Sunday, January 05, 2014

You Don’t Seem Happy Anymore

It was December 23rd and I was exhausted from both work and holiday preparations when my husband asked if I’d like to have a glass of wine by the fire.  I half-heartedly said, “Sure” and grabbed the book I’ve been reading - Gretchen Rubin’s Happier at Home: Kiss More, Jump More, Abandon Self-Control, and My Other Experiments in Everyday Life. I wanted to read (I am an introvert and need down time when confronted with a lot of social activity) while my husband was looking forward to a nostalgic conversation about the Christmas’s of our past.  His sister is moving to a new home this January and we would be celebrating the holidays in her old home for the last time. No one in the family was interested in having this conversation including myself.  After several failed conversation attempts he finally said:

"You don’t seem happy anymore.  You don’t laugh or joke or want to have fun.  All you do is work and when you are home you are either reading or working on the computer.  When you do engage in conversation you are usually negative. You never used to be this way.  When I met you, you were happy, laughed easily and had a carefree positive attitude. What can I do to help you change back to the person you used to be? 

This was somewhat of a wake-up call. He is right and the reasons are numerous. Since my bunion surgery last summer, I’ve gained back all of the weight I lost two years ago and still am not back to my normal workout routine.  I feel lethargic and remain continuously behind both at work and at home and from time to time I feel mildly depressed. I don’t take enough time off – nine of my earned vacation days went unused in 2013 - the most vacation I’ve lost ever. In addition, I’m feeling old and trapped in my current life and job.  

My reading of Gretchen’s book Happier at Home suddenly took on new meaning, “How can I be happier at home in 2014.”  One thing I know for sure is my husband can’t do anything to change me.  If I want to change my life I have to do it myself. Here are my goals for 2014:

Interior Design:
I am re-committing to keeping a gratitude journal:
I’ve kept journals in the past and they’ve been helpful especially when going through a rough time.  This year, in addition to writing what I am grateful for, my focus is going to be on writing about the positive aspects of my day and if it includes working with someone who is difficult or annoying I need to write something positive about that person. Also as a way to know myself better, I am going to pay attention to what I envy and what I lie about.  I found it interesting that I was envious of a friend when others commented on how efficient she is. 

Control over possessions and time

Make to-do lists:
I’ve never been a big list maker.  I like to keep things in my head and only write down an important deadline or two on my calendar. Last fall I attended a seminar called “Getting Things Done” based on a book of the same title written by David Allen. At the seminar we were required to do a “Mind Sweep” a process where we were required to write everything we needed to get done both at work and at home on a piece of paper. The idea is to get these tasks out of our minds. I used this list during the month of December and it helped tremendously.  One of my biggest sources of unhappiness is missing appointments or remembering a deadline when it is too late.   

Implement a new filing system both at work and at home.
This was also covered in the “Getting Things Done” seminar. Lost and misplaced items are a huge source of unhappiness for me.  I’ve previously written about my messy desk at work and my files at home are currently packed so tight I couldn’t possibly place another piece of paper in them let alone find anything.  After having difficulty finding financial papers at the end of the year, I began implementing a new filing system both at home and at work.

Suffer for 15 minutes:
I’ve started taking a dreaded task from my above to-do list and spending 15 minutes a day on it.  This is so much better than tackling the entire list on a Saturday.  Setting up a credit-card payment or renewing our DOT fleet license at work are never fun tasks, but ones that can easily be accomplished in 15 minutes or less. It is also much better than waiting ‘til the due date and then frantically searching for passwords.

Teach and delegate:
When asked a question at work I need to teach others where to find the information or how to do the work themselves or delegate it. Taking on too much at work is one of my major sources of inefficiency.

Buy what I need and get rid of what I don’t:
I tend to be an under-buyer and a slight hoarder. This basically means I have a lot of stuff people have given me, I’ve gotten for free, are obsolete, I no longer need and not what I do need.  I find myself scrambling when I run out of printer ink or don’t have warm clothes that fit adequately when the temperatures go below zero. 

Stop eating sugar:
I am an abstainer. I’ve known this since reading Gretchen's previous book The Happiness Project. She describes an abstainer as someone who finds it easier to abstain from something than to indulge moderately.  Abstainers aren’t tempted by things that are off limits, but once started have trouble stopping.

Moderators, by contrast do better when they act with moderation, because they feel trapped and rebellious at the thought of never “getting” or doing something. Occasional indulgence heightens their pleasure and strengthens their resolve. (Pg. 122)  

I’ve given up sugar in the past and find that completely abstaining is the only way I can keep from binging. Effective immediately I am no longer going to eat any sugary treats.

Seek out a workout that works for me:
I’m still searching for a workout that I enjoy that isn’t too strenuous.   I plan to try a Barre class in the coming weeks and will continue to look for new workouts after my foot heals completely.  I would like to meet with a fitness consultant to help map a workout routine that is tailored to my fitness needs and abilities.

Finding my Calcutta:
One of my major sources of unhappiness comes from my life not “being” about anything.  I feel as if life is passing me by as I sit in my office fixing accounting entries all day. I had a conversation with another male co-worker who feels similar.  He is the manager of one of our company stores and feels he makes a difference in about 30 people’s lives, but that is it.  He thinks the items his store sells are no longer made well and are a huge headache to sell and service. After he retires in a few years he hopes to do something more meaningful with his life.

In 2014, I need to stop being so hard on myself.  Perhaps I too can wait until I retire and have more free time to make my life be about something.  I still have this blog which I am attempting to turn into a mentoring club for women.  I started The Savvy Reader Book Club last year and try to write regular posts that hopefully help women.  One of my friends suggests I work on this blog only when I have they time and not to feel guilty when I don't have time. Family and work come first.

Give gold stars:
For me, this means paying more attention to my husband.  Closing my book when he wants to have a conversation or moving away from the computer for a few minutes to actively listen when he tells me about his day.  Acknowledge and thank him for doing something that makes my life easier or better – for having an incredible meal ready when I get home from work on New Year’s Eve or helping with the cleaning when I have to work on Saturdays during January. Or just going outside and spending time with him and our dogs in the back yard instead of checking my twitter feed for the umpteenth time.  

Have you made any resolutions to be happier at home in 2014? 

This post was inspired by Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin where she runs a nine month experiment to create happier surroundings. Join From Left to Write on January 6 we discuss Happier at Home. You can also chat live with Gretchen Rubin on January 7 on Facebook! As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

Please Note, I am an Amazon Affiliate


  1. A pretty sobering comment from someone who knows you so well and for so long. Still, I think you're too hard on yourself. You certainly make an impact on so many lives, especially with the reading and the blog and probably most of us don't do enough to tell you how. I've read several life-changing books because you recommended them. One was the graphic novel about Alzheimer's. Amazing piece of art, that one, and so right on. Though I don't post many comments, I am always reading and appreciating your insights. I know what you mean, though, that it doesn't feel like enough. But even if you set something in motion for one person, that's huge.

  2. Thank you Heidi. Your comment mean so much.

  3. I love that you went through her book point by point and adapted it to your needs. I didn't think to do that. I think it's great that your husband was able to tell you how he felt, and that you were able to take it to heart, and make some changes instead of getting defensive or tuning him out.

  4. It sounds like you have a great game plan for 2014. I've read Getting Things Done and making lists (the mind sweep) before I go to bed really helps me clear my mind.

  5. My heart just shattered for you when I started reading this post, because I've been there, had this same talk with my significant other, and I know where you're coming from.
    I'm glad you have a "game plan," but please do not a) feel guilt because you are not generally "happy" all the time or b) push yourself into being even more unhappy by way of forcing happiness.
    It will come to you. You deserve it. Finding a little bit of good in every day is a great start. I wish you the best!

  6. SO many things I want to respond to from your post but I'll pick just a few.

    First - I'm on board with your idea of "suffer 15 min a day." I'm not really a procrastinator when it comes to big stuff (like work), but things like fill up the truck with gas or mail my sister that letter I promised her...I don't know why but this quick task becomes some enormous burden and I put it off for no good reason!

    Second - I absolutely empathize with not being able to exercise or having limitations on your activity and how it corresponds with your mood. I went through this about 2 years ago. Very difficult. When I was able to work out again, I couldn't do anything too strenuous for my heart, so I did weightlifting with lots of rest in between sets, instead of running. Now, after years, I'm able to run again and am approaching it with fresh eyes. I appreciate being able to run. I never realized exercising is actually kind of a self-care/privilege until I couldn't do it. Thank you for reminding me again.

    Third - I do the gold stars thing. It makes me so happy and I know it means a lot to others. Even if my 24-year-old brother appears mildly embarrassed when I tell him I'm proud of him, I can tell he is pleased too.

  7. it sounds like the book inspired you to create your own goals and intentions for 2014 - 'nuff said!

  8. Wow, you certainly went all in with this book. And I thought picking one lesson was overwhelming! Good for you for being so reflective, but give yourself time to do all of this. That's a whole lot of change...and while it will no doubt be for the better, go easy on yourself along the way.

  9. I've been meaning to download her new book. I actually blogged for a year about my happiness project. I like how you adapted her ideas to fit your life.

    Stopping by from sits

  10. Nancy,
    The book was the perfect read for me this month and was actually very cathartic. I think the reason I was so receptive to my husband's comments was because I want and am ready to change.

  11. This book gave me a lot to think about :)

  12. How wonderful that your husband was willing to address your unhappiness with you! That's definitely true love!!! I hope that you truly get back to finding your happy soon!

  13. Savvy,

    A very brave post. I'm very proud of you for writing it.

    Can I gently suggest one other thing that you need to do for yourself ... a physical check up, including a really thorough blood test. Am guessing that you might be peri-menopausal. sorry, the word has to be said sometime. Some of the lethargy and other semi-depression issues you mention often go with that mid-life change we lovely ladies experience. It may be low estrogen and it may be low thyroid hormone, a combination of the two, or some other hormonal issue. None of us likes taking time to do this, but give yourself the gift of knowing that your health is good. A little tweak somewhere might really make a difference.

    And, if i ever hear of you WASTING 9 days of vacation again, i will throttle you myself. You gotta take time off, Girl, you really, really do. No excuses. At worst take every other Friday off from Memorial Day to Labor Day. You will feel so much better if you do. I promise.

    So proud of you.

  14. Kim,
    I should probably make the "mind-sweep" part of my nightly routine too. I'll be curious to see if it helps me sleep.

  15. Martha,
    Thank you for your comment. I usually feel guilty for taking time off and not getting enough done - so I don't think I will feel guilty for not being happier. I've been faking it and have to admit Gretchen is right - faking it can help make (me) feel happier. Finding a little bit of happy in each day does help too.

  16. i think you're totally on the right track, as everything you've mentioned is specific and actionable. i love everything you have to say on your blog and want you to keep it up, but please do take time for yourself and your family. xoxo!

  17. There are several things you mentioned that I need to work on, too. I struggle with chronic depression and anxiety and have been fighting both quite a bit this last week or so. I've been meaning to do a mind sweep (although I didn't have a name for it) for a while now. Thanks for the kick in the pants. I'll do it today.

    Best wishes as you seek more happiness. I hope your world is soon filled with sunshine.

  18. I took two full weeks off of work for Christmas and New Year’s. In the days before going back, my husband lamented that he wished I didn’t have to go back to work because I was so much more relaxed, better rested, and just easier to be around. Life has a lot of stresses in it, and sometimes the only way to keep from becoming wholly unhappy is to choose happiness. It sounds like you have some great goals, and I wish you the best in achieving them so that next year your husband can tell you how joyful you are!

  19. Jessica,
    I suffered for 15 minutes today filling out my expense report. I will be happy when the check hits my account tomorrow.

    Tonight I couldn't help missing my aerobic classes as I sat on the only bike available at the gym (the one that hurts my butt), but I am happy I worked out because my New Year's diet has not been going well.

    My husband got laid-off today. It's not a complete surprise and we are prepared, but still rattles me a bit. I just gave him a gold-star by reassuring him everything will be fine and telling me I am not worried.

    Thanks for the comment I really appreciate it.

  20. Beautiful post and ambitious, but reachable, goals. I think you’ll love the barre classes. Ballet is so enjoyable – I always feel 100% woman when leaving class. I’m kinda in the same boat with you right now, my husband just told me the other day the exact same things yours did. I think we, as women, try to do it all, all the time. No wonder we’re exhausted and teetering on the edge of a meltdown. I think your commitments are exciting and wish you the best of luck. I, too, am trying to implement some new goals in my life – starting with nutrition!

  21. Anonymous8:51 AM

    UGH I'm bad like that too. My fiancé just had a similar talk with me recently about spending too much time blogging and I didn't even realize why until reading the 5 Love Languages and finding out his needs are totally different then mine! Haha I totally understand that feeling!
    Make 2014 your year! :)
    xx Caitlin

  22. I just had this conversation with my husband, with the genders reversed. I don't know how to help him and he doesn't seem to want or know how to help himself. I may have to look into that book and see if I can get him to read it. I hope that you are successful with your 2014 goals!
    Visiting from ShareFest

  23. I read Gretchen's book a year ago and it is brilliant, simple easy to apply strategies and lots of thought provoking ideas. You know yourself very well and have an excellent plan to address the moments in life leaving you less happy.
    Be kind to yourself and take it in achievable chunks.

  24. Style Maven,
    Yes it did.

  25. Amy @Using your own words,
    To be honest all of the changes I discussed in my post are things I've been thinking about or needing to change for awhile.

  26. Sorry to hear you're not feeling up to par - definitely going to say baby steps and forgive yourself more than anything.. we're humans and have moments when we're not at our best, accept these and know they're temporary. Things will only get better - definitely laugh and smile more, life's too short to not do them enough. :) Hope you find peace and progress diligently with these goals you've set for yourself! Take Care! -Iva

  27. Melissa,
    I would have enjoyed reading about your project. If you read her new book would love to hear your thoughts. Thanks for stopping in.

  28. Midnight Cowgirl,

  29. Susannah,
    You've heard the phrase "Happy wife, Happy Life." I think my husband falls under that category. I will say I've been feeling better lately. All the family activities over the holidays along with the stress of year-end (my accounting job) always puts me over the top. This year I decided to just work and not use my vacation to attempt staying caught up. I ended up just feeling bad. I will have to come up with something different next year.

  30. Hi Webb,
    Thank you for your suggestion. Last year when I visited my doctor I talked about the terrible insomnia I had the summer before. She was 100% positive my insomnia was due to peri-menopause. I had blood work done at that time and discovered I am not quite down with all of this. Since I am still on the pill she will not prescribe any other drugs for me. She says the pill should be masking most of my symptoms. She also suggests skipping the low-dosage week when my symptoms are really bad and I have done that.

    I agree with you about the vacation.

  31. Catherine,
    I appreciate your support. I have a blogging schedule, but some times others don't want me to abide. It is my time though.

  32. I have been wanting to read this book. I was like you, burnt out in a auditing/ of accounting job and came home depressed and not wanting to do anything but lie in bed and read. I left my job and have been happier at home. Being a stay at home mom is definitely challenging but I am more active physically and feel its more rewarding than my job crunching numbers. I am glad you are focusing on yourself this year and being happier. I look forward to seeing how you are doing in your goals. I read Say Goodbye to Survival Mode by mom blogger Crystal Paine (aka money saving mom) and she helped me focus and pinpoint my goals. I have been working hard on them but I have not been blogging as much as a result.

  33. Robin,
    I've been reading your journey through anxiety and depression for quite some time. You are a brave soul and your honesty has helped me many times. Good luck with the mind-sweep. It continues to be a work in progress for me, but things are better than they were.

  34. Leslie,
    I think I will make that my goal. Just thinking about it makes me feel happier.

  35. Jennifer,
    "I always feel 100% woman when leaving class." - now I want to try Barre more than ever.
    Yes, as women we do try to do too much. I am realizing that more than ever. That is the topic of my book club pick this month. I am going to follow you and watch your progress this year.

    Good luck.

  36. Caitlan,
    It is hard to make 2014 my year when it is so incredibly cold out, but I will try. I haven't heard of 5 Love Languages. I'm jotting it down for future reference.

  37. Rabia,
    Thank you. My husband said the same thing to me - he doesn't know how to help me. I guess right now when I am under so much stress at work try not to add anything to my plate and help a little more around the house.

  38. Karen,
    Thank you for the comment. I've worked hard to know myself better over the past few years. Blogging helps.

  39. Iva,
    Thanks for your kind words. I do like the idea of smiling more and taking baby steps.

  40. Tanya,
    I can relate to not wanting to do anything except staying in bed all day reading a book. I did a pretty good job keeping up with my goals this month - except for the sugar that was a complete fail.

    I've been reading about goals as well. Only 8% of the general population can identify clear goals and only about 3% ever actually write them down. Can you believe it. I hope to write more about goals in the future.

    Thanks for the comment.

  41. Tanya,
    I can relate to not wanting to do anything except staying in bed all day reading a book. I did a pretty good job keeping up with my goals this month - except for the sugar that was a complete fail.

    I've been reading about goals as well. Only 8% of the general population can identify clear goals and only about 3% ever actually write them down. Can you believe it. I hope to write more about goals in the future.

    Thanks for the comment.

  42. You are right...what a wake up call!
    Did you ever try the Pure Barre class? I tried it a few weeks ago for the first time and I really disliked it.

    Visiting from SITS!!

  43. That had to be scary to hear your husband say that. I'm gald he said something and I am glad you came up with a plan.

    Thanks for linking up for #FlashbackFriday

  44. This post caught my eye as I just purchased this book on Kindle. I probably won't get around to reading it since my book list is long and my reading time is short. I'm looking forward to reading it though, so I was curious about your take on it. I love your list of ways to get happier. I have a few of these on my list as well, and you've suggested a few others that have me thinking. For example, I'm off to read your post on messy desks now. My desk at work is a disaster I have been meaning to tackle for some time...