The Happiness Project

A chronicle of my attempts to test-drive every tip, principle and scientific study that promotes happiness

In Which Holiday Decorating Reminds Me of Several Happiness Lessons.

No deposit, no return.

Holidaydecorating

I recently put up our holiday decorations, and as I was doing it, I was reminded of several important happiness lessons.

1. I love my husband, just as he is. One of the challenges of a happiness project is accepting your own nature – and also your sweetheart’s nature. I wish my husband got a big kick out of holiday decorating, but he doesn’t. There it is. I can’t bully him into wanting to hang ornaments, and I’m happier (and he’s happier) if I don’t try. Relatedly…

2. Given that my husband doesn’t really care about holiday decorating, don’t nag him about helping me. I remind myself that I do holiday decorating because I like it. It’s not so much work that I can’t do it myself, with some help from my daughters, and I truly enjoy it more when I don’t expect or ask him to help. It’s just not worth nagging over it.

3. Spend out! This is my Seventh Personal Commandment, and one that’s always a challenge for me. “Spend out” reminds me to put things to use, not to save things to no purpose. Several years ago, my mother, who loves holiday decorating, gave me a big box of fun stuff. As I was decorating one of our table-top goose-feather trees, I saw two boxes of little shiny red balls – vintage, still in their old boxes. I thought, “Oh, I don’t want to open these boxes of balls from my mother, I want to save them.” Then I saw a box of mini-lights that would fit on the little tree. “Oh, I shouldn’t use those either.” Then I remembered – spend out! What am I saving these things for? Some special occasion -- but what's more special than now? They’re meant to be used, so use them! Leaving them sealed in a box is wasteful.

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4. One of my Secrets of Adulthood is “No deposit, no return.” The holidays are only as much fun as I allow them to be. If I don’t take the trouble to do fun things like keep traditions, take time for projects, and goof around, then I’m not going to find the holidays much fun. Or to put it another way...

5. Enjoy this season and this time of life. In the bustle of every day, and in my desire to get things crossed off my to-do list, sometimes activities like holiday decorating, wrapping presents, or making our special recipe for sweet potatoes can feel like chores. I constantly remind myself to enjoy this season and this time of life. This is a wonderful season of the year, and a wonderful season in the life of my family. One of my daughters still believes in Santa Claus, the other daughter is still ecstatic over a $6 pair of earrings. They’re both excited about spending a day decorating gingerbread houses. It’s my Third Splendid Truth: The days are long, but the years are short. (If you’ve never watched my one-minute video, The Years Are Short, you might enjoy it.)

Adding to my family's holiday spirit, I'm sure, was the fact that I restrained myself from lecturing them all about these little lessons as they occurred to me. Family members can happily stand only so much talk about happiness.

* I was thrilled to see that my blogland friend Pamela Slim's excellent book, Escape from Cubicle Nation (also a terrific blog -- "from corporate prisoner to thriving entrepreneur") make it to two lists for Best Small Business Books for 2009. Great stuff, great to see it get recognized.

* The book The Happiness Project is coming out on December 29, so you can...
Pre-order! (if you pre-order, here’s how to get your bonus materials)
Check out the book tour info!
Read sample chapters!
Watch the one-minute book trailer!
If you're inspired to start your own happiness project, join the 2010 Happiness Challenge, to make 2010 a happier year.
--Pre-orders give a huge boost to a book, so if you're inclined to pre-order, I really do appreciate it very much.

Gretchen Rubin is the author of The Happiness Project, a book and a blog about her adventures learning to be happier.

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