My happiness toolkit

Many of you are readers of the Happiness Project blog (or books). Gretchen talks about creating a happiness toolkit: activities/strategies that you know boost your happiness. One of the fun parts of reading her books is attempting to copy from her toolkit, just like the fun part of Pinterest is attempting to copy other people’s closet layouts. Anyway, here are a few of my discoveries of things that boost my mood:

* My “Life with Little Ones” journal. I started keeping a very occasional journal of cute things the kids did. It’s just a word document on my computer, so it’s easy to read back through old entries. I’d forgotten how long ago I started this, so I got a kick to read what Sam was doing when he was Ruth’s age. Today’s entry? Jasper got crayon on one of the living room chairs. He apologized, but then told me rather solemnly that “mistakes are part of living.” It’s so funny, but I wouldn’t remember it without writing it down.

* My “Best Summer Ever” journal. In the same vein as the idea before. This summer I kept a one-sentence journal of something enjoyable or memorable that happened every day. Reading back through it in September, I realized that it really was one hell of a summer. I was interviewed by Matt Lauer, and judged a pie-baking contest. Hard to see how next summer will top that, but since I intend to also call next summer’s journal “Best Summer Ever,” I guess I’ll try!

* Random fan mail. I’m trying to be better about keeping it in one place so I can read back through it if feeling ineffectual. I love a good ego stroking. Reading Amazon reviews has the exact opposite result, so I’m trying to avoid them.

* Going for a ramble. Regular readers know I love running. Sometimes I like to add a random exploratory aspect to it. Yesterday, I went for my normal loop through a park, then just walked through the woods farther, enjoying the beautiful autumn trees, the mud, the sound of running water.

* Sneaky during-the-day excursions. Part of working at home is developing the discipline to report to work, day after day, even if no one can see what you’re doing. So I mostly work during work hours. But oh, is it exciting to play hooky once in a while and go to a museum or (gasp!) shopping.

* Eating out. I do this rarely enough that it always seems like a treat. Even eating at Ruby’s Diner with the kids. Speaking of which, taking the kids out to eat turns out to be a great way to make a long evening go faster. I was all proud of myself, walking into Ruby’s Diner last week with a baby on my hip and two small boys walking obediently through the door when I saw a father who had not three but four small children with him (and him solo) in Ruby’s. So he wins the prize.

* Coffee in the morning, wine at night.

* Curling up with a magazine. I was going to say a “brainless” magazine but one of my favorite reads is The Economist. I don’t think they’d like being called brainless. I also enjoy magazines from years past. I feel they offer good insight on what people were thinking at that time. Fortune has been sending me some stories from the archives to write about, which has been fun. The most recent one was a 1954 William Whyte (“Organization Man”) essay on “How Hard do Executives Work?” Sneak preview: people have always thought that they’re working harder than anyone in the past. The upwardly-mobile have always brought work home and people have always complained about meetings and said they get their real work done during non-work hours.  

* Listening to my favorite choral music. I haven’t done this in a while, and it reminds me that I should. For a while in college I was obsessed with the Bach B-Minor Mass. I sang Brahms’ Requiem a few times. Then there is, of course, the utter ecstasy of the last movement of Beethoven’s Ninth. It transports you elsewhere, every single time.

What’s in your happiness toolkit?

In other news:

The Guardian excerpts Hannah Rosin’s The End of Men — a chapter on Marissa Mayer, Sheryl Sandberg, et al, and how women in tech may show the way forward for other industries. (Hat tip to reader Nicola for sending)

 I have a post at on Stop Checking Your Email, Now.

A few recent ones over at CBS MoneyWatch: 3 ways to stop time thieves in their tracks; and Should you pay for mentoring?

The Frugal Girl has a series going on simplifying Christmas.

Wealthy Single Mommy has a post on outsourcing laundry.

I disabled comments on posts from more than 3 weeks ago. I’d been slammed with spam — with bots posting 4-5 times an hour for days on end — and I got tired of wasting my time deleting it. Please read archived posts! And if you want to comment, you can email me.

Photo courtesy flickr user ResinMuse

11 thoughts on “My happiness toolkit

  1. I started a one sentence journal after reading her book, which has now kind of morphed into a gratitude journal after reading Ann Voskamp’s book. I do enjoy going back and reading entries. It’s so easy to forget those little moments of joy.

    I wrote a good mood checklist on my blog awhile ago (link above) with the must haves that keep me happy. The biggies are daily walks, time outside each day, eating enough protein. And reading and writing.

    1. @Carrie – time outside is key. I love that I can walk to the post office. It’s just a little bit of happiness in the middle of the day. Eating better is one I’m working on…

    1. @Kristen – I’ve sung it a few times, but it’s never been my favorite. I don’t know what it is about Mozart, since I know he’s so universally loved! But I’ve always been more of a Bach girl myself…

  2. I forgot to add…do you have Akismet? It’s such an awesome spam blocker. I get tons of spam (so far in October, I have 10,000 spam comments), but Akismet neatly files them all away for me. Occasionally one sneaks through, but on that scale, spam is totally easy to handle.

  3. feel free to delete me anytime ! : )
    do you have any thoughts on exercise at one’s lunch hour — I’m not at this point in my life interested in running a marathan etc. but I do like a 30 minute jog daily or say 5 times a week – -for a while I was getting it in at 6 a.m. but that just stopped working at one point as I’m too tired to get up for that or I have work to do that I do at 6 or with the kids there is the getting them out the door stress.. but I do find if I’m having a day where I don’t have to get to primped for meetings etc I can do it at lunchtime like 1/2 hour job at 12 or 12:30… many folks take lunch so I just could be a t lunch at that time.. then you need 10 minutes for a shower but still… any thoughts on this.. my basic other interest is yoga but I find during the week yoga plus jog is too much… also I used to do some yoga with my kids but now I find it annoying to do it with them b/c I can’t concentrate …. so maybe yoga on weekends… I’d prefer an hour of yoga but 1/2 hour works.. I find exercise as 1/2hour activity seems doable .. I get exercise with kids too but like to have some exercise time that is me time… end of day is just not a good time for me right now.

    1. @Cara- I think lunch time exercise is a great idea. I work out sometimes during the afternoons on work days during a lull. Showering is over-rated. No, seriously, it doesn’t take that much time. A 30-minute run plus a 10-minute shower can make all the difference in the world in how you approach the day.

    1. @OilandGarlic: Brilliant. And kids can start doing their own laundry pretty young too. Something for us to work on…

    2. @OilandGarlic – our washing machine is broken right now, and since clean clothes involve sending someone over to a Laundromat right now, we’re trying to minimize it. It turns out that laundry is highly variable. If I had a laundry machine that was working I probably wouldn’t re-wear my exercise clothes. But since I don’t, I do. The kids re-wear pajamas many more days than they did. Sometimes they sleep in their clothes if the clothes are comfy.

  4. Oh, how I love this Happiness Toolkit. Journals, magazines, coffee, wine….I love it all!

    Hanna Rosin’s book is now on my to-read list after hearing her speak a few weeks ago. Popping over to read the excerpt now. Thanks for the link.

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