds of relationships; for one thing, we need friends.
The biggest waste of time is to do well something that we need not do at all.
Often, if there's something that I want to do, but somehow can't get myself to do, it's because I don't have clarity. This lack of clarity often arises from a feeling of ambivalence - I want to do something, but I don't want to do it; or I want one thing, but I also want something else that conflicts with it.
Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Lower the bar. Actually spending ten minutes clearing off one shelf is better than fantasizing about spending a weekend cleaning out the basement.
One of my 'Secrets of Adulthood' is: Somewhere, keep an empty shelf. I know where my empty shelf is, and I treasure it.
My writing tends to become very dense, so I have to keep some cushion. Sometimes, words that seem superfluous are actually essential for the overall effect.
Like most people, I have several pet subjects - that may or may not be interesting to other people. Don't get me started on happiness, or habits, or children's literature, or Winston Churchill, unless you really want to talk about it.
Kennedy was president for only 1,037 days, but during his short tenure, he achieved much. At the Cold War's most dangerous hour, he preserved the peace. He improved relations with the Soviet Union and replaced tension over Berlin with a limited test ban treaty.
For notes related to books I'm writing, I've wondered whether I should organize my notes better, but I do find that the action or scrolling through them and seeing odd juxtapositions of ideas helps to stimulate my own ideas and creativity. I worry that if I kept the notes in a highly-structured way, I might lose some of these benefits.