“Out with the old, in with the new!” A familiar phrase and one people tend to embrace a bit more this time of year. Spring cleaning usually involves some sort of simplifying: going through books, clothes, or those undecipherable piles under the bed and tossing out or donating what isn’t used or needed anymore. As I reflected on that seasonal practice, I thought about what my normal routine had turned into these winter months: work to home to browsing and watching Netflix for hours on end, repeat. After work I just didn’t feel like I had the energy to do anything but sit there. I was dissatisfied. I had less and less energy and, when an opportunity presented itself to grab a cup of coffee with a friend after work or go on a walk, I found that I would rather go home and watch the next episode of my latest obsession. In a sense, I enjoyed watching fake lives playing out fake adventures rather than, well, live my own.
My routine needed a shake-up.
I set out this month on a mission – determined not to resort to my old habits, but find new, meaningful ones. Leave more room for impulse. Adventure. People! In just a meager 30 days of intentionally trying a new routine I feel like I have more energy, more time (which is odd, because my schedule is a bit fuller than it used to be!) and I feel much more content. I traded in the old for new: writing hand-written notes to friends far away, finishing projects piled up, trying new recipes and spending a lot more time with the people in my life.
I recently stumbled upon some research and advice on how to be “Happier”, which we all know there are sections at Barnes & Noble already devoted to that with a myriad of books touting formulas of happiness, but I was struck by what this research said: “Although our genes influence about 50% of the variation in our personal happiness, our circumstances (like income and environment) affect only about 10%. As much as 40% is accounted for by our daily activities and the conscious choices we make.” If 40% of our happiness is determined by the small decisions made every day that eventually morph into routine, should we not check in with just how fruitful, life-giving and healthy those routines are?
So, with a clean slate before us, where should we trek? What new routines are needed? As more and more research shows, it is not really determined by status and accumulation: “Happiness and fulfillment come less from material wealth and more from relationships; less from focusing on ourselves and more from helping others; less from external factors outside our control and more from the way in which we choose to react to what happens to us.” Relationships, helping others, how we choose to react: all things that seemed to be missing from my day-to-day life! As my routine began to center on relationships, giving back and choosing a different perspective when bad days inevitable hit resulted in a definite impact how I felt each day: happier.
Perhaps there is no better day than today (the first day of SPRING and the inaugural International Day of Happiness) than to examine just how happy you are and where some ‘spring cleaning’ might help scare away the dust of drudgery. I hope, for you, there are happy days ahead!
-Jennifer Anderson is Content Director of The Authenticity Project, you can contact Jennifer at TheAuthenticityProject@gmail.com.