The moment Gretchen Rubin realized how many elements of a happy life focused on the home, she set about making small changes in her daily routine to help boost her overall happiness.
"If you're not happy at home, it's hard to be happy in your everyday life," says Rubin, the author of 2009's "The Happiness Project," whose new book is aptly called "Happier at Home." "Ideally, our home is a place that energizes and calms us, where we can have privacy but also engage with other people. If you're happy at home, you'll have a much stronger place from which to go out into the world."
We asked Rubin for some tips on how we can use our homes to create happiness.
Embrace good smells: "A good smell is a quick fix -- it gives you an immediate lift," Rubin says. "It's not like eating a cookie but having to count calories, or reading a book but needing time -- it doesn't have a cost. Just light a scented candles, have a bowl of fresh grapefruit in the kitchen or place lavender sachets for your drawers."
Kiss and hug: "People think we act because of the way we feel when, really, we feel the way we act. If you act in a loving, lighthearted way and kiss or hug those you love daily, you can really foster those feelings in yourself. As you're communicating these feelings to somebody else, that person will then feel more beloved. Acting this way will also help drive out negative feelings such as anger or resentment."
Get jumping: "Our home is the symbolic resting place for our body. It's the launching pad of all your routines. Your body is everything -- whatever you do your body will always be there. Any of the habits related to caring for your body, you have to figure them out from home. So exercise better and act more energetic. Do a few jumps a day. Literally. It will put a spring in your step and give you a quick jolt of energy."
Clear out clutter: "Living in a house where everything is falling into disorder can make you really unhappy. A crowded closet isn't a big deal, yet somehow it can weigh you down. Getting control over the inflow of 'stuff' of life will make you feel more in control of life in general. Make sure you only have things you need, use and love. Everything else you can get rid of."
Let go of tech: "Technological devices have a valuable role to play so long as they don't crowd out other things that are more important. You need to create boundaries so that technology doesn't invade your life like a weed. End the day with an emptier inbox and don't check e-mail at bedtime -- the stimulation will wake you right up. When you're with your family, put away your phone, iPad and laptop."
Create a shrine: "Making a sort of shrine -- which can include anything from music, travel mementos, photo albums or jewelry -- creates a specific place that is full of love. You may want to have a wall of photographs of your friends or family to remind you of the things and people that make you happy."
Go to bed: “Some people think they’re too tired to do anything except watch TV or cruise on the Internet and dedicate a lot of time to these low-grade activities that don’t boost happiness. But don’t let these activities eat up a lot of your time or you’ll stay up too late and wake up feeling exhausted. If you were too tired to do anything but watch TV, then go to sleep.”
Having a rough go at it? Karen Salmansohn’s “Instant Happy” ($13, Ten Speed Press) just might be the perfect antidote to any crappy day. With pages of short but powerful messages — Our favorite reads, “Spoiler alert: It will all work out for you in the end.” — we love how her positive attitude isn’t all that hokey.