In Dorothea Brande’s book Wake Up and Live, she suggests twelve mental exercises to pull you out of your usual habits and put you in situations that demand resourcefulness and creative problem-solving. Her premise is that people who stray from their routines, try new things, explore, and experiment tend to be happier than those who don’t. Of course, as Brande herself points out, novelty and challenge can also bring frustration, anxiety, confusion, and annoyance along the way; it’s the process of facing those challenges that brings the “atmosphere of growth” so important to happiness.
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.
If you’d like to read a more lengthy explanation of the twelve disciplines, or about Brande’s explanation for these exercises, go here and search for Chapter 11 – Twelve Disciplines.
Thanks to Gretchen Rubin author of THE HAPPINESS PROJECT–a memoir about the year she spent test-driving every principle, tip, theory, and scientific study she could find, whether from Aristotle or St. Therese or Martin Seligman or Oprah.