Saturday, September 29, 2012

Happiness is giving up things

As I've written about before, I've become very interested in the idea of creating my own happiness. I was especially inspired by Gretchen Rubin's book, The Happiness Project. One pattern I've noticed recently in my life is that it's often the things I give up, not the things I do, that contribute significantly to my happiness. This has surprised me, given my focus on setting and achieving goals. So I wanted to share three things that I've given up in the past year.

Running. I set a goal to complete the couch-to-5K program, which I accomplished. I hoped that I would become one of those people who loved to run. I didn't. Yet still I kept forcing myself to run, hating every step of it. Finally I woke up and realized that there are tons of other forms of exercise I actually enjoy (elliptical, yoga, group aerobics classes, walking). Why was I forcing myself to do something I hate? I gave it up about 9 months ago and actually enjoy working out again.

Yard work. Gardening is one of those things that I feel like I should enjoy because so many other people enjoy it. But the truth is, I hate dirt, I hate worms, and I'm not really a fan of being outside. So, I already accepted some time ago that I will not be a gardener. And yet, there was this feeling that it would be shameful to hire someone to take care of our yard. After all, we could do it ourselves. Isn't it a waste of money to pay someone to do it? But, a friend started a lawn care business, so I finally gave myself permission to outsource the job. For the first time in 4 years, our yard looks really nice. I don't get this pit in my stomach when I drive up and see all of the weeds that I know I should be pulling. And I finally got rid of the guilt of not doing it myself. Because honestly, we all could do lots of things ourselves. For example, make our own clothes. But we've decided it's worth it to leave that job to someone else. And I do choose to do things that other people outsource, such as cooking all our meals and filing our taxes. It's just about finding the balance that works for us. 

Shopping for clothes. This was a biggie. Recently, I started thinking about how I could free up more money to give to charities. One of the things I immediately thought of was clothes. The more I thought about it, the more important it seemed. Because not only was I investing a lot of money in clothes that I didn't really need, I was also investing a lot of time looking for those clothes. I decided in July that I wouldn't buy any new clothes for the rest of the year. And it has ended up being a great decision. Before, I was always dissatisfied with my closet. I'd think, "If only I had ______, then I'd be happy with my wardrobe." But now, I know I can't buy anything, so I don't even waste time thinking about it. It's forced contentment! And on a less important note, I've been able to see more clearly that I should be focusing on quality, not quantity, with my clothes. When I resume buying clothes, I'm going to stop picking up random shirts here and there and instead only buy pieces that are actually missing from my wardrobe (e.g., a brown belt, black sandals that don't hurt my feet).
Note: Please don't interpret this as judgment on other people buying clothes. This was something I thought was necessary for me personally, but I don't think everyone needs to do it. It would be very hypocritical for me to say it's ok to pay someone to do your yardwork but not ok to spend money on clothes. :)

What about you? Has giving up something made you happier?

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