A seriously happy pursuit

One of the gifts I received this Christmas is a book titled The Happiness Project. It’s a one-sentence journal meant to be kept for five years.

The idea of it is to help me keep a record of my life in the most manageable way possible. It’s a small book, just 4″ x 6″, and there are only four blank lines for each day. Although it’s rather daunting to me to consider five years out, when I generally try to look at the one-day-at-a-time process, the concept is intriguing, too. I guess I will get started on it and see how it goes, just one day at a time.

Sometimes, though, it seems to me that such projects, even when they’re for a happiness project, make one unhappier when you don’t keep up with it. So we will see how it goes.

It turns out that happiness is a rather trendy concept these days, and this publication is part of that, I figure. One of the current books is “The Serious Pursuit of Happiness.” This book, backed by more than forty years of research, takes the science of happiness and well-being and divides it into six approachable sections. Henry S. Miller, the author, promises that the book reveals everything you ever need to know to flourish and thrive so you can live the happiest and most fulfilling life possible.

One way to do that, according to Miller, Is to look at a strategy each month and focus on that: concepts like gratitude, kindness, friendship, and love. January would be a good time to look at hope and plans, for instance, as we head into a new year. Usually that’s called resolutions, but maybe we’d be better at keeping them if we looked at it instead as hopes and plans for the next year.

February would be a month to make gratitude your strategy. Feeling thankful for even the little things in our lives is important, as is the strategy of kindness. Then Mr. Miller urges us to adopt more strategies-one each month-of kindness, optimism, friendship, love, spirituality, health and fitness, contribution, savoring, forgiveness, and generosity.

Which ones are hard for you? Easier? Which strategies need more work? And which ones do you think you could tackle in 2014? It does make it a little easier to emphasize one strategy each month of the year.

With the buzz in our culture now about happiness, maybe it would serve us just as well to remember what Abraham Lincoln said on the topic: “People are usually about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

Still, as simple as that sounds, happiness looks to be a reachable goal for 2014.