How Happy Are You?
Have you ever thought about working to become happier?
"There is no duty we so much underrate
as the duty of being happy."
~ Robert Louis Stephenson
Book Description (from amazon.com)
Gretchen Rubin had an epiphany one rainy afternoon in the unlikeliest of places: a city bus. "The days are long, but the years are short," she realized. "Time is passing, and I'm not focusing enough on the things that really matter." In that moment, she decided to dedicate a year to her happiness project.
In this lively and compelling account, Rubin chronicles her adventures during the twelve months she spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific research, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier. Among other things, she found that novelty and challenge are powerful sources of happiness; that money can help buy happiness, when spent wisely; that outer order contributes to inner calm; and that the very smallest of changes can make the biggest difference.
"...studies show that the absence of feeling bad isn't enough to make you happy; you must strive to find sources of feeling good." (page 113)
Gretchen Rubin's, The Happiness Project (2009 HarperCollins Publishing),was an ideal read before the start of the year but this is a book that could inspire any month in which you read it. Rubin begins her project by acknowledging that she is not depressed and has no reason to be unhappy. The goal of the project is to feel happier by changing her attitude not her surroundings. By incorporating positive thoughts and reactions into her daily routine, Rubin details her year of success and failure in trying to achieve happiness while things are calm in her life so that she is more prepared to deal with setbacks when they are bound to occur. Even the author questions her own purpose for wanting to begin this project. "Was I searching for spiritual growth and a life more dedicated to transcendent principles- or was my happiness project just an attempt to extend my driven, perfectionist ways to every aspect of my life?" (page 4)
Rubin's book sparked many to begin their own happiness projects during the year she blogged about the process and following the publication of the book. Each happiness project would be unique with the individual using his/her own interests to determine areas of focus. She outlined her project as such: 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.
For those who have previously read about mindfulness, gratitude or simplifying your life, The Happiness Project repeats a great deal of these techniques and affirmations. It is through her research of these topics that provides Rubin with a basis for her study. What this particular book does is to reinforce the concepts that you are likely familiar with such as thinking before you speak, waking with the right attitude, listening to what others are saying without feeling the need to correct or express your own opinions, etc. Rubin's project takes the concept of New Year's Resolutions further by creating a checklist for the areas in which she hopes to improve in an effort to hold herself accountable. "My desire to change was meaningless if I couldn't find a way to make the change happen." (page 287)
One of the most significant attributes of this book is Rubin's willingness to share details about her life and family with the reader. She doesn't always paint herself in the best light nor does she score herself perfectly on her attempts to change. She acknowledges that resolutions can be difficult to maintain, but she inspires us to keep trying. If you decide to begin your own happiness project, it may be beneficial to read other books on your spiritual inclinations and ways to be work on being "in the present." But if you are looking for a realistic approach to addressing areas in your own life that leave you feeling less than happy, The Happiness Project is a solid starting point.