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Rubin holds the keys to happiness

Published 4:16am Tuesday, May 28, 2013 Updated 6:18am Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Prior to the devastating tornado and tragic loss of life in Oklahoma, I did some research about Gretchen Rubin. She’s a bestselling author who receives rave reviews after sharing her tips about happiness as a columnist for “Good Housekeeping” magazine.

Among the lessons learned the past few days is that we should count our blessings, knowing that our lives can be changed in a given moment.

“A few years ago, I was on a bus and asked myself, ‘What do I want from life?’ I answered the question and decided I want to be happy,” said Rubin, a wife and mother. “I never had spent any time really thinking about happiness.”

She decided to do a happiness project.

Rubin pursued the subject of happiness with the wholehearted support of her husband, Jamie, and grade school daughters Eleanor and Eliza.

“My happiness project convinced me that it’s possible to be happier by taking small, concrete steps in a person’s daily life,” said Rubin. “In my new column in ‘Good Housekeeping,’ in my book, and on my blog, I write about what I’ve learned.”

She said that a myth about happiness is that it’s selfish to try to be happier. In fact, research and experience prove just the opposite.

Rubin acknowledges that families need to have adequate financial resources.

“But happiness,” she writes, “comes, in part, from how people choose to spend their money. Happy people spend more time helping others and are more likely to volunteer and to give away some money.”

Former Minnesota Vikings assistant coach Tony Dungy, who later coached Indianapolis to a Super Bowl title, said that money can’t buy happiness.

“I’d sit down individually with each of my players, from time to time,” said Dungy. “Many players, despite having multi-million-dollar contracts, weren’t happy. I told them they needed to establish some goals and priorities in their lives.”

Dungy has always listed his priorities as faith, family and football.

Rubin said that when she looks at people such as Dungy who are very high-performing individuals, they oftentimes tend to be people who are very disciplined. They make time for relationships, travel and hobbies.

To no surprise, Rubin says her research shows that happy people have stronger relationships with their families, friends and coworkers. They’re healthier, and they have healthier habits.

She said that happiness gives people the emotional wherewithal to turn outward and to think about others. Rubin said that less happy people are more likely to feel distrustful, isolated and distracted by their own needs.

“Volunteering our time and energy boosts happiness,” said Rubin. “Those who work to further the causes they value tend to be happier and healthier. They experience fewer aches and pains, and even live longer.”

Simple tips, leading to happiness, are part of her advice.

“I advise parents to get enough sleep,” said Rubin. “I’ve become a real sleep zealot. Getting enough sleep gives a huge boost for energy, patience and health.”

At a deeper level, she reminds herself that days can be long but the weeks, months and years are short.

“Getting from breakfast to bedtime on a Saturday may seem endless, but then kindergarten is over in a flash,” she said. “I really try to make sure that I’m appreciating this time of life. It seems like there will be headbands and crayons underfoot forever, but I know this time will pass.”

During a recent interview, Rubin was reminded that many people think of “being happy” as pure relaxation. An example would be lounging on a beach during a warm, sunny day.

“The key to happiness is really a mindful examination of your life, your values and your own interests,” she said. “You have to find the approach that works for you.

It’s up to individuals to formulate their own happiness projects.”

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