Have you read The Happiness Project blog? It gives tips and discussions about how to be happy. And that ‘happy’ is not being happy-happy joy-joy all the time, but being contented, and doing what feels right, and good, and positive for yourself.
One of the tools it suggests to help you choose what is right for yourself if to have a set of commandments to guide your personal philosophy. Generally, twelve commandments are involved, but so far, I’ve only got six.
1. Be MsLaurie
The famous ‘fantasy of being thin’ post on Shapely Prose first codified some thoughts I’d already had in this area (interestingly, my ‘wish’ plans never had to do with being slim, just ‘more fun/outgoing/cool’), and The Happiness Project helped me set it out further.
I’m a middle-class, white person in a first world country. I can do pretty much whatever I want, within reason. But it doesn’t really mean I can do anything, because I don’t LIKE everything, and I don’t WANT to like everything. I don’t like snow (its cold and wet). I don’t want to climb mountains (traumatic memories of hallucinations climbing Mount Oberon before dawn). I don’t really care much for staying out past three am and drinking to the point where the next day is a write off (too many examples).
But I can choose to be me. I love being a girl guide leader, even though its unfashionable. I love spending hours planning and making cards in elaborate designs, even though most of them get looked at once and put in a drawer. I like going to fancy little bars and sipping overpriced cocktails. I like to wear bright red shoes. I like to be me, even when that is unfashionable, and a bit conservative, and some people might think its boring. So what? I don’t need to please anyone else, I just need to please me.
2. Recognise ghosts
My second commandment is to know that, like everyone, there are some things in the past which messed me up a bit. ‘Recognise ghosts’ means to acknowledge the baggage, know its there (don’t try and suppress things), but to try not to let it mess up the future.
3. Act for pleasure, not reward
I’m a bit of a ‘look look I did something clever! Look at meeeee!’ person sometimes (probably why I’m writing a blog, hey?!). While I’ve decided this is a valid impulse, I need to be sure that I’m choosing to do things that make me happy, not just to garner praise or respect.
4. Direct frustration appropriately
Poor MrLaurie regularly cops me dealing inappropriately with frustration. Either he gets the bad mood I can’t properly show at work, or I get annoyed and yell when he doesn’t understand intuitively what I want done.
So I’m trying to direct my frustration appropriately – instead of just going “grah!” when he doesn’t chop things the way I want them chopped for the pasta sauce, I’m trying to either let it go (if its close enough), or say “I know this is crazy, but I’d prefer you to do it like THIS”, and show him. In other words, basic courtesy, and not expecting him to read my mind. Also, showing him has the helpful side effect of not allowing us to fall into the trap of ‘he can’t do it right/she never likes what I do so why bother’, which ends up with me doing all of the cooking. Sod that.
5. Be excited locally
For a wedding gift, we were given a fantastic digital camera, which I used like crazy on our honeymoon. And when we were in Darwin. And Sydney. And anywhere ‘else’. I can see the beauty and interest in everyday things elsewhere, but I hardly notice things locally. Which is silly, because here is my life, and where I want to be. And it’s a lovely city, and there is beauty all around.
So I’m trying to make a conscious choice to be excited about things locally. Today, for example there is a gorgeous blue sky. In Melbourne in winter! Amazing!
6. Fit items to life
This final one is a bit mundane. But its an important revelation to me. I should buy/make/acquire items which fit the way I live my life, not what I think my life should be (tied into ‘Be MsLaurie’). So I recently gave up on trying to fit my shoes into the bottom of the cupboard, or line them up neatly under the bed, and realised that what I was actually doing naturally was to just piff them under the bed (or in that direction).
So I bought some fantastic shallow clear boxes that fit under the bed, which I can slide out easily, and just piff the shoes into the boxes. Neater (which although not a core value of mine, it is handy to not trip over shoes when getting up to go to the loo), and lets me still just toss them in. Fit the item to my life, rather than change the behaviour. Much better.