Are resolutions the secret to happiness?

In her 2009 book The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin recounts spending a year of her life experimenting with techniques to boost her personal happiness, everything from decluttering her New York City apartment (which made her considerably happier) to laughter yoga (which did not).

(Read my review of The Happiness Project here.)

So what made her happiest? Towards the end of the book, Rubin answers this question.

During the year, when people had asked me, “So what’s the secret to happiness?,” at different times I’d answer “Exercise” or “Sleep” or “Do good, feel good” or “Strengthen your connections to other people.” But by the end of December, I’d realized that the most helpful aspect of my happiness project hadn’t been these resolutions or the Four Splendid Truths I’d identified, or the science I’d learned, or all the high-minded books I’d read. The single most effective step for me had been to keep my Resolutions Chart.

Rubin got the idea for her idea for the resolution chart from Benjamin Franklin, who scored himself every day on whether he practiced thirteen virtues (temperance, silence, order, resolution, frugality, industry, sincerity, justice, moderation, cleanliness, tranquility, chastity and humility).

Resolution Charts have become a common feature in bullet journals, which I wrote about in yesterday’s post. I’m kicking off the month by starting a bullet journal, featuring a resolutions chart of my own.

I don’t know if tracking resolutions really leads to happiness, but I’m willing to give it a try. I’ve come up with five resolutions I’m going to track in June. These are things I’m aiming to do every day, though, importantly, I’m not expecting / requiring perfection from myself.

Because this is the first month I’m doing this (and the start of My Instruction Manual), I’m not working on big life-changing resolutions this month — just things that will help me get my life back on track as I continue to recover from my kidney transplant.

Here’s my list for June.

1) Exercise

I used to run half marathons. But in the months leading up to my transplant, I became so weak that I couldn’t even stand for long periods of time, let alone run. The surgeon told me I could start running again six weeks after the transplant as long as I took it easy. I’ve been out three times already in the past week, alternating between running and walking for three kilometers. So far, I haven’t done back-to-back days, but today I’m planning to go out for the second straight day. I’ll still need lots of days off from running and on those days, I’m going to walk for at least 45 minutes.

In addition to this resolution, I also have an exercise goal. (Resolutions are ongoing; goals are one and done.) July 11 marks three months since my transplant and represents the date the incision in my lower stomach is supposed to be fully healed. (It’s already healed on the skin surface, but the cut muscle inside my lower stomach takes a lot longer). So my goal on June 11 is to run for five kilometres without breaks.

2) Zero Inbox

At least once a day, I want Google Inbox to be completely empty. It’s easier to do in Inbox than in other email programs because you can snooze emails or to dos until the date and time you want to deal with them. Clearing my box every day ensures I don’t miss important tasks and can get back to people in a timely manner.

3) Write Blog

For the first month, at least, I’m aiming to post here every day.

4) Write Books

I’m a writer. I need to write everyday, and not just blog posts. I’m going to try to spend time every day writing. The main book I’m focusing on in June is a short ebook about my kidney disease and transplant. My goal is to finish the first draft by the end of June.

5) Social Media

After ignoring them for a while, I’m trying to nurture my personal social media profiles. This means posting to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn multiple times each day. I’m also going to spend time every day at Goodreads, a social network for writers and readers.

My plan is to revisit my resolutions at the end of the month and modify and / or build on them for July. There’s a lot more I could tackle in my resolutions list (such as improving my diet, being more patient with my kids, and working on friendships) and maybe I’ll address some of these in July. And while I’m not tackling friendships yet in my resolutions journal, I will be posting about friendships in tomorrow’s blog post.

I’d love to hear from you. How are you at keeping resolutions? Have you set any for June?


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