To set ambitious goals and make big plans, we must first and foremost have the energy to see it all through. Right? So, quite logically, January in Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project tackles how to boost our energy levels.
And three words stood out to me after reading this chapter: “Act as if.”
Want to boost your energy levels? Act more energetically.
My therapist’s favorite thing to say to me was “Act as if.” I could have strangled her the first few times she said it. To me, “Act as if” wasn’t digging into the root cause of my anxiety or anger or depression. “Act as if” sounded like, “I don’t know what your problem is, but please just pretend you’re normal so everyone around you can be more comfortable.”
Yup, needless to say, I was skeptical.
But fast forward a smidge to now, and here I am, motivated by the numerological magic of the year 2020, excitedly diving into one of my book club picks, The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, and what slaps me in the face without even a warning in the very first chapter?
“Act as if.”
We don’t act the way we feel–we actually feel the way we act.
Gretchen Rubin sums up her happiness research this way: “Although we presume that we act because of the way we feel, in fact we often feel because of the way we act.” What does this mean? It means if you smile even though you’re bummed out, you may start to cheer up. If you act confident even though you want to pee your pants, you may calm down. Or, as my mother used to insist (turns out she’s wise as hell, that one, although tell her I said that and I will deny it to my grave), dress up on sick days—no sweatpants allowed!—and you may experience fewer aches and pains and general ickiness.
Fake it ‘til you make it. In other words, act as if. If you want to boost your energy levels, act as if you have more energy, and the energy will come.
The brat in me wants to scream, “But I don’t want to act energized. I want to feel energized! Does it look like I’m here for acting lessons?”
But the adult in me takes a deep breath and wonders, “What are the chances that my mother, my therapist, Gretchen Rubin, and all the other happiness researchers have it wrong in exactly the same way?”
We can control our actions more easily than our feelings.
What finally won me over was the logical rationale behind acting as if given by philosopher and psychologist William James: “Action seems to follow feeling, but really action and feeling go together and by regulating the action, which is under the more direct control of the will, we can indirectly regulate the feeling, which is not.”
So fine. Since I’ve been feeling pretty low-energy (I can barely make it to 9:00 pm some nights!), I will act as if I am more energetic. Just to see what happens.
My two resolutions for January
More specifically, here are my two resolutions designed to boost my energy levels, in case you’re curious or want ideas:
1. Fifteen-minute morning walk
I will go on a brisk fifteen-minute walk first thing each morning, just to get my blood flowing. No snoozing then checking Instagram for twenty minutes. No lying still and pretending I’m still asleep lest my dog catch on and start whining to be taken out. When my alarm goes off at 7:00 am, I will get up and go for a quick walk around the block.
2. Stop asking husband to bring me things.
I will stop asking my husband to bring me things. You know the feeling. You finally plop down on the couch with a glass of wine and you realize you left the Apple TV remote on the dining table. Or you finally climb into bed and realize your phone is still in the living room. No more shouting “Can you do me the biggest favor, babe?” from room to room. My ass is winning this year’s Oscar for Most Energetic Performance in a Leading Role and getting it myself.
What about you? Are you adopting any of Gretchen’s (or my?) ideas, or does energizing look completely different for you? I want to hear all about it!
Want your own Resolutions Chart?
As a special treat, I’ve created a blank Resolutions Chart for you so you can keep yourself accountable and track your progress for the next six months! Just click on the link below to download a printer-friendly Resolutions Chart for January through June of 2020.
My Resolutions Chart follows Gretchen’s system: You have a couple lines for a couple energy-related resolutions in January. Then, in February, you would ideally carry over those two resolutions from the previous month and add a new one. In March, you would carry over the previous three and add a fourth one, etc.
Then, next to each resolution, you get 31 boxes for each day of the month so you can give yourself a check mark or a happy face or a gold star or whatever system you want to use to track your progress.
Let me know what resolutions are going on your chart for January. And if you print out a chart, I’d love to see it on Instagram! Tag @happyasannie and use #bestlifebookclub on your photos.