Full disclosure: the first month of my happiness project did not go so well. I was hoping to start my six-month project out with a bang and create the momentum I’d need to carry me through the rest of it. Instead, I fizzled out about halfway through the first month. Here’s a look at my resolutions, and some thoughts on what went wrong this month–and what that means for next month.
You can read about how I did with my individual resolutions below, but I thought it would be much more helpful–for me, and for anyone who is following along or starting their own project–to start by examining what went wrong this month. Why did I only do so-so? Why didn’t I feel momentum or a strong inner pressure to follow my resolutions, and in doing so, become happier?
I chose to start my happiness project by focusing on health and well-being. I chose to start with this focus area because it seemed like that’s where I should start. But you know what? That’s not really what’s on my mind right now, nor where I’m feeling I should direct my energy and efforts. I have a handful of projects and ideas that have been gnawing at me and that I’d like to get working on, but I’ve been pushed them away in order to do what I thought I should do. So here’s a great reminder to myself: be honest and authentic. What’s really going on in my life, and what needs attention? Where will I get the most dividends if I invest my time and energy there?
When I started a happiness project in 2015, this was the focus area I started with. At that time, it made a huge difference. I needed more sleep then, and more exercise, and more accountability; because that’s where I started before, I somehow thought that that’s where I should start this time. That wasn’t helpful thinking.
One of the things I’ve realized this month is that often physical energy isn’t as important as mental energy. For example, I failed to maintain some of my resolutions because I just didn’t feel like doing them. There were a handful of other projects, though, that I’ve been slowly and steadily working on, despite my fatigue and mid-day sluggishness. When I set goals that I want to achieve, they are so much easier to follow-through on. Obvious, right? I’m glad I got this reminder early in my project, so that I can set my course for the next five months accordingly.
Now, if you’re interested, here’s how I did with my resolutions.
1. Get enough sleep. As I said in my mid-month check-in, I’m already getting enough sleep, so this wasn’t a problem. In fact, one of the reasons that I stopped keeping track of my resolutions and wasn’t able to do all of them was that I started falling asleep when putting the kids to bed. There was a span of nearly a week in which I was asleep by 9 o’clock most nights. This happened around the time the temperatures dropped and the chill of fall really entered the air, so I think my body responded by slowing down and sleeping more. Lately I’ve been able to stay awake through the kids’ bedtime, but still go to sleep at a reasonable hour.
Over the remaining months of my happiness project I’ll continue to focus on sleep, especially as Bing-Bong’s birth nears. You can’t ever really be prepared, sleep-wise, for what’s about to happen when a newborn comes, but at least I can try.
2. Exercise every day. I’ve done a good job with this. On beautiful days, I’ve gone for long walks by the sea (often listening to the Magic Lessons podcast by Elizabeth Gilbert). Other days I’ve stayed inside and done a workout using the Nike Training Club app. I LOVE it. Using a set of filters, you can choose how long you want to work out, what you want to focus on (mobility, endurance, or strength), how intensely you want to exercise, and more. It’s perfect for slipping in even a 15-minute workout. Now that I’ve been building strength through walking and using the app, I’ve been doing more moderate-intensity, 30-minute workouts (no small feat with a growing baby bump!).
One of the best things about the app is that every workout includes a stretching component. I used to get so annoyed when I’d go to boot camp-type classes at the gym and half the class would walk out near the end of class when the stretching began. Google “importance of stretching” and you’ll see why this is such a terrible idea. I applaud Nike for making this a key component of the workouts. In fact, all of the mobility workouts focus first on stretching and general mobility, while also providing a workout. I feel great after doing them. You can choose what workout to do every day, or you can select a plan that will tell you which workouts to do on which days to meet your goals.
As winter approaches and the weather worsens, I will probably switch to indoor exercises most days. I also hope to get back to yoga and start swimming a couple times per week.
3. Stretch at night. Specifically, lying on my back with my legs up against the wall. I have done this every night that I haven’t fallen asleep with the kids, and I love it. I can’t quite tell if it’s having any great effect, but I’m not experiencing much back pain (as I normally do from sitting at a desk), and it’s a wonderful, meditative way to end the day. James has even started doing this.
4. Write a weekly meal plan. I only managed this once, but it was great. I ate more vegetables that week than I have the rest of the month. (James tends to make one-vegetable dinners, whereas I tend to incorporate every vegetable we have into each dinner.) I want to keep up with this, but need to find the right method for making sure I do it. Maybe I should add “write a meal plan” to my Monday morning to-do list. Does anyone have any suggestions for meal planning?
5. Write a to-do list. This has been my great success this month, and the thing that has proved most helpful and productive. Another obvious one, right? I’d just become too lazy to do it, but because of my resolutions chart, I’ve been making a concerted effort to write a list at either the close of my working day or at night before bed. Having a list gives me clear focus when I sit down the next day and makes sure that easy-to-overlook tasks get due attention.
One reader suggested using Wunderlist to help with list-making and home organization, and I used Trello to help me get Dear Sabrina up and running. If you’re inclined to online or electronic apps and lists, either of these could be great for you. However, for my to-do list, I still prefer a notebook and pen. I spend enough time on my devices already, so I don’t want another reason to look at a screen.
6. Get ready the night before. I did so-so with this one. Working from home means that there isn’t a lot I have to do each morning before loading the car with kids and husband, as I know that everything will be waiting for me on my desk after dropping everyone off. Still, there are some mornings when I have meetings or am heading into Stockholm and could be more streamlined if I spent more time preparing the evening before. The few times I did this it was great, so I’m going to work to keep up with it.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on resolutions and authenticity. Have you ever made a resolution that your heart wasn’t into, or only because you thought you should? What resolutions have been most successful for you?
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Koala photo by Chris Saur. Other photos by me.