Thursday, January 01, 2009

12 steps to a Happy New Year

As someone who's melancholy (depressive) by nature, but constantly struggles to be more sanguine (positive and easy-going), I'm always looking for things that will help keep me from slipping into the blues. This was an interesting idea for some things to try making your 2009 a genuinely happier New Year.

Read the whole thing at

Dorothea Brande was an American writer and editor, well known for her books Wake Up and Live and Becoming a Writer (a useful resource for writers, by the way).

In Wake Up and Live, she suggests twelve mental exercises to make your mind keener and more flexible. These exercises are meant to pull you out of your usual habits and to put you in situations that will demand resourcefulness and creative problem-solving. Brande argues that only by testing and stretching yourself can you develop mental strength.

Here are Dorothea Brande’s twelve mental exercises. Note: she wrote these in 1936, so you need to adapt of few of them.

1. Spend an hour each day without saying anything except in answer to direct questions, in the midst of the usual group, without creating the impression that you’re sulking or ill. Be as ordinary as possible. But do not volunteer remarks or try to draw out information.

2. Think for 30 minutes a day about one subject exclusively. Start with five minutes.

3. Write a letter without using the words I, me, mine, my.

4. Talk for 15 minutes a day without using I, me, my, mine.

5. Write a letter in a “successful” or placid tone. No misstatements, no lying. Look for aspects or activities that can be honestly reported that way.

6. Pause on the threshold of any crowded room and size it up.

7. Keep a new acquaintance talking about himself or herself without allowing him to become conscious of it. Turn back any courteous reciprocal questions in a way that your auditor doesn’t feel rebuffed.

8. Talk exclusively about yourself and your interests without complaining, boasting, or boring your companions.

9. Cut “I mean” or “As a matter of fact” or any other verbal mannerism out of your conversation.

10. Plan two hours of a day and stick to the plan.

11. Set yourself twelve tasks at random: e.g., go twenty miles from home using ordinary conveyance; go 12 hours without food; go eat a meal in the unlikelist place you can find; say nothing all day except in answer to questions; stay up all night and work.

12. From time to time, give yourself a day when you answer “yes” to any reasonable request.

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