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How to Have Happy Habits

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"Heidi talks to strangers. Mommy talks to strangers. And I talk to strangers too!" These words were practically shouted by a friend's four year old daughter on her first day in preschool during the "Stranger Danger" presentation by the local police force.  We all had a good laugh (after a pretty serious discussion), but it brings up an interesting point: we become our habits.  "Haylee" was accustomed to interacting and watching others interact in a positive way with new and interesting people.  These social connections were a habit—a way of life—and it made "Haylee", and her mom, and me, happy! 

Could intentionally developing habits be a positive and productive pursuit?  I was interested, as even the word “habit” seems restrictive and boring.  Is it possible instead that habits are a way to cultivate freedom and redefine myself?

Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project and Happier at Home contends in her latest book, Better than Before: Mastering the Habits of Everyday Life, that habits minimize the number of decisions required each day. Could I tackle yet another school year, holiday season, or challenge at work with more enthusiasm and energy if I spent less energy on the routines that are the framework of my days?  I'm curious enough to try!  Would a close look at my current habits and what new habits I could form free willpower for a bucket list item or two?  Would making an evening ritual free enough time to volunteer more regularly?  Why are some habits easy to form and others seem daunting?  Why can I stay in the habit of regular exercise for over three years and then after an injury have a terrible time picking it up again? Rubin delves into these questions and more, helping me discover my unique style of forming and keeping habits, as well as taking a deeper look at habits that are so ingrained I don't even notice them -- like talking to strangers! 

Maybe if I did consciously cultivate new habits I could live life to the fullest with no regrets, like Jen Lancaster in her latest book, I Regret Nothing.  In her girl-next-door style of self-disclosure, Lancaster kept me laughing and crying while making me feel normal as I blunder through my days.  I long to be elegant and refined, but cleaning up dog vomit and hair balls doesn’t fit in very well with polished sophistication.  For stylish inspiration I’m currently devouring What Would Audrey Do? Timeless Lessons for Living with Grace and Style.  I’ll let you know, but at least I’m friendly to strangers like Audrey Hepburn always was…

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