Happiness Project: do or don’t?

Okay, it’s time for me to be brutally honest on this blog! I am a depression survivor, but struggling to keep up the good work!


More than a year ago, after battling chronic depression for years, I became housebound, on sick-leave from work. I was suffering full-blown panic attacks and depressive episodes. It was a dark time for me and my family. Every day was a battle to survive!

On the other hand, until then I had been able to battle through the depressive episodes by pure perseverance. I was hard to handle and live with during those episodes, which has taken its toll on my parents and sister. My final collapse, last year, meant that I was finally ready to admit that I was sick and needed professional help.

In the end, I am glad I collapsed last year. It jump started me on my road to recovery. It was a long and trying road, which I dared to walk with the help of family and friends. In the beginning, I was terrified to go to therapy. My parents or sister would drive over and accompany me to therapy. Just to make sure I went. Friends invited me over for dinner, several times per week. Just so I wouldn’t have to cook for myself each day. It ensured that I ate nutritious food and got out of the house at least a couple of days a week. I’m very grateful to all my friends and family for their support during those first difficult months.


At the end of August last year, on 23rd of August to be precise, I started in a therapy group. Going to therapy two days a week for ten whole months gave rhythm and purpose to my life again. It helped me get my life back together. I have learned so much during that year. I have rediscovered myself, developed good things and left behind some bad habits.

  • I have learned to no longer fear rejection from people in my life,
  • I have learned not to depend on what other people think about me,
  • I have learned to make my own decisions and to own them,
  • I have learned to be grateful for the tiniest things in my life,
  • I have learned to take life less serious and have more fun,
  • I have learned to trust my own judgement,
  • I have learned to get in touch with my feelings and emotions,
  • I have learned to use creativity as an outlet,
  • I have learned to live and enjoy life just for me!

Last year is a year that I’m going to cherish!

One year later

And now, a year later, I dare to say: I feel better than I’ve ever had. I have beaten the depression (although I’m still on medication, for now)! I’m back to work fulltime in my old job, which I love! And I have invited my friends and family over for a birthday dinner party next month, where I will be cooking for 20-25 people to thank them for their support last year.

Keep up the good work

But! I’m still struggling every now and then. Even struggling more now, then during the last couple of months in therapy. I’ve finished therapy two months ago and I was doing great. You could almost state that I was feeling on top of the world. Well, let me tell you, after finishing therapy and being back to work full-time, I have both my feet back on the ground, firmly!

Some days I feel great, but on others like today I struggle. This morning, after sleeping almost 12 hours (!), I felt very tired! On days like today, it kinda feels like the depression is back. It’s difficult to get up and to start the day. Why? What triggers it?

I’ve been thinking a lot about it over the last couple of weeks. I’ve been talking to my therapist about it as well. Apparently, it is very common to feel like this after finishing an intensive therapy. Big sigh! Relief! Okay, I’m normal, there’s nothing wrong with me! But! It didn’t help me feel any better this morning!

Okay, I know it’s not immediately a depression. Just a rough morning, a rough day. Tonight, I got my act together and cleaned my house (which was a mess!). This made me feel a lot better! And I know, tomorrow life will be fine again. So, the depression is not back. Big sigh! Relief!


During therapy, I had two whole days a week to spend quality time on me, on how I was feeling and how to stay balanced. Now, I work 40 hours a week, I started a goldsmith course, I try to meet with friends at least once a week, I still need to clean my house, and so much more. In the middle of that, I try to find quality-me-time. But it’s difficult! I seem to lose touch with myself every now and then, which causes me to relapse into old habits and rough days.

Yesterday was a crazy busy day at work. I was extremely tired when I got home from work, ate dinner and went straight to bed. Lo-and-behold, today I suffered from a relapse. Which underlines the importance of quality-me-time, of staying in touch with my feelings and staying balanced.

Easier said than done. Next week, I’m starting a mindfulness course. We will have 2-hourly meetings per week, for eight weeks. I will get 30-45 minutes of homework per day! Meditation and focus exercises. I hope this will help me find quality-me-time, even in busy times.

The power of goals

In therapy, we would set ourselves (simple) goals, that had to be achievable within the next week. Every week we would assess our goals. In the last couple of months, I focused on goals that dealt with quality-me-time. Goals like walking an hour before going to work, watching less television, having dinner on my balcony or reading a book every evening. Other goals helped me keeping my house clean, getting organised or getting things done.

I think the goals helped me staying focussed on what was important. I guess I have been missing these goals over the last couple of weeks. In a way, I still have goals, but it’s hard to keep focussed on them without voicing them explicitly, having no-one to keep me to them and by being so busy racing through life.

Happiness Project

A while back, I came across the Happiness Project in A Happier Emily and Happiness-Project. In a way, it speaks to me. It uses resolutions (as precise and specific as possible) to achieve happiness. This reminds me of the goal setting in therapy.

However, it involves a lot more, including setting personal commandments on happiness, personal virtues and a bucket list. I guess I can see some sense in setting personal commandments and virtues. They could be the foundation of my resolutions. However, for now it’s been keeping me from starting my Happiness Project. It just seems a whole lot of work. Why not just start with the goals?

What bugs me more is the fact that Gretchen Rubin (from the Happiness-Project) focusses on one part of her life per month. Setting monthly goals for only that area of her life. But how would you know which area to choose at the beginning of your month? I seem to struggle in so many areas in my life, going to bed on time, eating properly, getting into shape, cleaning my house, and more. My life seems way to dynamic to filter out just one area to focus on per month.

The strength of setting goals that have to be achievable in a week, is that they are meant to be simple and small. For me, it would be a challenge to set monthly goals without them being huge and enormous, and thereby very unachievable!

For now, for me, just goals!

Well, being indecisive about the whole Happiness Project, should not keep me from trying to set goals. I will start with just some goals for coming week:

  • Ride to work on my bicycle at least twice
    I do need to find a way to exercise, and this sounds like a simple and cheap way to do it
  • Sign up for an internet diet programme
    Over the last year, I didn’t eat properly and stopped exercising, so I gained almost 10 kg. Time to deal with this.
  • Write in my positive thoughts diary, every evening
    Last year, I started a positive thoughts diary, in which I write the things I enjoyed during the day. It helps me appreciate my life! I’ve been neglecting it lately. Time to pick it up again.
  • Start planning my trip to South-East Asia this winter
    The plan is to go to South-East Asia for five weeks around Christmas. I’ve been meaning to start planning for weeks now, but haven’t found the time. While I know I get positive energy from planning a trip.

I will assess my achievements on Sunday 9 September on this blog! So, you can hold me to them!

Your opinion matters

Have you tried the Happiness Project? I’m dying to hear about your experience with it! Did you like it? Did it help you focus on the important things in life? Did you alter anything in it?

Are you considering  doing your own Happiness Project? Why or why not? What’s keeping you from starting?

Please feel free to tell me about your experiences in the comment section!

3 thoughts on “Happiness Project: do or don’t?

Add yours

  1. A Happiness Project can really be anything that you want it to be. I was inspired by Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project but I knew I didn’t want to set mine up exactly like hers. First I thought about virtues- the qualities that I thought were most important to me. From there I thought of commandments and resolutions and tried to make them all fit nicely together. Honestly- I hardly ever look at my commandments. It’s the resolutions that are the most important. I thought, “what can I do better? or, what needs to change in my life?” and tried to come up with some simple and easy to follow goals for myself. The idea was that I could come up with resolutions and follow them enough to make them become habit. Really, my happiness project is just about knowing myself really well and choosing happiness for my life. Some days are better than others, and sometimes life can throw unexpected things in your way that may bring you down on your knees. But, in the end, it’s about making good decisions and living life to the fullest- so hopefully I won’t wake up one day with regrets.

    1. Thanks for your reply! I think I might try to find some simple resolutions which may be the base for my weekly goals. I know from experience that weekly goals really works for me. I just have to find the time to sit down and think about what areas in my life do I want to improve/change. And think up resolutions to make the improvement. I like how your resolutions help you to get new habbits! I wish you all the best with your project!

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