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Gretchen Rubin

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Balanced Life -- Make Your Bed

Posted: 08/30/09 10:16 AM ET

Unmade-bedI'm working on my Happiness Project, and you could have one, too! Everyone's project will look different, but it's the rare person who can't benefit. Join in -- no need to catch up, just jump in right now. Each Friday's post will help you think about your own happiness project.

I've written about the resolution to Make your bed before, and I'm bringing it up again. Why? To my astonishment, when I've asked people what happiness-project resolution has made a big difference in their happiness, many people cite the modest "Make your bed."

Happiness is a lofty aim, and making your bed is such a prosaic activity. Why does it boost happiness so effectively?

From my own experience, and what people have told me, I think there are two reasons.

First, making your bed is a step that's quick and easy, yet makes a big difference. Everything looks neater. It's easier to find your shoes. Your bedroom is a more peaceful environment. For most people, outer order contributes to inner calm.

Second, sticking to any resolution - no matter what it is - brings satisfaction. You've decided to make some change, and you've stuck to it. Because making my bed is one of the first things I do in the morning, I start the day feeling efficient, productive, and disciplined.

(Now, some people say that, to the contrary, they revel in not making their beds. One of my Secrets of Adulthood is The opposite of a great truth is also true, and for some people, a useful resolution might be "Don't make your bed." One person wrote to me, "My mother was so rigid about keeping the house tidy when I was a child that now I get a huge satisfaction from not making my bed, not hanging up my coat, etc. It makes me feel free." Some people thrive on a little chaos. Everyone's happiness project is different.)

True, making your bed is a small gesture - but that's one reason that it's a good resolution. Sometimes the steps toward happiness seem insurmountable. Getting a job in a brutal work market, dealing with a troubled child, living with chronic pain - there are no easy solutions to these happiness challenges.

Especially if you're feeling overwhelmed, picking one little task to improve your situation, and doing it regularly, can help you regain a sense of self-mastery. Making your bed is a good place to start, and tackling one easy daily step is a good way to energize yourself for tougher situations.

What about you? Does making your bed - or not making your bed - contribute in a small way to your happiness? Or have you found other manageable resolutions that have brought more happiness than you would've expected?

* I send out short monthly newsletters that highlight the best of the previous month's posts to about 26,000 subscribers. If you'd like to sign up, click here or email me at grubin, then the "at" sign, then gretchenrubin dot com. (sorry about that weird format - trying to to thwart spammers.) Just write "newsletter" in the subject line. It's free.


 
 
 

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