The Happiness Project: A Week Of Extreme Nice
A few weeks ago, I re-read one of my favorite self-enrichment books: The Happiness Project. Written by Gretchen Rubin, the book tells the tale of a woman who dedicates a year of her life to discovering the meaning of happiness and the best ways to achieve it. Since the story became a New York Times bestseller, women around the world have created their own personalized happiness project. While I have not yet spent an entire year devoted to raising my happiness, I recently decided to take one aspect of the book and apply it to my own life.
Gretchen divides her year-long project into twelve categories, one for each month in her book, The Happiness Project. She dedicates one month to her marriage, and she works on specific goals such as giving proofs of love and ensuring that she and her husband fight right. One particularly interesting experiment during this month was something she called Extreme Nice. Gretchen states “it was an extreme sport, like bungee jumping or skydiving, that stretched me beyond my ordinary efforts, that showed me new depths within myself… For a week, I was extremely nice to Jamie [her husband.] No criticism! No snapping! No nagging!” (62).
From allowing her husband to pick the movie, to giving her husband a night off from undesirable household duties, Gretchen forces herself to remain positive, thoughtful and loving for seven days. This supreme kindness is a wonderful way to improve a relationship. One study states that 89% of people who incorporate three forms of kindness in their marriages for thirty days enjoy an improvement in their marriages.
The Happiness Project: My Week of Extreme Nice
A personalized happiness project has been on my To-Do List since I read this book. Unfortunately, a whole year of self-contemplation and compassionate mindfulness has taken the back burner amongst more urgent responsibilities like work, school, and family. A week-long experiment, however, was both appealing and doable. I was very curious to discover if it would improve my relationship and whether all of the efforts would be appreciated.
Over the past week, I have been Extremely Nice to my partner, Bradley. Gretchen recommends that you don’t reveal your experiment to your husband while it’s happening, but I’m horrible at keeping secrets. I informed Bradley that he would be the lucky winner of a Week of Extreme Nice, and I wondered aloud if I could go an entire week without doing anything that would frustrate or annoy him. He laughed and wished me good luck.
Since Bradley is an obsessive neat-freak while I am horribly messy, I knew that chores around the house were essential. When Bradley and our puppy, Dandelion, took a nap, I chose to do the dishes instead of joining them. This was a pretty big sacrifice on my part because family nap time is my favorite activity, and the three of us are rarely in a position to enjoy it.
For the first few minutes of washing dishes, I resented my boys for their peaceful slumber while I slaved away in the dirty kitchen, but my bitterness quickly melted away. I turned on some music and found myself enjoying a lovely moment of solitude. After I had cleaned the entire kitchen, I found myself moving over to the living room and tidying up there, too. Once Bradley awoke to a clean house, he was very surprised and thanked me for my thoughtfulness. The fact that he immediately noticed and complimented my efforts made it absolutely worth missing nap time.
On Tuesdays, Bradley works the morning shift at one restaurant and the night shift at another. They’re very long days, and he always misses his family very much by the end of them. Though I was exhausted from studying all day, I knew my partner would love a surprise visit from our puppy. I took Dandelion to visit his dad, and Bradley was overjoyed to have us sit on the patio while he finished his shift. The visit was intended to be a kind display of love for him, but I ended up appreciating the family time just as much.
Being Mindful Of Reactions + Responses
The most difficult part of Extreme Nice was controlling my responses. Sometimes, your partner just says something stupid without thinking or makes a silly joke that hurts your feelings. I can be overly sensitive at times, and I will usually be very vocal when Bradley does or says something that makes me grumpy or sad. This week, anytime he said anything that I didn’t like, I forced myself not to respond angrily. Of course, this is nothing new; everyone knows they should refrain from criticizing their spouses. It’s recommended everywhere from self-help books to Huffington Post articles.
However, it can be really difficult at the moment. So instead of simply telling myself to keep quiet, I actively brought to mind memories of our strong bond of love and connection. I reminisced about fun times we’ve had and the beautiful moments we’ve shared. I remembered all the reasons why I originally fell in love with him. This helped to enforce the belief that anything Bradley says comes from a good place (even his stupid jokes.)
According to this meta-analysis, the majority of couples experience decreased relationship satisfaction over the length of a marriage. An easy way to combat this dissatisfaction is to practice a Week of Extreme Nice several times a year. This experiment was an illuminating and exciting experience. When you wake up each day with a fresh determination to appreciate every little thing about your spouse, things run much more smoothly.
Refusing to allow myself to nag or to be bossy paved the way for an easy-going week with no tension or annoyance. Bradley noticed the effort, and he was grateful that I went out of my way to improve and lighten our relationship. I learned that an abundance of good vibes and love is well worth the little extra effort it takes to be continuously kind and thoughtful.
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