It’s time to discuss The Happiness Project!
We’ll be voting on the PBF December Book Club book later today, but for now it’s time to dive into November’s selection.
This review is a long one, so buckle up!
The Happiness Project follows author Gretchen Rubin as she dedicates an entire year of her life to improving her happiness. Every month she strives to improve happiness related to a different part of her life (marriage, friendship, money, work, etc.) and implements small changes while documenting her findings. The author references theologians, philosophers, researchers and writers and includes detailed research to back up many of her happiness experiments.
When The Happiness Project was selected for our November Book Club, I wasn’t overjoyed. The concept intrigued me, but I prefer to climb into bed with a page-turning fiction novel rather than a memoir or self-help book.
Within the first 10 pages of The Happiness Project, I found myself dog-earing pages so I could return and reread passages. I was hooked.
Gretchen Rubin is incredibly self-aware and managed to write about happiness in a way that made it seem attainable. As she focused on clearing the clutter out of her life, I wanted to do the same. When Gretchen vowed to “be in the moment,” I wanted to focus on enjoying moments as they happen as well.
For me, the best way I can think to properly review this book is to share some of my favorite takeaways. When I think about The Happiness Project, certain passages and quotes jump into my mind. The takeaways that left a lasting impression include:
- Enjoy Now: We often imagine a happier future and tell ourselves things like, “Once I finish this project, then…” which causes us to focus on anticipated future happiness, rather than the joy we can find in our lives right now. If we can enjoy the present, we don’t need to count on and live for the happiness that is (or isn’t) in our future.
- Address Clutter: For some people household disorder and clutter can have a serious negative impact on overall energy levels. I am one of those people, so Gretchen’s section about clutter, while seemingly simplistic, really appealed to me. Implementing the “one minute rule” and vowing to tackle tasks that take me less than one minute had a shocking impact on my overall happiness. Our house is less cluttered and my office is more organized which helps me feel much more peaceful.
- “Be Gretchen”: Several times in The Happiness Project, Gretchen recognizes her personal struggle to “Be Gretchen” and her desire to find certain things that other people love appealing. Like going to a Knicks game. Eating dinner out at a fancy new restaurant. Drinking. Going to a lecture on international markets. She wanted her interests to appear more valuable, interesting, cultured and adventurous. Rather than wish she enjoyed these other activities, Gretchen realized she needed to embrace the activities she truly does enjoy. I identified with this wholeheartedly as I sometimes feel like my interests aren’t in line with my peers. To me, a quiet night at home can be just as fun as a crazy night out. I really value my alone time and get great joy from reading by myself or working on a craft project. It’s okay to love less glamorous activities and embracing them will only bring you more happiness.
- Give Positive Reviews: “It is easy to be heavy; hard to be light.” The joy exuded from positive people isn’t inexhaustible and requires effort.
- One of the Best Ways to Make Yourself Happy is to Make Other People Happy: And one of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself. “Do good, feel good; feel good, do good.” Cultivating generosity and kindness breeds happiness. Gretchen included this quote from Tolstoy in her book: "Nothing can make our life, or the lives of other people, more beautiful than perpetual kindness." It deeply moved me and weighed on my mind for days. Like I’ve said on the blog before, “I want to see and be the good in the world.”
- Spend Out: Gretchen discusses her tendency to cling to things, saying she would save things like beautiful stationary rather than use it. But how often did something extraordinary surface that warranted the use of the things she saved? Rarely. I noticed that I tend to do the same thing. I save a new top for a special occasion. I won’t write a blog post on a certain topic one day because I want to “save it.” But for what!? “Spend out” and enjoy the good things now.
- Don’t Expect Praise or Appreciation: According to Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, “When one loves, one does not calculate.” Don’t think about return. Giving without expectation creates a wealth of love and tenderness.
Blogger Link Up
You can find additional reviews of The Happiness Project on the following blogs:
- Three Men and a Mommy
- Steph’s Miles
- Hungry Healthy Girl
- There and Back Again
- In the Mixing Bowl
- The Saucy Apple
- After the Ivy League
- Losing Weight in the City
- What were some of your key takeaways from The Happiness Project?
- Did you implement anything Gretchen discusses in The Happiness Project in your own life?