The Secret to Finding Happiness This Holiday Season

One new book explores some simple ways to find fulfillment.

Tis the season for holiday parties: Ever been at a fun soiree, surrounded by great friends, interesting conversation and delicious food but the only thing you can think about is how fat your arms or legs look in your dress? You're not alone.

All too often, we women are quick to tear ourselves down and second-guess our smart decisions. We focus on and fear momentary mistakes rather than revel in our episodes of excellence, according to the best-selling book The Nine Rooms of Happiness: Loving Yourself, Finding Your Purpose and Getting Over Life's Little Imperfections (coming out in paperback Dec. 21st). The result: According to the authors, we often find ourselves stuck in a particular "room", during the course of our lives (represented in the book as a house) impacting our sense of overall happiness.

For instance, in their book the bathroom is about issues of health and body image while the bedroom is about intimacy (sex, love and desire) and the living room revolves around social connections (family and friends). For further insights, I spoke to the authors Lucy Danziger, editor-in-chief of Self magazine, and Catherine Birndorf, M.D., a psychiatrist and expert on women's mental health issues, about how to take control of your own happiness.

What motivated you to write this book?

Lucy: We noticed that a lot of women with everything going for them were still unhappy in their lives. So we started interviewing women, "What brings you down when everything else in your life is going pretty well?" The answers we got focused a lot on the conditions women put on their happiness such as "I'll be happy when... I lose five pounds/get rid of this cellulite/find a boyfriend/get the perfect job." We realized that a lot of women are getting stuck on a certain imperfection in their life, keeping themselves locked in one room rather than being able to enjoy their whole emotional house.

In your book, the bathroom is the room that focuses on issues of health, body image, weight, and aging. What kind of things typically go wrong in this room and how can women fix them?

Catherine: As a doctor I see women getting really obsessed with losing the last five pounds. If they are truly your last five pounds then it's not medically necessary to lose them.  There's a difference between being self-obsessed and self-preserving.

Lucy: Women spend a lot of time in the bathroom! I like to tell people to "focus on the floss, not the flaws." It isn't bad to care about how you look, vanity can be a great motivator, but you need to know when to shut the door so you can enjoy all of the other great things about your life.

You emphasize the need for spending time every day in the "tenth room." Can you describe this area and how do you do this in your own life?

Catherine: The tenth room is a place that's regenerative. It varies from person to person. The specific location is not important, it's just a place every woman needs to seek out to decompress. Writing this book really taught me the importance of making time for this every day.  

Lucy: I spend about 20 minutes every day doing something outside, usually jogging, to escape the chaos--that's my place.  The key is to take this time to ask yourself, "What brings me joy, purpose and meaning?" and then really listen to the answer.  Everyone's answers will be different but you will feel a real lightness of spirit. 

Women are so busy these days, what is your favorite tip about overcoming a perfectionist mindset?

Lucy: You have to ask yourself, "Perfect is great - but at what price?" Don't be a martyr.  It all comes down to understanding the "relationship equation."

Catherine: This equation is about identifying which things in your life are under your control and which aren't.  Give up on trying to change someone else - it won't happen - but you can still make the outcome of the interaction better by changing your response.

 What is the #1 thing you want women to know about being happy?

Lucy: Life is too short. Everyone deserves to be happy. No one is perfect! So, don't let one messy room sabotage the happiness in your house.  Focus on what you're good at. 

Catherine: You don't have to wait for happiness, you already have it in you.  Believe that.  Recognize it. 

How do you find personal happiness? Chime in below!

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