The Formula for Happiness: A Working Model

If there is one underlying theme to my life, it would be balance.  Or trying to achieve balance.  I mean, that’s the whole idea of this blog, really- to keep myself happy by balancing school and work with all the other stuff that can so easily get neglected- friends, family, creative pursuits, health.  It’s like the food pyramid (or plate, as it is now depicted) but with all the parts of your life.   School and work are like fruits and vegetables, relationships like the whole grains, etc….  I really do love food metaphors.

But this balance doesn’t come easily for me.  For whatever reason, I have a hard time getting inspired to do things I know will make me feel better (e.g., exercising, going through a stack of papers) or even things I know I will really enjoy (e.g., painting, or taking the time to call a friend).  I’ve stopped trying to find out why this is a challenge for me- I’ve just accepted it’s who I am – but I am constantly trying to find the best way to get around it.

What I’ve found is that I have to make myself accountable by putting it in writing.  In the same way that I tend to eat healthier when I’m actively tracking my eating, I tend to feel like a more productive, whole person when I’m actively tracking how I spend my time.  Yes, that means recording my entire day.

For those of you who naturally are compelled to exercise, organize, and simply make efficient use of your time, this probably sounds like a bizarre, unnecessary thing to do.  (Also, I simultaneously admire you and hate you.)  But if you are like me, and suffer from being motivationally-challenged and often go to bed thinking, “What exactly did I accomplish today?” I highly recommend doing this.  Even if no one sees it but you, it’s a lot easier to resist spending an hour playing Solitaire with the television on in the background when you know you will have to write that down as how you occupied yourself between 7 and 8 pm.

After a mostly crazy and unstructured summer, I decided to start back up with this on Monday, giving myself a little over a week to get into the groove before classes start up.  And it’s gone quite well so far.  I’ve been in a surprisingly good mood this week, particularly given the fact that on Sunday I was feeling blue about classes starting and feeling like I haven’t done anything I wanted to this summer (other than that whole wedding and honeymoon thing).  But I realized that while I overall have been feeling more balanced the last couple days, it’s specific things that have really boosted my mood, and they each reflect different elements of what I need for a balanced life:

  • Beautiful weather, and relatedly, being able to keep the windows open without sweating or freezing.  Fresh air and sunshine really do make a difference.
  • Having good conversations with both my former boss and my current advisor, which reignited my enthusiasm for the research projects I’m working on.
  • Catching up with a friend over margaritas.
  • Yoga.
  • Painting + glass of wine (from a bottle, not a Bota box) + music I like: when I was single, there were a good number of nights spent this way.  It’s been easy to forget about it… for the last year, whenever Nick is at home, I want to enjoy evenings with him, and when he’s not home I see it as a chance to get some school work done so that I don’t have to do so much when he is around.  But I need to remember to give myself nights like this- it’s just as therapeutic for me as yoga is, plus I don’t sweat as much and I can sing while I’m doing it.

1 Comment

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One response to “The Formula for Happiness: A Working Model

  1. megrug

    I am such a huge food diary girl, I never really thought about doing something that would document how I spent my day in order to find the things that boost my mood. I think that’s pure brilliance. I spend my life balancing on an endless teeter-totter of what I want to do with my day and what I “should” be doing with my day, which usually results in my activity level being pretty sub-par. Great post! Good luck in your balance quest.

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