American Happiness Project founder: Start the new year with a happiness audit — here's how

"Now is the perfect time to take stock."

Michelle Wax is the founder of American Happiness Project.
Courtesy Michelle Wax

In 2018, having founded two companies in the food industry, I was living my dream, but all the same I felt burned out and stuck. I needed to make a change. Wanting to know what other people did to create real happiness and fulfillment in their lives, I went on the road to find out. 

After six months of budgeting and preparation, I went on a three-month cross-country road trip to interview 500 happy people in 50 states for a documentary called "American Happiness," which premieres February 25. After my trip, and based on what I learned, I founded a new company, the American Happiness Project. 

Today, I run workshops and programs for companies, organizations, and schools to help people manage stress, increase happiness, prioritize mental health and wellness, and build positive habits, especially right now as so many of us work remotely. 

I recommend taking an audit of what creates happiness in your own life every three months. And the launch of this new year, after the upheaval of 2020, is the perfect time to take stock of what's satisfying in your life and what isn't. A couple of simple strategies, I've found, can make a real impact. Here is my best advice for doing your own happiness audit. 

Listen to your gut 

It's easy to ignore the feeling that things aren't right and to push it down because you feel like you are doing what you "should." 

Now, and again at the beginning of every quarter, ask yourself three key questions:

  1. What do I truly want?
  2. Are the activities I do each day aligning with what I want?
  3. What shifts can I make to start incorporating more of what I want into my daily life?

You can also do this on a smaller scale too on a daily basis.

Start your morning on your own terms

So many of us do this: We check our phones first thing when we wake up. But that can allow outside factors to determine how our day will unfold. It can mean we're starting the day off in "response" mode, which can affect our ability to set our own goals and priorities.

Try this instead: After your alarm goes off, turn your phone on airplane mode for two minutes. 

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Then ask yourself these three questions:

  1. What am I looking forward to today?
  2. What has potential to cause stress or worry, and how will I choose to respond?
  3. How do I want to feel at the end of the day, and what do I need to do (or not do) to make that happen?

Taking stock of these answers each morning is powerful, especially when you are trying to make a change. Taking the time to answer these questions will ensure you have a plan for productivity and any obstacles that may try to get in the way.

Set simple intentions

Set your intention for the year, month, week, or even hour by choosing one word on how you want to feel, or what you want to experience during that time period. When a less than great situation does come up, or you find yourself feeling less than great, ask yourself, "Am I embodying my one word?"

Bringing focus back to your intention in a simple way is powerful and ensures that you stay self-aware and moving forward.

Michelle Wax is the founder of American Happiness Project, which works with companies, schools, and individuals to create more joy and meaning in the everyday, and create accountability around prioritizing purpose and happiness across all areas of life.

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