Experiments in Happiness

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I had ice cream for breakfast recently. (gasp)

Someone left a pint of chocolate ice cream at my house and normally this would throw me into a borderline existential conflict. I would struggle with the decision to either throw the pint out without eating it (because of my never ceasing ‘diet’) … or binge eat it all in one sitting, only to feel great shame and berate myself afterwards, vowing to never eat that crap again.

That morning, after an early workout, I decided to take a different approach. I added a little protein powder and ate a proper serving size. Then threw the rest away. This, for me, was an experiment.

Typically I would feel great remorse even having something sweet AT ALL, let alone for breakfast. I mean I’m still trying to lose 10 pounds which my mind never lets me forget. So how did I feel after? I felt ok. I hadn’t binged, I’d had a proper serving size. I felt … happy.

I’ve written about how my 2017 was a particularly difficult season. I feel like with the turn of the new year, however, that the clouds have finally lifted and are allowing some perspective to shine through.  Along with a very positive, very energetic desire for change. (*Cue angels singing in harmony*)

Though last year was rough, I’m a naturally positive, happy person and I feel like I’m finally shaking off the ashes of the years before and getting super motivated to learn and to conquer the whole wide world. Or at least my own.

First step? I’m starting a year-long Happiness Project.

What’s a Happiness Project? Well, I recently stumbled upon the wonderful writing of Gretchen Rubin. Her blog, books and podcasts, which she hosts with her sister, are all devoted to happiness. I’m currently reading three books of hers, simultaneously. Better than Before (a book on habits and tips for changing them), The Four Tendencies (about what uniquely motivates each of us) and The Happiness Project.

In The Happiness Project, Gretchen dedicates a full year to discovering what leads to true contentment for herself. She writes in the opening that she was a happy person by all accounts. Married to a man she loved, two beautiful daughters, a lovely home and a successful career. But one day it struck her how she wasn’t fully appreciating all that she had. She felt like at times she griped too much and often got snippy when it wasn’t merited. She wondered if there was a way to increase her happiness with her already happy life. So she embarked on a year long journey to see what things she could do to cultivate more joy in her everyday life.

This idea is inspiring to me. After last year, it might seem super easy to get back to being ‘happy’  — just don’t fall in love with an unavailable dude and try not to get banned from a bar. Easy peasy. But my project is a bit more in depth than that.

My Happiness Project will be my own studies and various experiments in what the best, happiest version of my life is.

And my theme for 2018 and my happiness project is DISCOVERY.

I wrote recently about how I had kind of an a-ha moment after reading her book on the Four Tendencies and learning about my rebel tendency. It’s like I found a piece of myself that was missing. I’ve always reacted and responded this way, but could never figure out why some things would stick and others wouldn’t or why I have always perpetually just broken rules. I could go on and on about how frustrating (and sometimes fantastic) this tendency is, but the key thing to me was DISCOVERING it about myself. It got me to thinking … what else don’t I fully understand about me?

In some ways, that’s been my quest for the past four years. These past four years have been the first time in my entire life that I’ve truly had the freedom to be … ME. The real me. No influence. No rules except my own. Me. And to be very honest, I don’t know that I had any idea who I really was when I separated from my husband at 31 and embarked on my solo journey. So, in my own way, I’ve already been experimenting. Sexually, in relationships, in my job and life. But I’ve been trying to build the life and future I really want without a real understanding of who I even am.

One of the first things Gretchen does in her Happiness Project is outline her list of personal commandments. Words she lives her life by. Her values. I don’t know that I have these. I mean, I have a few. Be brave. Be Authentic. Do the thing that scares you. You are the master of your ship. But I don’t know that I’ve ever sat down and really considered them. Also.. I wonder how many ‘rules’ do I still live my life by that no longer really apply to me?

I think this year is all about just that … discovering me, my values, who I am, who I aspire to be and exactly how I plan to get there. Because the process and the plan will need to be uniquely tailored to me.

I intend to discover myself through a series of experiments designed to help answer the following questions. What makes me happy? What delights me? What small changes can I make to enhance the joy I get out of my life? What BIG changes can I make? What things do I THINK make me happy that actually contribute to my sadness or frustration? What ideas and concepts should I discard altogether because they no longer apply to me? Who AM I? And what makes me tick, what makes me excited? How can I be myself more BOLDLY?

My happiness project officially started with ice cream for breakfast a few days ago.  One of my big focuses this year (and in my life in general) is health and wellness. Being a strong, fit person at a healthy weight. I do want to lose 10 pounds and I’m not giving up on that, however, I have learned the hard way that I do not work well from a place of lack. I will rebel and binge eat. I rebel against the notion I’m only allowed to have a certain amount of calories on a daily basis. EVEN THOUGH I’M THE ONE THAT IS SETTING THOSE RESTRICTIONS. So. Frustrating. I will still ALWAYS go over my calorie requirement.

So I deleted my calorie counter app from my phone. I’m letting myself eat what I want, when I want, at least for a while. When I feel an overwhelming urge, instead of denying it and trying to squash it I will give in after I ask myself ‘do I REALLY want this?’ A lot of times I actually do not want what I’m obsessing over. I just want the CHOICE to have it.

So far, only a few days in, I’m a lot happier. And the thing is? I’m choosing healthy things naturally. I’m not getting giant lattes at Starbucks or giant donuts (which I freaking love). But I’m not denying myself those either. I can have them. If I want them. But .. I don’t.

I’m giving this a go for a bit. Next week I might try eating everything I want, but cutting out sugar. After that, I might try Whole30. The main thing is I’m experimenting. Seeing what fits me best. And I’m not forcing myself to be any one thing or restrict my options simply because I am always trying to lose weight or because I assume this is what I HAVE to do have the body I want. My identity is that I’m a healthy person who enjoys working out and eating healthy.  This isn’t a diet. It’s a lifestyle. And it’s always been a lifestyle for me.

Discovering this aspect of my personality (the rebel side) isn’t the magic cure all. It isn’t. Just like finding that amazing emotional blog ‘Baggage Reclaim’ wasn’t the key to making healthy choices in my relationships. They’re tools, but they’re POWERFUL. I feel like I’m learning myself in bits and pieces and this is the year I’m ready to find even more and put them all together.

I’m learning .. ME. And what motivates me and makes me happy. And this ‘learning me’ is allowing me to love me deeper and better. It’s freeing because I realize that, while I’m a part of a small group, I’m not the only rebel out there and the way I am is uniquely me.

And baby, I was born this way.

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