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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

"Keep a Contented Heart "

Getting back to life....

Keep a contented heart ....this is the heading for the November chapter in The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.  There is a wonderful sub heading that says it all "ATTITUDE" . If you can master a good attitude about whatever comes your way, good or bad, it can go a very long way at building your happiness level. Gretchen states within the first paragraph of the chapter " I wanted to cultivate a light hearted, loving, and kind spirit. If I could put myself into that frame of mind, it would be easier to stick to all my other resolutions."  BRILLIANT!  This has really been a goal for me all year, not just starting now. When you approach life in such a manner as I state above, it is natural for the happiness level in your day to day life to rise and build. 

As always , as it is with each chapter, Gretchen has a mini list of goals that she presents at the beginning of the chapter and then goes over them in more details within. And as always, I shall list them here so that if you have been using these lists each month, you can continue to do so. 

*Laugh out loud.
*Use good manners.
*Give positive reviews.
*Find an area of refuge. 

 I adore this list of goals and find it the easiest of the chapters to master. First off I love to laugh; although it takes a lot to make me laugh out loud. I had for the longest time between our financial situation, my health and dental woes and so many other factors woven into all the above to laugh, never mind laughing out loud. For the longest time I even forgot how to smile. Over the last few months I have been putting a real effort to do so. To find humor and joy in day to day happenings. It has not been easy, I won't lie, but it has been worth the following this first one will be a continuing goal for me.

A tag line I always use is "Remember to giggle!"

 Using good manners, when I read this it reminded me of a song from the sound track of Chicago that speaks of manners, it always makes me smile to myself because manners have been instilled in me since I was a young child and it is not a lesson I have ever forgotten. Having bad manners was simply not tolerated. I keep my elbows off the table, wait to eat till everyone has sat down and began.... I always try to say please and thank you. I send in my r.s.v.p's , send thank you cards and I always remember to be polite in the way that I speak to others. My Mom, despite her own acknowledged short comings taught me well. I simply do not understand those that have a lack of manners. So I believed I could check this off my list...however perhaps I speak too soon.

According to the section in the chapter addressing this subject, it is not just saying please and thank you however, it is showing kindness that is considered being a part of good manners. Gretchen quotes Tolstoy "Nothing can make our life, or the lives of other people, more beautiful than perpetual kindness..."  I try my very best to show kindness and be kind; do unto others. But in reading the section on politeness and seeing kindness was a part of it, interwoven actually, a light bulb went on, as I read how the author described herself as having "thoughtless habits" such as rushing past people on the side walk , not offering her seat on the subway, not being careful to say "you first" or "No, you take it..." as examples of how she truly did not have as good a set of manners as she thought. I must say I am hit and miss when you think of it that way. She also mentions about how she converses with others, talking over them, turning it around to be all about her...well I again admit I have been guilty of such acts. So now having this brought to my attention, I do believe I have a bit of work to do in this area. 

Now the heading of GIVE POSITIVE REVIEWS gave me pause. I was not quite sure what this meant. As I read further, it quickly dawned on me what the meaning was. The author was one who criticized. Guilty as charged. I was was raised in a criticizing home. Nothing was ever good enough. I was never given any props for my successes. I watched my whole family do this to each other on a daily basis, it was all that I parents are still that way with each other, I have been indeed guilty of repeating the sins of my upbringing with my own children and husband, as well as friends and acquaintances. It even happened today. As I stated, guilty as charged. As the author states," ...I knew that it wasn't nice to criticize- but it was fun..." she questions and states as fact further " ...Why was it so deliciously satisfying to criticize? being critical made me feel more important and intelligent...." that gave me pause. Was this why I did it even over and above my upbringing? This is indeed something that troubles me. I think this goal of giving positive reviews, especially to those closest to me is something I need to work very hard on. 

A couple things from this section resonated with me as well, a quote that causes pause and consideration.....

Tend your sick ones, O Lord Jesus Christ;
rest your weary ones; bless your dying ones;
sooth your suffering ones; pity your afflicted ones;
shield your joyous ones.
And all for your love's sake. 
St. Augustine 

...and a quote that explains it all ...." it is easy to be heavy; hard to be light..." Being happy, full of joy and positivity is exhausting. It brings attacks from others as well as an effort from those same people to drain it from you. Have I been this person. Sadly the answer has to be yes. Going through the life trials I have, not feeling any joy from anything had quite often made me be guilty of this very act. It is something I would like to change in a big way for sure. Gretchen says it best "...reminded me that the joy of the joyous ones wasn't inexhaustible or unconquerable. I started to make a real effort to use my good cheer to support the joyous ones I knew." She had a plan. To have a "Pollyanna Week". What is that exactly? Well at some point during this past years journey I have been on I wrote about the glad game  from the book (and later the movie) Pollyanna by Eleanor Porter (circa 1913). A game where whatever happens to you, you find a reason to be glad about it. She decided on a week of no negative comments, stating: "I knew I should "Act the way I want to feel," and if I wanted to feel enthusiastic, warm, and accepting, I wasn't going to get there by constantly making sniping comments."  Seems like a good way to me....will let you know how I do with that...fighting all my upbringing and living in a family sarcastic people. 

The last goal for November is stated as being "FIND AN AREA OF REFUGE". The idea of this, is that if you are having negative feelings, even if small ones at first, they will grow, they will rob you of happiness, they will eventually let you drift into anxious or angry thoughts; those thoughts will take over every aspect of your life and give happiness nowhere to dwell. I know this to be fact. I lived this over the last three years. The author, Gretchen said, to combat this an area of refuge is needed. A place to go to overcome. For Gretchen it is not a physical place, but happy thoughts that override and push out the negative. To go to the happy thoughts is her refuge. This goal I think I need to master the most. Soon dark days of Winter, when I am a prisoner of the four walls for days on end, my thoughts, without any conscience willing go to the negative, it even happens when I fight it. Perhaps I simply did not know or have the proper skills to do this...distraction...either by thoughts or actions...seems so very simple. I will again do my best with this goal, and of course share the results. 

So there you have this month's goals for The Happiness Project. I would love to hear if you have read the book, or even just following my journey this past 11 months and what if any impact it has had on you. 

This month, I am getting back to part of the core of my blog, my journey through life. I want to spend the entire month of November concentrating on gratitude, thankfulness, counting my blessings, big and small...I think the month that contains Thanksgiving is perfect for this. I will of course also try my best to not let it get too heavy, hopefully including a daycation if weather and money allows, family celebrations as we have two of our daughter's that have birthday's this month, perhaps it will be cool enough to bake, so a couple mad scientist in the kitchen posts, and well whatever tickles my fancy and brings more happiness. 

I would LOVE to hear from each and every one of you who stick around and come back time after time what you are grateful for, what you give thanks for, what are the blessings in your life, and how you find your happiness on a daily basis. Let's start a discussion....with all the craziness of the world around us and in our daily lives, what better a discussion to begin?


  1. I love this! It goes along with everything I'm learning in Bible study. It's hard to remind yourself of these things, but when they're on our minds, we become better people. Have a great night Ruby honey! Kori xoxo

  2. I think I need this book. I'm going to see if my library has it! Great post!


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