Resolutions, schmezalutions: there's a reason why those stinkin' things never last past January 14. Yes, it was totally noble that time you pledged to be super-organized-all-the-time-everywhere and drink-only-green-juice-from-here-to-eternity, but let's get real. We all want to be happier, healthier and wealthier versions of ourselves in 2013, but we have a tendency to set up goals that are so lofty (and expensive, and complicated) that they’re next to impossible to carry out.
Well, Gretchen Rubin (author of the immensely successful blog-turned-book The Happiness Project, as well as the new tome Happier at Home) has a message for all of us New Year's grumps: the best resolutions are not really resolutions at all, but quick, d'oh-worthy tips that we're surprised we never thought of. From taking a moment enjoying your favorite scents (hello, beloved morning coffee!) to giving your roommate a warm hello every evening (yes, even when she neglected to take out the trash again), her tips are crazy-simple, yet they can make a huge difference in your health, happiness, and productivity. Read on to learn this wellness guru’s tips that you can start right now and get accomplished in five minutes — you'll be on the fast track to your happiest year yet before you know it.
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Build A Shrine
Hoping to finally develop the ability to have a home that's perfectly clean all of the time? According to Rubin, an easier (and much more fun way) to improve your happiness at home is to take all of that stuff and display it in a way that pleases you.
"Make a special place in your home for something that's important to you, whether it's jewelry, arts and crafts, music, or wine. It will add a unique touch to your living space, and every time you see it, it's pretty much guaranteed to lift your spirits." Much more fun than vacuuming, no?
Embrace Good Smells
"One of my simplest, cheapest (and calorie-free!) ways to boost your happiness every day is to embrace the good smells around you, whether that's your coffee, a grapefruit, clean laundry — even the hardware store or your own apartment building," says Rubin. "Your sense of smell can become dull over time, so if you simply focus on appreciating the scents around you, you can sharpen your awareness."
Rubin says that since starting to put her sense of smell to work, she's become a much bigger fan of perfume. "I'm in love with Lys Méditerranée
and and En Passant
by Frédéric Malle. I never used to be a 'perfume person,' but now I really appreciate beautifully crafted, simple scents."
Don't Give Yourself Homework
Attention to all of you Martha Stewart types out there: those cute, Pinterest-worthy craft projects you've started (and that are now stressing you out as they clutter that corner of your bedroom) might actually be more of a pain than they're worth.
Says Rubin: "A key to being happy in your downtime is abandoning those half-finished projects. Don't give yourself homework! If you're not doing it, then you're not getting anything out of it, and then it just nags at you like your fourth-grade schoolwork did." So, there's your permission to abandon the fantasy of that huge scrapbook of your trip to Paris — just frame one of your favorite photos and call it a day. We won't tell Martha.
Fitness goals can get super-lofty at this time of year (run a marathon! Do a headstand in yoga class! Make it to crack-of-dawn Pilates five times a week!), but Rubin's number-one fitness tip is much more playground than Ironman.
"One of my favorite ways to get my blood pumping is to simply jump up and down: do jumping jacks, skip around the office….getting both feet off the ground can give you a ton of energy." We admit, even the idea of skipping around the cubicles here at R29 put a smile on our face. If Rubin needs some extra motivation, she turns to her iPod: "Listening to upbeat music can totally trick you into thinking you're in a good mood, even if you aren't!" Guess we don't need to feel so guilty for listening to Carly Rae on repeat to meet deadline...
Listen To Your Body
Speaking of the office, those long, stationary days can blow the wind out of anyone's sails. "One thing that people tend to forget about at work is paying attention to their bodies," says Rubin. "Make sure you're not too hot or cold, that your hair's not in your face, wear comfortable clothing and shoes, and make sure that the light isn't too bright."
If you're not sure about this one, says Rubin, do a soldier's salute with your hand shielding your eyes. If you feel a sense of relief, the lights are too bright in your workspace, and you could be headed for a productivity-killing headache in the afternoon. Rubin admits that she hasn't always practiced this healthy habit — she was once so busy that she worked with an eye infection for two weeks before finally getting it treated! Take care of yourself, listen to your body, and work will start to feel less like, well, work.
Embrace Cash Spending
If you're looking to get your spending under control in 2013, Rubin says that the key is to simply ditch the plastic. "Credit cards can feel like imaginary money, so if you want to get real with your spending, try using only cash when you're out and about." Spending money can be a thrill, but getting those bills at the end of the month are anything but fun — and that stress can majorly impact your happiness over time.
According to Rubin, paying attention as you go is the key for money happiness: "Handing over those bills makes you much more aware of the pain of spending money. This is why casinos use chips — to make people play on and not realize that real dollars are at stake." Hm. Maybe those rewards cards aren't really as rewarding as we thought...
Re-Think Your Calendar
Can't figure out why you felt so freaking overwhelmed this past year? The answer, according to Rubin, is in your daybook. "Your time, energy and money reflect your values, so you may want to ask yourself how you're spending these things," says the author. "We have a tendency to go along, making decisions by default. Look at your calendar and at the things you're just involved in. Are you spending your time on people and things that really mean something to you, or just saying yes to everything that comes your way?" It may result in a minor case of FOMO — fear of missing out — but saying no once in awhile to nagging events will mean that you have more energy for the people and events that really matter to you.
Give a Warm Hello
Things between you and your roommate getting a little frosty during this gloomy (and grumpy) time of year? Warming up roomie relations, according to Rubin, can start with a simple hello. "To be happier at home with your roommates (or anyone you live with!): practice warm greetings and farewells. People get in the habit of just coming and going, but, you know, you want to feel like people care when you're coming and going! It's so easy to get distracted during busy mornings and evenings, but if you take those important moments twice a day, it can really make for a happier home environment." Now, if we could only get our beloved bunkmate to clean those dishes in the sink...ahem.
When it comes to the other people you live with (like your spouse, your boo, your kids — hey, even your pets!), Rubin recommends getting as touchy-feely as possible. "Since starting The Happiness Project, I've become more committed to kissing and hugging my husband daily and being more affectionate with my kids — hugging them, giving them back rubs, anything. It's not a surprise, but people who are openly affectionate tend to have closer relationships, so even if you're not always able to spend quality time together, those physical connections can lead to an overall feeling of belonging." Meaning: major props for snuggle time.
While Rubin acknowledges the obviousness of this tip, she was still quick emphasize that if we want to get happy, we have to get. More. Sleep. "People may think they're depressed, but really, they're just exhausted! You may think that you've trained yourself to get by on five or six hours a night, but studies have shown that it's simply not true — sleep deprivation affects everyone's health in one way or another."
To find out if you're (really) getting enough sleep, ask yourself a few questions, says Rubin. "Do you wake up naturally? Do you fall asleep every time you're in a quiet place? If so, you're probably not getting enough shut-eye at night." If this describes you, try this: count back seven hours from the time that you usually set your alarm for to find your ideal bedtime, and try to hit the hay that time every night. This may not be the easiest tip, but we'd say the benefits (happiness, healthfulness, even prettier skin!) make the pursuit of zzz's more than worth it.