Friday, September 07, 2007

Thou Shalt Not Be Miserable!
12 Happiness Commandments - Part 2

Yesterday I published my first six Happiness Commandments, inspired by The Happiness Project. Today, here's the second six:

7. Believe in the Next Big Thing
I once heard that actors feel they'll never work again after the show closes or the movie is finished filming. I'm that way with amazing experiences. I've had many, but after each one, I have this feeling that I'll never have another one again. But if I look at my track record, I can see that just when I thought things were bleakest in this category, another big thing would happen. This is very close to "having something to look forward to."

8. Take Stock Then Move Ahead of the Curve
last week I was feeling physically down. Tired. I blamed it on DC's wonderful allergy season (all year long). When I rode my bike, I felt behind the curve. But I took stock of exactly how my body felt, and when I found I wasn't going to throw up, have an aneurism, or a heart attack, I was able to push ahead.

9. Keep Acting "As If"
I've gotten really far with this - so much so, I recommend it to others.

10. Nobody Cares
Extremely freeing, although it sounds like a cause to be unhappy. But sometimes real unhappiness happens when you think others are looking at you in a less than stellar light. Truth is, most people are thinking about themselves, and not about you. This frees my thinking and energizes me to take more chances.

11. Once a Week
Meet a friend or a contact for coffee and advance my communications and online community building talents. I've been doing this over the last couple of months and I find it's a blast!

12. Write It, Wear It, Publish It, Lift It
My version of "just do it."

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Thou Shalt Not Be Miserable!
12 Happiness Commandments - Part 1

Happiness is all the rage these days, and nowhere more so than on Gretchen Rubin's very useful blog titled The Happiness Project. Gretchen recently posted tips on creating your own Happiness Commandments. These are short phrases that stand for big ideals - you know you're not thinking large enough if they sound like items from a "To-Do" list. I've taken Gretchen's advice and come up with my own 12 Happiness Commandments. I think I'm on the right track - here are the first six:

1. Create Calm
Clutter clogs my brain. I feel much calmer in an uncluttered* room, working at an uncluttered desk. And if I'm calm, I'm happy.

2. Remember the Alibi
I'm a great one for telling people that if they only knew what was going on in the minds of others, then they'd feel a whole lot less self-conscious, as most people are probably thinking about themselves. Yeah, I'm a great one for that, and then I go out on my own and feel totally self-conscious. So I need to remember when Fort Lauderdude and I went to the Alibi bar in Florida a few weeks back, and I watched him from afar while I was getting drinks. He looked totally self-possessed and confident, although I knew he was thinking "I get out of here." I need to remember that moment.

3. Stretch and Breath
Instead of bounding out of bed and down the stairs or into the living room, I feel a whole lot better if I first take some time to stretch out after waking up. It's like breakfast, only much cheaper. And breakfast gets done at some point soon after. And taking a few deep breaths actually does help the body calm down!

4. Divide by 15
After all these years, I've found I work best in 15 minute increments. Sure, I can concentrate on something for an hour or so. But that's exhausting. I need refreshers every 15 minutes or so. And a good one is:

5. Walk to Nowhere
A great 15 minute refresher. The "nowhere" part is key. I used to think that running an errand would kill the two birds. I'd get out, and something would get done. But since I instituted these walks, sans multitasking, my brain gets clear and focused and I can think up more ideas. And more ideas = more happiness for me.

6. Option my Life.
Get interested in my life as if it's a billion-dollar screenplay and all of Hollywood wants to option it. If I don't think that, then exactly who else will?

Check back tomorrow for numbers 7-12. And in the meantime, consider Dumb Little Man's 30 Happiness Tips: Program Your Life for Optimum Enjoyment.
*Decluttering tip: Don't let postal mail hit a flat surface. Sort it out by hand before you lay the stack of ads and bills down, then throw away anything that's classically "junk." I then put bills in a box on my desk. This has done amazing things for my living room.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

All About the Package
A study has found some small proof of what parents have known for years: that children prefer foods branded McDonald's over foods in unprinted containers. Researchers asked children which tastes better, fries, carrots or milk in a McDonald's wrapper or the same foods in everyday, non-corporate garb. They answered McDonald's, as reported in today's New York Times.*

I could have told somebody that. Growing up, I saw it happen in my family. But my anecdotes aren't scientific, double-blind investigations, so it's interesting to see this behavior supported by some statistics.

The article taps into my recent thinking about this whole food-packaging issue. Urged on by all the "green living" info available online, I'm considering an experiment to see if I can go a week only eating grocery store-available foods packaged as simply as possible, with minimal marketing ink used in helping them jump off the shelves. I thought it might be difficult.

But once I took a look at my weekly diet, I found I would have to make such small changes, it might not be worth it. From bananas, wrapped in nature's best natural marketing wrapper, through free-range chicken, olive oil, fresh vegetables et al, my usual food intake requires little coaxing from Madison Avenue.

I would allow "coelacanth packages" - like egg cartons, which have been around since the dawn of human time, are absolutely necessary, and can be easily retro-fitted* with pipe cleaners, goggle eyes and multicolored paints to resemble caterpillars. I would have to give up peeled baby carrots though, in favor of the less-processed, straight out of the ground kind.

So I continue to work out the bugs in the experiment idea. But leave it to marketing guru Seth Godin to expand our thinking about wrappers in a still-relevant Fast Company essay from March 2001 that begins "That wedding dress is the wrapper on your wedding day." Seth's words have stuck in my brain over the years, as he analyzes our need for packages, boxes or bags:
"At the same time that we're abandoning some traditional wrappers, some businesses are becoming ever more obsessed with the wrapper. They understand that their businesses are really about wrappers, and so they offer their T-shirts, their soaps, their teas -- even their computer workstations -- in wrappers and packages that satisfy our inner need for beauty."
As further proof of the article's relevance, it seems that even in 2007 we'll gladly pay for the same cookies over and over, as evidenced in The Consumerist article "Like Those 100 Calorie Packs? You're Paying Twice As Much."
*But not reported there first - CNN scooped the Times in early August, and Pronet Advertising posted an August 7 commentary on the study.

**Just find a bunch of kindergarteners and you've recycled, for a short time at least, months worth of trash; oatmeal boxes can become pigs this way too.