The Happiness Project

April Fool! How a Prank Can Make You Happy.

My happiness-project resolutions include “Cultivate rituals and traditions,” “Spread family cheer,” “Take time for projects,” and ” Be a treasure house of happy memories .” This cluster of resolutions runs together—meaning that doing a single action means I can give myself a gold star in several boxes. (And, yes, I love those gold stars .)

Last year, I decided to start doing holiday breakfasts , so these days I decorate the breakfast table for each holiday. This is easy, fun, and festive. I also decided to start playing April Fools’ pranks.

Yesterday morning, I combined the two. Before I went to bed the night before, I dyed the milk bright green—in an opaque container. In the morning, when my two daughters were at the table, I got a big gasp when I poured the milk  into their bowls of Special K cereal. Much excitement. Then the green milk dyed their teeth and tongues green, another source of hilarity.

The happiness payoff was huge. Both girls got a big kick out of it; they were very excited to tell my husband about it when he came into the kitchen; they were very excited to tell their friends that I had played a real joke on them. The morning felt special and fun.

I took a picture, so we can remember this morning for a long time.

This April Fools’ joke took me about 10 seconds to pull off, but I had to decide to do it. Sometimes, even doing the smallest extra thing seems impossible, but it’s worth the effort. I constantly have to remind myself of the Third Splendid Truth: The days are long, but the years are short . I’m always happy when I take the time to observe a tradition, do a family project, spread a little cheer, take a photo.

Last year, I froze my daughters’ bowls of cereal—this year, food dye. Now I am officially out of kid-appropriate pranks. Any ideas? Please post!

* If you’re interested in volunteering as a superfan, to help me out with various tasks such as the early testing of my superfabulous new Web site, you can click here or e-mail me at gretchenrubin1 [at] gmail [dot com] . Just write “superfan” in the subject line. To those of you who sign up—thanks so much!