11/12/2008 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Why You Shouldn't Follow the Stock Market Too Closely

I'm working on my Happiness Project, and you should 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.

This has been a crazy week in the financial world. What's happening in the economy has consequences for everyone - for some people, very directly and immediately, for others, over the long term.

But no matter what it means to you, it's unnerving to see those stock market numbers crash down through new barriers, even when they climb back up.

On Monday, I kept checking the Dow number throughout the day. I realized that this activity wasn't useful, and it certainly wasn't happiness-inducing, but I couldn't resist. For the rest of the week, though, I managed to restrain myself, and I didn't check the numbers until the end of the day.

I drew a lesson from the contrast: don't keep checking the numbers. I'd been stoking my anxiety for no good reason. After all, I'm not going to respond to the information in any immediate way, and if my goal is to be a well-informed citizen, I can do that just as well by checking at the day's end to see what happened. Similarly, I'm avoiding reading or listening to the wild doomsday predictors. No one knows what will happen. There's value to reading a thoughtful analysis of the economic situation, but I don't need to spend my time listening to not-particularly-well-informed people speculate on various catastrophe scenarios.

The happiness challenge posed by the economic situation is severe, so it's a good idea not to add to the problem by constant, purposeless monitoring.


Interested in starting your own Happiness Project? If you'd like to take a look at Gretchen Rubin's Resolutions Chart, for inspiration, just email her at grubin, then the "at" sign, then gretchenrubin dot com. No need to write anything more than "Resolutions Chart" in the subject line.