Small Actions, Big Results

My friend, Lea, shared Sarah Wilson’s blog with me. I don’t read it all the time, but I do check it every now and then, and I happened to check it Sunday. Sunday’s post was about the single most important thing—from Gretchen Rubin’s perspective—that one can do to increase happiness in one’s life. The answer? “Make your bed. Every day.”

I like the simplicity of this answer. I’m fairly convinced that happiness doesn’t come from making huge changes all at once. It’s a matter of shifting one’s perspective, which I think is often a very subtle thing. I heard a story on To the Best of Our Knowledge on NPR this weekend about fonts. On the show, Nicholson Baker, author of the article “A New Page: Can the Kindle Really Improve on the Book?” in The New Yorker last year, told an anecdote that illustrates how important font choice is. In exploring the Kindle, he read a passage from the same book on the Kindle, on his iPod Touch, and in the paper book form. It was funny on the iPod and in the paper form, but the joke fell flat for him on the Kindle. Baker writes in the article, “Monotype Caecilia [the font on the Kindle] was grim and Calvinist; it had a way of reducing everything to arbitrary heaps of words.”

Yes, yes, it’s a small sample size, isn’t objective, and I’m not entirely sure how a font can be Calvinist, but it’s interesting to think that something as subtle (so subtle that most people probably don’t consciously notice it) as font choice could influence so profoundly one’s experience of a portion of text. And Baker isn’t the only one who thinks that font choice can make a big difference. There was apparently an uproar of dissatisfaction when Ikea changed the font in their catalogs from Futura to Verdana, and a great deal of thought and consideration goes into choosing a typeface for books, catalogs, political campaigns, and websites. I just use the default font on the WordPress theme that I chose. So if my posts aren’t interesting, blame whatever font this is.

At any rate, the things that affect our perception are often much smaller than we realize consciously, and I think it’s entirely possible that doing something as small as making my bed every day could help me feel happier. I wonder what other small things I could be doing to up my happiness level…


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