Our Book of the Month for September is Gretchen Rubin’s Happier at Home, a personal experiment in making home a happier place by doing things like cultivating shrines and practicing nonrandom acts of kindness in your neighborhood. Here’s Ashley’s experience “acting the way she wants to feel.” —BBL Editor
The “February” chapter of Gretchen Rubin’s Happier at Home is all about the body: How your body interacts with its surroundings, how your body reacts to the people and events around you, how your body takes in sensory details in your environment. Rubin is interested in making her body “happier,” and she does this in several ways, from aromatherapy to creating special breakfasts for her family on minor holidays like Valentine’s Day or St. Patrick’s Day, and even by striving to jump—literally jump—a few times every day. She finds that by changing small ways she interacts with and experiences things around her, her body feels better, and she feels happier.
Though she covers quite a lot, the thing that struck me most about this chapter were two key phrases: Act the way you want to feel, and, The only person you can change is yourself. I tried to keep these mantras in mind after reading the chapter and apply them to my life as much as possible. And you know what? It actually helped!
After visiting home one weekend for my niece’s birthday, I felt sad and heartsick about having to leave. In the city where I live now, I have no family at all, and I often feel homesick and lonely. When I felt those dark thoughts creeping in and tears start to well up, I reminded myself that I couldn’t change anything about my current situation except the way that I chose to react to it. So I told myself, I live in one place, and my family lives somewhere else. And I just have to be OK with that. I adjusted my hunched-over posture and leaned back with my feet up. I made myself relax all the muscles that tense up when I’m about to cry. I took out a book that I was really enjoying, and I felt the warmth of contentment wash over me almost immediately as I started reading. I became absorbed in the story, and my eyes remained dry for the rest of the night despite my initial overwhelming desire to dissolve into tears.
As it turns out, something as simple as adjusting my posture and reading is a great way for me to find my center, act the way I want to feel, and control and change the way I engage with my environment.
This is just one example of how I used Gretchen’s tips to navigate my body from a forlorn state to one of serenity. I’ve integrated a few of her other suggestions (preparing a special meal every once in a while can make you feel happier), but I think remembering the statements above is the simplest way to make your body physically and mentally happier at home.
For more about Gretchen Rubin and her books, visit happiness-project.com.