monday happiness tip to help you get what you need this season

by andrea isabelle lucas on December 5, 2011


I’ve been reading The Happiness Project blog for a few years now and so when I needed a little inspiration for this week, it was one of the first places I turned.  I’m glad, I did, because this interesting post looked like something worth trying.  Last week when I was researching the concept of the “not doing list,” I came across another blogger who compared over-zealous to-do-listing to being a really bad boss to yourself, someone who overworks you with no regard for your needs, like fun or relaxation.  So I like the way Gretchen Rubin’s post plays off a similar idea.  Check it out:

I remember reading somewhere that writer Anne Lamott thinks about herself in the third person, to take better care of herself: “I’m sorry, Anne Lamott can’t accept that invitation to speak; she’s finishing a book so needs to keep her schedule clear.”

I find that often, the same trick helps me to be realistic about myself. “Gretchen gets frantic when she’s really hungry, so she can’t wait too long for dinner.” “Gretchen needs some quiet time each day.” “Gretchen really feels the cold, so she can’t be outside for too long.”

Yes, I admit, this approach makes me sound a bit affected and self-important, but the thing is, it really works.

For instance, for the last few weeks, I felt…depleted. Physically, I felt energetic enough, but mentally, I was like a cell phone that couldn’t take a charge. I couldn’t figure out what to do, but finally I thought of myself in the third person.

As the long holiday weekend approached, I asked myself, “What’s the best medicine for Gretchen when she feels drained?” And, when I framed the question about my nature that way, from outside myself, I immediately knew the answer. “Gretchen gets mentally refreshed by doing a lot of reading.”

That’s what I needed. No writing; hours and hours of reading. A novel I’d never read before, a novel that was long enough to last, a novel that was absorbing without being so demanding that it would just exhaust me more. Fortunately, I had exactly the right book, right on my bedside table. I spent a good part of the holiday weekend reading Neal Stephenson’s Reamde. And by the time I finished the book, I felt restored.

Self-knowledge! It seems as though it should be so easy to know yourself, but it’s very, very challenging. For me, it’s often easier to gain self-insight by using indirect routes—such as asking myself questions like What do I lie about? or Who are my patron saints?—rather than by trying to look at myself directly.

Here goes: “Andrea gets distracted VERY easily and is rather hard on herself when she doesn’t feel she’s had a productive day.  So today, she’ll be working from a secret location to try to eliminate distractions.” ( OK, it’s not a secret location, it’s another desk at the spa that looked like a nice quiet place to hide and be very productive.)  Thanks Gretchen Rubin for this interesting tool!  The Happiness Project book is a #1 NY Times Bestseller and might make a great Christmas gift!

Have a happy Monday everyone!


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