The Happiness Project Book Cover Courtesy of Open Table

Gretchin Rubin can just go ahead and be permentently on my list of “inspirational writers.” On the recommendation of a fellow-blogger, I just recently (FINALLY) finished her (arguably) most popular work, “The Happiness Project.” Wow.

I’ll be honest, I have tried reading this book many times. In fact, according to Amazon, I’ve had the book since January of 2012. And I literally just finished it this past weekend. So what was different this time? I honestly think it was just the right time for me to read it – I just started and couldn’t stop. In total, I believe the entire book took me about five or so hours over about a week.

My first thought to the book was that the idea of a happiness project was crazy. Sure, it sounded neat to accomplish something like that. But all I could think about was why Rubin was doing this. What pushed her over the edge into deciding that she needed to devote an entire year to renew her happiness?!

Turns out, there was no explosion – no massive bout of depression – no significant life event. Nope, she just thought she could be happier – that she wasn’t grateful enough – or truly enjoying this preciously short life enough (who else feels this way – show of hands?!).

When this light bulb went off, another followed: I could be happier. I almost instantly made a mental list of things I do on a daily basis that make me unhappy. From the occasional (or maybe too often) poor eating habits, to nagging for no good reason, to just me not being as happy as I could be.

As I continued reading, I found myself continually agreeing with so much of what she said.

 

A Few of My Favorite Pieces of The Happiness Project…

The days are long, but the years are short.

This literally couldn’t ring truer with me right now. All I can keep thinking is, is it really already approaching 2016?! Time is flying!! But there are those days that seem to drag on and on. I know, that I personally need to better learn to cherish the long days! 🙂

 

What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while.

Yes! If we do something twice a year, we can’t say that that something is a habit (a tradition, maybe). We need to live each day working to fulfill our goals! If we truly want to change, we have to make a habit of things.

 

To be happy, I need to think about feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right.

Again, the concept of acting the way you want to feel. To be happy, one must surrounded themselves in happiness. No this doesn’t mean you can refuse to listen to a sad friend or not attend the funeral of someone you care about. It doesn’t mean you can’t cry or be angry either. But it means that, like mentioned in Eat, Pray, Love: “Happiness is the consequence of personal effort…” To be happy, you must put effort into your journey in life – you must put effort into what makes you happy – ultimately you must know yourself.

 

“Happiness,” wrote Yeats , “is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing nor that, but simply growth. We are happy when we are growing.

I’ve noticed in my six months now (yikes!!!) post college, I’ve wanted to learn everything I can. I’ve taken to reading more and just want to grow my knowledge base. Growth makes us happy. If we are too stagnant for too long, well, life would be boring and hence likely cause unhappiness. How do you keep growing?

 

Experts say that denying bad feelings intensifies them; acknowledging bad feelings allows good feelings to return.

Have you ever tried to act happy when you’re honestly not? You may think you’re getting away with it, but it’s incredibly likely someone will notice… even if they don’t say anything. Unfortunately we aren’t all wonderful with our poker faces! 😉

Gretchen mentions an event where her daughter was upset. Instead of denying or saying “it’ll be okay”, Gretchen agreed “well that’s no fun.” And moments later her daughter was up and at’em again – happy as ever.

It works for adults too. If I try to hide or ignore how I’m feeling I’m likely to explode emotions at someone or something. No one wants this. It’s much better to acknowledge how I’m feeling and move forward. 🙂 There are days when I’ll come home from work starving and say to my other half – “I’m really hungry.” He knows this probably means my patience is low and works to help put together dinner quickly. (And of course, the next day reminds me to take a snack 😛 ).

 

A Caveat…

It’s pretty standard for me to finish reading a book, of course, have my own opinions, and then check out what others think. This helps me to put my feet in others shoes, as it were. In addition, it also helps me to ensure I didn’t miss anything. On that note…

“The Happiness Project” has mixed reviews. I thought it would have like 4.7+ stars. But in reality it only has 3.5ish stars (between Goodreads and Amazon). Why?

There’s an awful lot of reviews out there that give this book one star. When I saw this, as you can imagine from how much I loved the book, my jaw went to the floor. WHAT COULD POSSIBLY BE WRONG WITH THIS BOOK?! Well, many of the reviewers believe that Gretchen Rubin has a perfect life or that she pulled a stunt with this book or that “come on, how could a loaded resident of Manhattan not be happy?!” Or, they just didn’t think her way of measuring her happiness was correct (via charting and reflection).

My counter argument? Sure, Rubin may have the means, she may have healthy daughters…she may have it made living in Manhattan with a nanny and many privileges many cannot say for themselves. But why is it assumed that all of this would make her happy? Is it possible she had it all but had nothing at all? (as they say…). I am of the opinion that no matter who you are – no matter what you have in terms of money, connections or things – that you can be unhappy. It might not make sense to anyone but yourself…but it’s completely possible and realistic.

In the end, what makes one person happy certainly won’t make someone else happy.

I assumed the best when reading Rubin’s book, I looked at her as just another person, setting goals and doing her best to reach them. If I were to rate this book, I would give it a 5+.

 

Wrap Up and What’s to Come…

So, I immediately started devising my own happiness project. Initially I felt a bit lame – “I can’t do a happiness project, Gretchen already did that – and she’s famous for it!” As I sit here and recall these thoughts, I can’t help but chuckle. If something works for someone and you feel as though it might work for you as well – then hey, why not give it a shot. I opened up my computer’s notepad and started my own accountability chart. (Basically a chart that says what I want to do, how I want to do it and why it’s going to make me happier. It’s a document that defines happiness in my current eyes. It’s a document I intend to review every day, every week, and every month of 2016. As I went along through the book, I continued to perfect the chart – and I’m still working away on it!

Of course, my happiness project will be different than Gretchen’s. I honestly think it would be different for anyone who took a stab at doing their own happiness project, because we are all in different places and such.

But alas – I’m in the works of creating my 2016 Adventure to Bliss. That’s right. I’m calling it an adventure because I intend on carrying what I learn in 2016 about myself and happiness into the rest of my life. And, well, the word bliss is different – almost rarer. And it makes me smile just thinking about it. 🙂

I look forward to sharing more about my Adventure to Bliss in the coming weeks, months and into 2016.

If you haven’t read, The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin, I highly recommend doing so today!

  • I requested this one at the library after you were talking about it recently. .. it’s waiting for me now!! Even more excited after reading this review. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I’d love to hear more about your goal tracking and plans for the adventure to bliss! I might be following your example. ..!

    • AHHH!!! Yay! I can’t wait for you to read it Sarah and for your review!! Yay, yay! 🙂