Gretchen Rubin’s NY Times bestseller “The Happiness Project” (book review)
Last year fellow blogger Renee Schafer Horton wrote a number of articles about this best-selling book “The Happiness Project”, which of course piqued my interest in it. Click here for Renee’s articles.
Finally, I obtained my own paperback copy from Bookman’s Entertainment Exchange, and read it cover to cover in a day or so. There’s a lot to be said about the “pursuit of happiness” as after all, it is mentioned in the American Declaration of Independence. (“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”)
Don’t we all strive to be happy? Author Gretchen Rubin addressed this idea by creating “the happiness project”—which she says is “an approach to changing your life”. She advocates identifying what brings you “joy, satisfaction, and engagement” as well as what brings you “guilt, anger, boredom & remorse”, and then concretely making resolutions that will boost/bring you happiness.
Rubin then set up a trial yearly calendar of projects to tackle her individual resolutions:
January: Boost energy/Vitality
February: Remember Love/Marriage
March: Aim Higher/Work
April: Lighten Up/Parenthood
May: Be Serious About Play/Leisure
June: Make Time for Friends/Friendship
July: Buy Some Happiness/Money
August: Contemplate the Heavens/Eternity
September: Pursue a Passion/Books
October: Pay Attention/Mindfulness
November: Keep a Contented Heart/Attitude
December: Boot Camp Perfect/Happiness
On page 108 Rubin says that happiness has 4 stages: “we must anticipate it, savor it as it unfolds, express happiness, and recall a happy memory.” She also says that “novelty is an important part of happiness; it’s also an important element in creativity” (page 113). And she summarizes toward the end of the book that “one of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy myself.” (page 285). This last statement of course is based on the premise that one should love yourself first, then be able to love others.
This is a very engaging self-help book, with lots & lots of good ideas about becoming a better person and thereby becoming happier, spreading more happiness and good will, optimism, etc. I found some of her ideas well thought out and creative, in dealing with marriage, children, friends, family, career change from law to writing (as Rubin did), etc. Especially helpful in each chapter are her specific ideas of how to be happier, as in the March chapter on Work: “launch a blog” (we all did here at Tucsoncitizen.com), “enjoy the fun of failure”, “ask for help”, “work smart” and “enjoy now”. Truly the last one is a very useful Buddhist thought of being in the present and not worrying/fretting about the past or future.
One of the best pieces of advice I ever got in my past was to nurture an “attitude of gratitude” which helps me “want what I have” not try to “have what I want” (which could be too greedy in life). Thereby I have been happier with myself, my personality, and able to accept my destiny. And I also remember to be very patient as “this too will pass” no matter what is happening (good or bad).
For more information on how to be happier & how to start your own Happiness Project go to Rubin’s website, www.happiness-project.com.
“Don’t worry, be happy.”