In Which I Go to a Dance Parade and Reflect on Happiness.

This Saturday, my husband suggested that we all go downtown to watch the annual dance parade. I’d never heard of it, but for the past three years, New York City has had a dance parade, where thousand of dancers, from all sorts of dance organizations, dance their way down a parade route. Some of the dancers were from “real” dance schools or groups, others were from dance/exercise classes, and many groups, we suspected, had been organized for the sole purpose of marching on Saturday. This outing turned out to be tremendously fun. We found a place where we could perch on a high railing, so we had a good view and a place to sit. The weather was lovely. And the dancers were more fun to watch than practically any parade I’ve ever seen.

"Do Not Fail To Do What Ought To Be Done, and Do Not Do What Ought Not To Be Done."

“Do not fail to do what ought to be done, and do not do what ought not to be done. Otherwise your burden of suffering will grow heavier.” --The Dhammapada One of my Twelve Personal Resolutions is Do what ought to be done, but I'd never come across this particular enunciation of that idea. It sure covers a lot of situations.

Think About Your Routines -- Daily, Weekly, Yearly.

One of my Secrets of Adulthood is “What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while.” But it’s easy to kid myself about what I do every day, as part during my usual routine, and what I do once in a while. If I’m not careful, I can convince myself of statements like: “Most days, I go to the gym.” “I eat lots of fruits and vegetables every day.” “I rarely show my exasperation to my daughters.” A reason my Resolutions Chart has helped my happiness is that it keeps me honest about what my daily routine actually looks like – not what I think it looks like, or what I wish it looked like. When I see on my chart that I haven’t really been getting enough exercise, I can make sure to head to the gym.

"Conversation (Real and Virtureal), Pajama Parties, and Avoiding Self-Criticism."

Aidan Donnelly Rowley and I were set up on a blind coffee date, as writers who live in the same neighborhood, by the indefatigable Danielle LaPorte. Which is a bit odd, because at that time I'd never even met Danielle, who lives in Vancouver, but only knew her through the internet. When I met Aidan, we discovered that we have another mutual friend right here in our neighborhood...small world! Aidan is a novelist who also has a blog, Ivy League Insecurities, so it was a lot of fun to talk shop about balancing book-writing and blogging. At last, her terrific novel, Life After Yes, has hit the shelves. Other people's books seem to get written so fast! (Just the way other people's pregnancies seem to speed by.)

6 Tips for Coping with Boredom.

Samuel Johnson wrote, “It is by studying little things that we attain the great art of having as little misery, and as much happiness as possible.” Little things make us happy, and little things can drag us down. One “little thing” that can be a source of unhappiness is boredom. Sitting in traffic. Doing laundry. Waiting in a long line at the grocery store.

Video: Use Cues to Cultivate Mindfulness. (If You're Not Very Mindful, You'll Need Reminding.)

2010 Happiness Challenge: For those of you following the 2010 Happiness Project Challenge, to make 2010 a happier year – and even if you haven’t officially signed up for the challenge -- this month’s resolution is Mindfulness. Mindfulness can bring many benefits. It brings clarity and vividness to present experience. It may help people end unhealthy habits and patterns. It can enhance a sense of well-being and calm troubled spirits. Last week's resolution was to Meditate on koans. Did you follow that resolution? How did you do? What's your favorite koan?

Why It's Helpful To Send Back a Positive Reflection of a Person's Actions.

In his thought-provoking book, Self-Insight: Roadblocks and Detours on the Path to Knowing Thyself (Essays in Social Psychology), David Dunning describes a very interesting study that compared two classrooms of fifth graders. One class received several messages about the importance of not littering. The other class was told that it was a very neat and tidy class – the janitor told the class they were neatest class in the school, the teacher remarked on it, etc. It turns out that the second approach was much more effective in prompting the children not to litter. Other studies, too, confirm that when people are labeled as kind and generous, they increase their pro-social behavior.

Make It Easy To Do Right.

In order to keep all my happiness-project resolutions – making resolutions is fun, but keeping them is tough -- I’ve been trying hard to follow the resolution to “Make it easy to do right.” I try to make it as easy as possible to do the right thing. Instead of working to exercise my self-control, as I used to do, I abandon my self-control and try to find ingenious ways to make a resolution easier to keep. For example, my husband loves to bake sweets, but I’m happier if I don’t eat them. I used to try to persuade him not to bake tempting treats at all, but now I realize that a) he should be able to bake if he wants, without me pestering him, and b) he’s going to go ahead and bake anyway, no matter what I say. Now though, as soon as he’s finished, I make sure the baked goods are wrapped up and put in a cabinet. That keeps them fresher, and once they’re out of sight, I forget they’re even there.

"Write Drunk, Edit Sober; Drink Coffee While Reading the Paper; Watch the Cat."

When I was at the SXSW Interactive conference a few months ago, I met Larry Smith. He's the editor of SMITH Magazine -- "Everyone has a story. What's yours?" It's the home of the crazy brilliant Six-Word Memoir project -- and a place for passionate, personal storytelling of all kinds. I was so pleased to meet Larry, because I'm such a fan of the six-word memoir form. Reading them is dangerously addictive. Here's a good one for a person starting a happiness project: "Shoulda. Coulda. Woulda. Shall. Can. Will." Yes! I wanted to hear what Larry had to say on the subject of happiness.

8 Tips for Handling Mail (the Old-Fashioned Kind) More Efficiently.

Last week, I posted 5 realistic tips for using email more efficiently, but ye olde paper post continues to deliver a large stack to my door, too. After much trial and error, I developed a system that works very well for me to keep the pile manageable. One key to my system is the physical lay-out of my mail-processing area. I stand in front of a chest-of-drawers in my hallway. It has a wastebasket on one side of it, and it's near the door to our service hallway, which holds our recycling stack, and it has drawers that I use as part of my system. The hall is near the kitchen, where my "special drawer" (see below) is located.

Video: Meditate on Koans.

2010 Happiness Challenge: For those of you following the 2010 Happiness Project Challenge, to make 2010 a happier year – and even if you haven’t officially signed up for the challenge -- this month’s focus is Mindfulness. Last week’s resolution was a quiz, How mindful are you? Did you take that quiz? How did you do? This week’s resolution is to Meditate on koans. A “koan” is a question, story, or statement that can’t be understood logically. Zen Buddhist monks meditate on koans as a way to abandon dependence on reason in their pursuit of enlightenment. Even if you’re not seeking satori (or, I should probably say, you’re not seeking it), I’ve found that thinking about a koan stimulates mindfulness. Because koans force me to challenge the usual, straightforward boxes of meaning, they push me to think about thinking.

A "Little Thing" (Very Little) That Makes Me Happy: the Gift Bag.

Samuel Johnson wrote, “It is by studying little things that we attain the great art of having as little misery, and as much happiness as possible," and I’m often struck by how much happiness I get from small, seemingly trivial aspects of my life. Solving a nagging problem, even a very insignificant one, can bring me a sizable boost. One of my Twelve Personal Commandments is to Identify the problem, because once I recognize a problem, I can often identify a solution. Here’s an example.

“People Need To Be Reminded More Often Than They Need To Be Instructed.”

“People need to be reminded more often than they need to be instructed.” -- Samuel Johnson  * Through my friend Laura Miller's great Salon post, A reader's advice to writers: Beware of Mary Sue, I found my way to an extraordinary site, TV Tropes. Oh, my goodness, it's fantastic. If you liked Polti's The Thirty Six Dramatic Situations, you will love it.

Think about Your Mother.

Some people think it’s ridiculous to celebrate holidays like Mothers’ Day and Fathers’ Day – that these are just commercial holidays forced on us by clever marketers. But I think it’s nice to be prompted to think lovingly about your mother and your father, and the mothers and fathers in your life. The other day, I was contemplating (as I often do) an observation made by my spiritual master, St. Therese of Lisieux, in her extraordinary memoir, The Story of a Soul.

Five Realistic Tips for Using Email More Efficiently.

Email. Can’t live with it, can’t live without it. I’m trying to be smarter about how to use email so that it makes my life easier, not tougher. I’ve read a lot of advice about email that, although it sounds helpful, just isn’t realistic. For example, I’ve read that you should deal with each email as it comes in. I just can’t do that.

Video: Take a Quiz -- How Mindful Are You?

2010 Happiness Challenge: For those of you following the 2010 Happiness Project Challenge, to make 2010 a happier year – and even if you haven’t officially signed upfor the challenge -- last month’s focus was Money. Last week’s resolution was to Spend out. Did you try to follow that resolution? Did it help to boost your happiness? This month's theme is Mindfulness. Mindfulness can bring many benefits. It brings clarity and vividness to present experience. It may help people end unhealthy habits and patterns. It can enhance a sense of well-being and calm troubled spirits. The more I think about happiness, the more importance I attribute to mindfulness.

Thinking about Teasing -- Something I've Never Thought Much About.

Because I saw it recommended in a post on Bob Sutton's great blog, Work Matters, I picked up a copy of David Dunning's book, Self-Insight: Roadblocks and Detours on the Path to Knowing Thyself. It's a fascinating book, but I keep thinking about one passage, in particular:

Want to Feel Happier? Listen to a Favorite Song.

Research demonstrates – and everyday experience confirms – that one of the simplest, easiest ways to boost your mood and your energy is to listen to your favorite upbeat music. Music can have an enormous influence on your state of mind (of course, it can make you feel melancholy as well as happy). In fact, studies show that listening to a choice of music during medical procedures can lower a patient’s heart rate, blood pressure, and anxiety level. So, if you’re feeling blue, put on some of your favorite cheerful music. It can have a quick and dramatic effect. It's a particularly useful strategy when you feel exhausted or overwhelmed; tackling a nagging task boosts happiness, too, but it's not the same kind of quick fix.

"Weekend Brunch, Taking Inventory, Mastery -- and Not Rushing."

I’ve “known” Scott Belsky on the internet for years, because we’re both part of the fabulous LifeRemix network—“great writing about great lives.” But even though we both live in New York City, we’d never met in person until this year at the SXSW Interactive conference. It was so much fun actually to speak face to face. Scott is the founder and CEO of Behance, a company on a mission to empower and organize the creative world. He has a new book, Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming the Obstacles Between Vision and Reality, which chronicles the methods of exceptionally productive leaders and teams -- companies like Google, IDEO, and Disney, and individuals like author Chris Anderson and Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh -- that make their ideas happen, time and time again.

Quiz: Is the Design of Your Office Space Making You Happy? Or Driving You Crazy?

Of all the books I’ve read in the last few years, few have made a deeper impression on me than A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction. This strange, brilliant, fascinating book uses architecture, sociology, psychology, and anthropology to describe the most satisfying architectural environments. Instead of talking about familiar architectural styles and elements, for example, it focuses on the Sitting Wall, the Front Door Bench, the Child Caves, the Sequence of Sitting Spaces, the Sleeping to the East. I love these! I want them for my own apartment!

Video: Spend Out.

For those of you following the 2010 Happiness Project Challenge, to make 2010 a happier year – and even if you haven’t officially signed up for the challenge -- this month’s focus is Money. Last week’s resolution was actually a quiz: Are you an over-buyer or an under-buyer? Did you recognize yourself in either of those categories? Did the quiz help you identify steps you could take to boost your happiness? (I bought three bottles of saline solution, in one purchase! A big step for me.)

Happiness Is...Reminscing about Terrific Old TV Ads.

I love getting the chance to meet friends from blogland in real life, and on Sunday, I had coffee with Meagan Francis, of The Happiest Mom fame. It's so funny in these situations -- we'd never met before, and I felt like we could've talked all afternoon, it was so much fun. Among other topics, she told me she’d seen my TV ad, which got us talking about commercials that made us very emotional.

"Happiness Is in the Taste, and Not in the Things Themselves..."

“Happiness is in the taste, and not in the things themselves; we are happy from possessing what we like, not from possessing what others like.” --La Rochefoucauld This is a more poetic phrasing of a Secret of Adulthood: What's fun for other people may not be fun for you -- and vice versa.

Beware of Fake-Work and Make-Work.

I remind myself that all work isn’t created equally. Just because I’m busy doesn’t mean that I’m being productive. I imagine that every kind of work has its fake-work and make-work. For example, as a writer, I remind myself:

“Naps, Music, Taking Fussy Kids Outside, and Leading an Examined Life.”

I couldn't wait to read Katie Rosman’s book, If You Knew Suzy: A Mother, a Daughter, a Reporter's Notebook, because I remembered reading with great interest her original piece for the Wall Street Journal, Over the Internet, Into My Mom's Heart: Unlocking a parent's passion and the community that sustained her. (Also, we share an editor, which gives you a fellow feeling akin to being from the same hometown!) After her beloved mother died of cancer, Katie, in her grief, found that she wanted to know more about her mother’s life and choices, and because she was a reporter, she started reporting on her mother’s life. This memoir is about what she discovered -- and also about the relationship between mothers and daughters, and what we know and don’t know about the people we love, plus a bit about the worlds of Pilates instructors and glass collectors (her mother’s passions).

Quiz: Are YOU the One That Everyone Finds Difficult?

We all see the world through our own eyes, and it can be hard to recognize how our words and actions appear to other people. One of the challenges of being a difficult person is realizing that you're a difficult person. I've known many difficult people who, I suspect, have no idea that others find them difficult! In his excellent book The No A****** Rule(I'm omitting the title not from prudery but from fear of spam-blockers), and also on his blog, Work Matters, Bob Sutton has a quiz to help people recognize if they are a*******.

Video: Are You an Over-Buyer or an Under-Buyer? (I'm an Under-Buyer.)

For those of you following the 2010 Happiness Project Challenge, to make 2010 a happier year – and even if you haven't officially signed up for the challenge -- this month’s focus is Money. The relationship between money and happiness is one of the most complicated and emotionally charged subjects within the larger issue of happiness. I really can't do justice to its complexities in such a short video. (For a more nuanced discussion, read Chapter Seven in the book!) Last week’s resolution was to Beware the gym-membership effect. Did you try to follow that resolution? Did it help to boost your happiness?

Unbelievable! My Book Is Being Advertised on TELEVISION!

My happiness-project resolutions include Push myself, Conquer a device, and Aim higher. I remind myself frequently that novelty and challenge bring happiness (they bring frustration, annoyance, and fear, but they bring happiness, too). A few weeks ago, after I watched a video by Slate ad critic Seth Stevenson, How I Ran an Ad on Fox News, about how it’s truly cheap and possible to use Google to advertise on TV, I was dying to try it for The Happiness Project. An ad for a book on TV? Fantastic!

"When You Are Content To Be Simply Yourself...Everybody Will Respect You."

* I just discovered Penelope Loves Lists -- "inspiration for the unapologetically organized soul." Great stuff!

Avoid a Repellent Plotline.

One of the key tools for a happiness project, I’ve discovered, is mindfulness. Which is unfortunate, because I’m a very unmindful person. (Take this quiz to find out how mindful you are.) But I see that the more aware I am of my emotions, reactions, and behavior, the more readily I can shape them. For example, it took me years to notice a very obvious fact about myself: I have a horror of any plotline involving unjust accusation. I just can’t bear it. I’d find myself intensely disturbed by books, plays, movies, or histories that other people enjoyed – if I was even able to finish them. Say, Othello.

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