For the First Happiness Challenge, I chose to read for a half hour between 10:30 and 11 p.m. One of three things happened each night. (1) I would forget entirely. (2) I would start reading at 9 p.m. and continue reading past the designated point, so it wasn't a conscious decision to take a half hour for myself. (3) I would sit down to read and then remember something I forgot to do. So I would pop up and take care of that thing and then sit down again. After reading one page, I would decide I want a cup of ice cream and I would have to bother Josh for 5 minutes on my way to make the ice cream. Finally, I would sit back down and read another page, but my mind would wander so I'd have to read it again. Then I'd have to jump up and write myself a note so I wouldn't forget something. Finally, the buzzer would go off and I'd announce, "I am definitely happier."
Ben-Shahar warned me that starting a new ritual would be hard to do. And I didn't believe him. I am a damn fool.
I think part of my problem was choosing something that felt like one more thing I had to do in my day rather than feeling like a break. I wanted to choose something that I could do for free and could do easily. Reading is a lot of fun when it isn't a task you need to cross off of a to-do list. It's sort of like baking bread. When we need bread, baking bread is a chore. When I just decide to spontaneously throw together a pouliche and make a baguette, it's relaxation.
I am going to go another month with this first challenge and switch over to Calliope's ritual to take herself out for coffee once a week. That will make me feel special and happy. At least, I think it will. And if it makes getting coffee out feel like a chore, all the better for my wallet to have that ritual taken away.
Which brings us to the Second Happiness Challenge: meditation. This one is a little bit easier to schedule into your day. In order to participate, you need to commit to meditating for at least ten minutes a day, everyday. Close the door to your office, stretch out on the floor and deep breathe. Or get home from work, lie down on the sofa, and take ten minutes not to think. Try to pick the same place and time each day. You can do it at any point in the day: right when you wake up, during lunch, or before you go to bed (though it's sort of cheating if you just call the ten minutes before you go to sleep your "meditation time").
If you already meditate, keep doing what you do. If you want to begin, the Wikipedia--that amalgamation of all knowledge--has a decent article. What may work best is to picture a happy space or to allow your mind to go completely blank. According to Tal Ben-Shahar (the author of Happier) the point is not only the immediate stress-relief of meditation. It is also the idea of training your mind so you can use this stress reliever during stressful situations. For instance, the next time I'm over the Bay Bridge, I will go to my happy place (while driving?) and use that meditation muscle to relax even though it technically isn't my meditation time. Does that make sense?
If you want to participate, leave a comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll add you to the meditation list. The challenge runs from October 3 until November 1 (30 days) and you need to commit to trying this for all 30 days. Keep notes on your progress over the month and on November 1, post about your experience with the Second Happiness Challenge.
Click below to see more tales of happiness from the First Happiness Challenge:
1. Stirrup Queens (Melissa)
2. Clumsy Kisses (Rebecca)
3. Flutter of Hope (Dianne)
4. Looking for 2 Lines (Lindsay)
5. BagMomma (Shelli)
6. My Journey to Mommyhood (Courtney)
7. Diagnosis Unexplained (Jenna Sais Quoi)
8. Sticky Feet (Jamie)
9. Motherhood (Grad3)
10. Road Blocks and Rollercoasters (Me)
11. Sticky Bean (Kirsten)
12. Southern Infertility (Samantha)
13. Miss E's Musings (Ellen)
14. Vacant Womb (A B)
15. My Many Blessings (Tina)
16. All Things Deb (Deb)
17. Waiting... (Sandra)
18. Creating Motherhood (Calliope)
19. A Someday Mom (Kim)
20. Reproductive Jeans (JJ)
21. Serenity Now (Serenity)
22. A Sibling for Celia (Shelby)
23. Are We There Yet (Kami)
24. Dead Baby Jokes (Niobe)
25. Are We There Yet (Teamwinks)
26. Fortune Cookie Follies and Cats in the Cradle (Beagle)
27. The Idle Mind of Beth (Beth)
28. The Other Shoe (Joy Suzanne)
29. Taking the Statistical Bullet (Katie)
30. TTC with DH... (Trying2007)
31. Baby Step (Baby Step)
32. Baby Steps to Baby Shoes (BStBS)