Along with her sister Elizabeth, Gretchen also hosts a podcast called Happier that I’ve mentioned on the blog a time or two. It’s awesome and the episodes are short, easy to listen to and often leave me with a little tip or trick I want to apply to my life to try to increase my personal happiness. Gretchen approaches achieving happiness in an easy yet methodical way and gives insight into seemingly small things we can do or implement in our lives that may result in a surprising amount of joy.
Earlier this week, I listened to the Happier podcast (episode 90 if you want to check it out) and Gretchen and Elizabeth discussed what Gretchen deems “The Essential Seven,” or seven habits that most impact our happiness.
Gretchen is HUGE into creating good habits and firmly believes that creating positive, lasting habits is essential when it comes to living a happier life. She says, “We can use decision-making to choose the habits we want to form, use willpower to get the habit started, then—and this is the best part—we can allow the extraordinary power of habit to take over. At that point, we’re free from the need to decide and the need to use willpower.”
We all know the habits we WANT to have in our lives. Healthy habits, responsible habits, habits that make us feel more connected, valued and successful. Gretchen breaks down habits into seven categories and in Episode 90 of the Happier podcast, she and her sister speak about something they want to change or begin doing related to each of The Essential Seven habits to increase joy in their lives. I found myself thinking about what I wanted to change or focus on in my life after they discussed each of The Essential Seven habits and ended up creating a mental list in my mind that I thought might make an interesting blog post.
The Essential Seven
Here are The Essential Seven, taken directly from the Happier podcast notes:
- Eat and drink more healthfully (give up sugar, eat more vegetables, drink less alcohol)
- Exercise regularly
- Save and spend wisely (save regularly, pay down debt, donate to worthy causes, make purchases that contribute to happiness or habits, pay taxes, stay current with expense reports)
- Rest, relax, and enjoy (pursue a hobby instead of cruising the internet, enjoy the moment, stop checking email, get enough sleep, spend less time in the car, take time for myself)
- Stop procrastinating, make consistent progress (practice an instrument, set aside two hours daily for uninterrupted work, learn a language, maintain a blog, keep a gratitude journal)
- Simplify, clear, and organize (make the bed every day, file regularly, put keys away in the same place, recycle, give away unused clothing)
- Engage more deeply—with other people, with God, with yourself, with the world (call family members, read the Bible every day, volunteer, spend time with friends, observe the Sabbath, spend time alone in nature)
Now let’s discuss! Below I’m breaking down The Essential Seven and sharing a little bit about one tangible thing I’m planning to do in my life to address the habit and hopefully increase happiness.
Using The Essential Seven to Create Habits that Lead to Happiness
- Eat and Drink More Healthfully
My goal: Reduce consumption of refined sugar by limiting dessert to once or twice a week
When Gretchen and Elizabeth discussed this habit, Elizabeth identified nighttime snacking as her biggest health-hindering issue. For me, it’s sugar. I know this without a doubt. I’ve mentioned it briefly on the blog before, but sugar is something I struggle with because I tend to not only crave it every day, but I also use it as a way to celebrate, connect (Ryan and I LOVE picking out new ice cream flavors to try together), distract (I’m totally guilty of baking as a form of procrastination), make myself feel better (my sugar consumption definitely goes up when I’m feeling more emotional) and the list goes on and on. I have zero desire to completely give up sugar because I like it and things like ice cream, cake and cookies make me happy. The pitfall is when I find myself eating too much sugar so it negatively impacts my happiness.
I’m sure some of you know the feeling of the sugar crash that comes when you’re left feeling tired, blah, bloated and just plain crappy. This tends to happen to me more when I eat larger amounts of sugar many days in a row. I don’t usually feel bad if I eat a bowl of ice cream one night but when I eat ice cream one night followed by more ice cream the next night and a cookie at lunch, etc., I begin to feel the negative effects. My current goal of reducing sugar consumption by limiting dessert to once or twice a week seems attainable to me and doesn’t make me feel sad the way I would if I think about eliminating the treats I love so much from my diet completely. I actually really like the idea of trying to get a handle on my sugar cravings by trying Whole30 at some point (SO many of you highly recommended it when I last talked about sugar cravings) but right now I think this is a good smaller step for me.
- Exercise Regularly
My goal: Take 10 minutes to stretch every day
I feel fortunate to really enjoy exercising and it’s already a part of my routine but I know I could always benefit from more stretching. Whether it be taking myself through some of my favorite hip stretches at the end of the day, foam rolling, doing a 20-minute yoga flow at home or simply carving out 10 minutes after my workout to stretch, I know my body (and mind!) would benefit from a little extra stretching. I’m setting 10 minutes as a goal for myself because it feels realistic.
- Save and Spend Wisely
My goal: Get back into meal planning and grocery shop with a list and a plan
My finance-savvy husband tracks our monthly spending in various categories which is something I personally find incredibly tedious but SO interesting. I’m glad he does it because it makes it easy to see when certain categories jump on a month-to-month basis. Food is one of our biggest areas of spending and the difference in our monthly food expenditures when I take the time to meal plan versus when I don’t is more dramatic than I would’ve anticipated.
Multiple trips to the grocery store add up, especially when you factor in impulse buys or take-out on nights when you feel like you don’t have anything good at home to eat. When I shop with a plan, I spend less, feel more organized through the week and our food waste goes down. It’s a win-win situation and a habit I’m actually looking forward to getting back into, as you may have seen in yesterday’s blog post! Quite a few of you requested more meal planning/dinner ideas in future blog posts which I was excited to see not only because they’re fun to write but I think they’ll also keep me accountable.
- Rest, Relax and Enjoy
My goal: Take Sadie on a solo walk once a week
Last week, I took Sadie on a walk by myself and it was amazing how much better I felt after our walk around the neighborhood. Don’t get me wrong – I absolutely LOVE family walks – but Chase is getting more and more restless in the stroller these days so walks with him and Sadie often feel a little hectic as I try to find a snack, a book or something to point at along the way to keep him happy/entertained. Walking alone with Sadie felt peaceful and allowed me to focus on the beautiful weather and how good it felt to simply move my body while I listened to my favorite podcast (Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me). I’ve said it many times before but watching Sadie have a blast on a walk and seeing her get the biggest kick out of simple things like sticks and squirrels also serves as the perfect reminder to me to enjoy the little things in life.
- Stop Procrastinating, Make Consistent Progress
My goal: Work first, email second
My email completely overwhelms me. My inbox is horrifying and I struggle to keep up with the number of emails (literally hundreds) I receive every day. I could easily spend my entire work time on emails every day but that’s not the best use of my time, nor is it fun or productive. When I sit down at my computer first thing in the morning or during Chase’s naptime, I will often open up Gmail and begin sorting through emails. While I’m responding, deleting and sorting through everything, I can practically feel my creative energy dying a slow death. I’m hoping that by making myself work before I check my emails, I’ll be more productive and excited about the tasks at hand rather than beginning my workday feeling behind and drained.
- Simplify, Clear and Organize
My goal (personal): Organize, sort and store Chase’s baby clothes
This one is haunting me every time I open Chase’s closet in his nursery. I need to carve out some time to sort his clothes and box everything up that’s too small so his baby clothes are no longer mocking me from a giant folded heap in the corner of his closet.
My goal (work): Create an “Upcoming Partnerships” bin and a “Completed Partnerships/Invoice Due” bin in a visible spot in my home office
Through the blog, I feel fortunate to work with a myriad of companies and brands but since I’m just a one-woman show, it can feel very overwhelming at times to keep all of my partnerships in line. I work with brands a variety of ways (sponsored posts, social media shares, freelance content, etc.) and while I have all of my deadlines in front of me on my desk every day, once I’ve completed the task at hand, I find myself looking toward the next deadline and occasionally forgetting to invoice a company in a timely manner. I need a good organizational system in place for keeping track of what I need to do for upcoming partnerships and who I still need to follow up with once a deadline is met and a partnership is complete.
- Engage More Deeply
My goal: Write down my prayers
All too often I’ll find myself praying at the end of the day and my brain feels like a jumbled mess. My mind will wander and I want to get better at being more intentional with my prayers. Since writing is something I love and something that immensely helps me work through my thoughts and feelings, I want to begin writing out my prayers to God. I am already enjoying spending some time in the morning with my devotional and think writing out prayers in the morning may be a good way to deepen my relationship with God and help me feel more focused in my prayers.
More Happiness Related Posts
- Little Indulgences = Big Happiness
- Abstainers vs. Moderators
- The Happiness Project Review + Takeaways
Question of the Day
Pick one or two of The Essential Seven habits and tell me about a goal you’d like to create for yourself to help yourself feel happier in that specific area of your life.