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Katie Allison Granju is the married mother of five children, ranging in age from toddler to teenager. In addition to blogging for Babble Voices, she also publishes her own blog, Big Good Thing, and she works full time in digital media with a large cable network. When she isn't at work, blogging, or washing someone's socks, Katie enjoys working in her flower garden, riding her bike, and feeding the chickens she keeps in the backyard of her family's large and totally impractical, 113-year-old Victorian house.

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My Personal Happiness Manifesto: 15 Important Truths That Make My Life Better

By Katie Allison Granju |

Everyone has their own ways of getting happy. Some of what makes us happy is cultural. Some of it is spiritual. Some is material and some is utterly and completely beyond our control.

But I think the key to being happier for anyone, no matter what her unique life circumstances is actually thinking about it: what makes YOU happy?  What does happy even look like for you? Are you sure about that?

I’ve been doing A LOT of thinking about this recently. In fact, I ‘m even taking a couple of weeks of leave from my job – which is kind of a scary thing to do – to focus on this, among a few key issues that needed some of my focused mental and emotional attention.

After losing a child, particularly in a way for which I and many others blame myself in part or in whole, I have really questioned my whole reality.  When a child dies, everything in your life that you thought you were doing right or at least sort of right now looks questionable, and the things that once seemed dependable, sure and solid become soft and scary and kind of sketchy looking.

This is not a happiness inducing state in which to exist, and when you combine grief  and just flat out MISSING your child, longing for his company with this state of existential uncertainty, the idea of happiness as you once knew it seems totally elusive.

Or at least, that’s where I find myself these days.

So I have recently decided to stop battling the uncertanty and just lean into it instead, giving my entire life a Socratic once-over, a critical review. If I am going to be so uncertain of everything anyway, it seems like a good time to just ask myself all the hard questions I can possibly think of, and then be rigorously honest in facing the answers.

So one of the first questions I have been asking myself is what happiness looks like to me. I am not talking about the fleeting, euphoric happiness that pretty much anyone can achieve with specific one-off activities or chemical enhancements, but instead the kind of day to day, week to week, lifelong sense of general well-being and satisfaction that says “life well lived” to me.

And the “to me” part is important, because your life well lived may look very different than mine. But for me, it means a healthy family, a strong marriage, interesting work that supports us financially without too much money stress, a welcoming and cozy home, and the ability to make a positive, real difference in the world in a way that reflects my core values. That’s what happy looks like to me.

My definition of happy doesn’t mean never feeling sad or blue for a day or a few days. It doesn’t mean everything always goes perfectly. But it means that most of the time, in most ways, I feel at peace with my own behavior, choices, actions and thoughts. It means I am fundamentally satisfied.

After having Henry die, getting back to that place will be a choice for me. It’s no longer something I can just assume will happen. I have to make a “stay or go” decision with regard to living the rest of my life – surrender to the very real potential for grief induced madness and depression that often overtakes parents who lose a child, or consciously live every day in a way that staves the madness off to the greatest degree.

I choose the latter.

As part of my current life review exercise, I just re-read Gretchen Rubin’s bestseller, “The Happiness Project,” and I have been trying some of her exercises and tools for identifying and practicing happiness enhancing actions.

One of the first things she recommends is drafting your own “Happiness Manifesto,” in which you start by coming up with your own “Happiness Commandments,” of which she explains:

Consider phrases that have stuck with you.
When I look at my Twelve Commandments, I realize that five of them are actually quotations from other people. My father repeatedly reminds me to “Enjoy the process.” A respected boss told me to “Be polite and be fair.” A good friend told me that she’d decided that “There is only love” in her heart for a difficult person. “No calculation” is a paraphrase of my spiritual master St. Therese (“When one loves, one does not calculate”), and “Act the way I want to feel” is a paraphrase of William James.

Aim high and fight the urge to be too comprehensive.
I’ve found that my commandments help me most when I review them at least daily, to keep them fresh in my mind, and to do this, it helps to keep the list short and snappy. I suspect that Twelve Commandments is too much. Maybe I only need two, “Be Gretchen” and “There is only love.”

Think about what’s true for you.
Each person’s list will differ. One person’s commandment is to “Say yes,” another person’s commandment is to “Say no.” You need to think about yourself, your values, your strengths and weaknesses, your interests.


So even though I tend to shy away from exercises like this, I decided to give it a go, and create my own actual, written-down list of Personal Happiness Commandments. I have now been pondering and rewriting my list for over a week, and I think I have them where I want them – for the moment anyway, and I thought I would share.

Remember that these are highly specific TO ME. They aren’t meant to be applied directly to anyone else, or be taken as some kind of life advice.

So here goes. Be gentle with me, folks.



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My Personal Happiness Manifesto: 15 Ways To Be a Happier Me

Stick With Your Clan

I'm lucky to have a clan of family and very close friends - "chosen family" around me. We stick together and stick up for one another, and I am raising my kids to have that same fundamental respect for clan bonds. They are exceptionally close to their siblings and cousins, and that makes me happy because I know that as adults it will help to make them happier as well.

Now tell me; what are YOUR personal happiness truths? What does happiness look like to you? Do you have t now? Have you ever had it? What are the behaviors or thought patterns that work against your personal happiness?  I’d love it if you shared your thoughts on all of this in the comments below.




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About Katie Allison Granju


Katie Allison Granju

Katie Allison Granju is the married mother of five children, ranging in age from toddler to teenager. In addition to blogging for Babble Voices, she also publishes her own blog, Big Good Thing. Katie also enjoys working in her flower garden, riding her bike, and feeding the chickens she keeps in the backyard of her family's large Victorian house. Read bio and latest posts → Read Katie Allison's latest posts →

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10 thoughts on “My Personal Happiness Manifesto: 15 Important Truths That Make My Life Better

  1. SJ says:

    I like this, Katie. I think you’re on a right track.

  2. Korinthia Klein says:

    A very nice list. I particularly like the idea of trying to be the person your children already think you are.

  3. Laura Linger says:

    I’m really proud of you.

  4. geri a says:

    thanks for writing this. it has me a-thinking :) glad you are figuring out and writing down (I have to write stuff like this down too, or I forget) the things you have identified that help increase your happiness.

    and….since you asked….here are some of mine. i will say that the happiest I ever was in my life (so far) was when it was the four of us, together. hubby and me and the two kids. those were sweet times. not sure i will ever achieve that level of happiness again, without nick, but I will continue to try my damnedest to, as you said, stave off the madness. yes indeed.

    Happy when I spend time with people I enjoy (and that isn’t always family members, truth be told). Not people I think I should spend time with, but ones whose company I truly enjoy and feel energized and more alive being around.

    Happy when I am organized. I can take some chaos, but very little, it really gets to me anymore. Used to get energized by disorganization, “winging it”, playing it loose, now that just sucks my energy. Not in an OCD, can eat off my floor (ha!) kind of way, but yeah, no piles of papers or junk, things in their place, a tidy house, makes me happy.

    Happy when I don’t take myself or others too seriously.

    When I am not “shoulding” all over myself, or others.

    Hobbies, big source of happiness. Knitting, gardening, cross stitch, reading, puzzles, playing the piano or guitar. Always make me smile and feel good.

    Happy AFTER I exercise, and when I eat good food. Don’t do that nearly enough. But gosh, I feel good when I do them.

    And happy when I turn off the “why” machine in my head. Surrender and accept. Sooooo hard to do (for me), but such a sense of peace and contentment when I can. The words “I don’t know”, saying them, believing them, being okay with them, are so so freeing for me.

    Take good care. Enjoy your time off.

  5. Kristin says:

    Katie –
    I think this list is perfect — it could be a list for me as well. And, like Geri, I am so happy you are working hard on this side of things during your break from work. So far your time seems incredibly productive!

    I’ve been working on myself lately too, because I’ve found myself moody when I had always been someone who could let the little stuff slide right off my back and who could shake off the bigger stuff that I simply couldn’t control. But, wow. Things got busy with 3 kids and a full-time job and other activities I am involved in. What used to be minor PMS became so bad that I found myself reading up on PMDD. The number one recommendation to help with that is regular exercise. Talk about a light bulb turning on over my head.

    I had some health problems last year that made it difficult to keep weight on (I know…many people are saying, “Cry me a river!” But being underweight — and starving all the time — is not attractive or healthy either). During that period, exercising was not a great idea because it would have caused me to lose more weight. So I was only exercising a few times a month. But even once my health improved and my weight stabilized at a good level, I still didn’t get back into regular exercise.

    As of the past few weeks, I’m back up to exercising three times/week — cardio and weights. I have made it a priority and I am feeling so much better. The situations that have had me so unbelievably and irrationally upset for quite awhile…I’m letting them go, as I used to be able to do. My relationship with my husband is back at the level where it had always been too. I’m less snippy with my kids.

    Lesson learned, for me. Exercise –> endorphins –> overall better attitude in life and, yes, greater happiness too.

  6. Opus says:

    One of my cardinal rules is “Do the right thing” and don’t worry about what others think about it. If you’re true to yourself then it doesn’t matter how anyone else feels about what you’ve done. I think you’re well on your way to finding yourself again. Yay, Katie!

  7. Liz says:

    I was unhappy, depressed, immature, and a brat. Then I read the wise words of M. Scott Peck’s The Road Less Traveled and I suddenly became a woman at age 25, and ten years later, the words serve me every day. I thought life was supposed to get easier, and was bitter that it did not. But then I read: “Life is difficult. Once we truly know that life is difficult–once we truly understand and accept it–then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.” Epiphany!

    And my truths to live by:

    • “Delaying gratification: Sacrificing present comfort for future gains”.
    • “Acceptance of responsibility: Accepting responsibility for one’s own decisions.”
    • “Dedication to truth: Honesty, both in word and deed.”

  8. geri a says:

    @Liz-Those beginning words from The Road Less Traveled, which I read as a younger adult and reread recently, are very life and attitude transforming! Life is difficult, and yes once we truly understand and accept that, everything changes. I think so many of us, myself surely included, have a skewed core belief that life should be different than it is. In the recovery community, they speak of “accepting life on life’s terms.” And its terms involve pain and struggles, disappointment and loss, not only joy and success, happiness and gain. Every spiritual tradition speaks of this truth. And many times, life is difficult, not because we are doing something wrong per se, just because life is difficult. Sure there are times we can trace a difficulty to an action we have taken, but just as many times, in my experience anyway, there isn’t a cause and effect; it is just the nature of life on planet earth. Thanks for the reminder!

  9. CharmingN says:

    I’m the marketing assistant for Robert Scheinfeld, a NY Times bestselling author who just wrote a new book on how to be happy. It’s called “The Ultimate Key To Happiness.” It offers a v-e-r-y different approach to defining what happiness really is, and a very different step-by-step path to experience it all the time, no matter what’s going on around you. The Internet has gotten so complex. So many options. Can anyone here share ideas for how to get the word out there about this important new book? I’d love to hear your ideas. I’m sure there are tons of ideas I’ve never thought of before.

  10. icons pack says:

    Instead of criticising advise the problem decision.

    P.S. Please review icons

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