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Sunday, September 30, 2007

My Unsuccessful Happiness Challenge

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 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)


E. Phantzi said...

I've been wanting to do meditation regularly for a long time; perhaps if I go public with a commitment I'll be more likely to do it... I do sun salutations sporadically, but I know I can get up 10 minutes earlier to ensure meditation time. I know I can. I will post something today about happiness rituals I already do (since I didn't add a new one in the first phase).

megan said...

it's so ironic how something can so easily change from something you desperately wish you had time for to something that become a chore once you decide that you WILL do it.... i wish you luck with the remaining month of your challenge, and hope that the coffee treats work out a bit better.
i would like to try the meditation challenge. it's so hard for me to quiet my mind. i would really like to make a concerted effort to try. . .

Anonymous said...

i already do my best meditation in the shower - a sort of "cleansing" process for my mind as well as my body, if you will - but i want to do this and make it more focused and intentional. usually it's more of a "quiet time" where my mind just wanders over random thoughts or to-do lists. i'd like to try and make it more about self-awareness for these 30 days. sign me up!

Anonymous said...

oh, and that's me above, sorry.

Lori Lavender Luz said...

I will try to do this. I mean, yeah, sure, I'll do this. I mean, I WILL DO THIS!

I am so tempted to multi-task, like you on the Bay Bridge. Would during the shower count? Right before I go to sleep? While I'm working out? No. To count, I have to DO nothing else. Just BE.

So hard.

But I will start tomorrow. Yes, I will. Definitely.

RBandRC said...

I'm definitely in for next month. Though I wasn't a tried and true reader this month, I feel good overall with the amount of time I spent reading and not obsessing like I usually do. So, overall, the first challenge was a success and I've been looking for a good reason to try meditation. Looking forward to it! :)

Kami said...

Sign me up for challenge #2. I did so-so on the first one.

Anonymous said...

Oooh, count me in. I'm not sure I'll do well with it, but count me in.

Samantha said...

I have a relaxation CD I was doing, but have kind of stopped. Your post will be my commitment to do it again. I'll continue to take part.

I know what you mean about how trying to do something fun seems like a chore.

Anonymous said...

My ritual turned into a chore too. I'm switching gears also and going for another month.

IdleMindOfBeth said...

sure, I'm in... Want to do better this month than last, so I think I'm going to try & re-focus on Challenge 1, too.

Kristen said...

Definitely sign me up for the meditation! I need to work out my mind as well as my body.

Speaking of body, I am so making up for my failed first challenge :)

m said...

I am in the same boat as Elizabeth. Maybe if I publicly commit to meditating, it will keep me on track. 30 days, huh? Well I am definitely game. This is actually great timing - Oct is the most stressful month for me at work - 10 minutes of meditation certainly sound better than ten minutes spent eating my stress away or fuming at my boss. I am thinking I need to find space for some good vibes. I'm in!!

Pamela T. said...

I'm great at staring off into space for periods of time so I should be a natural here -- okay, I know, I need to step it up and make the meditation aspect work for me ;-)

jenn said...

I would love to do this- I was intrigued by the first challenge, but stumbled over here to late to participate. this will be very good for me right now- I just need to figure out a time that works every day.