I know I'm not the only one who has done this, because I first chatted about this book before I ever opened the front cover. I was with my aunt and cousins for a weekend at the lake, and noticed a well-loved copy of "The Happiness Project" that appeared to have been passed around more than once. I asked about it, and heard rave reviews. When my cousin when was taking her turn on the wave runner, I couldn't help but pick it up and peek inside. I was hooked in the first few pages.
Gretchen Rubin does what many of us our afraid to--she admits she's not as happy as she could or should be. Instead of feeling bad about it, she embarks on a year-long experiment of sorts to see if happiness can in fact be refined in our everyday lives. I love the practical approach and real results. Rubin takes self-awareness to a whole new level and eliminates the excuses that are so easy to fall back on.
Rubin went to law school before becoming a writer and I can tell. The book by no means reads like a legal brief, but it's clear how much research and context she gathered in the process. She references a wide variety of people (authors, spiritual leaders, politicians) and time periods that really put this whole dilemma into perspective. It's not a new question and it's not unique to our generation. Somehow that makes it feel a lot less frivolous.
While the author suggests that the reader come up with her own habits or tendencies to improve, I found the ones she used for herself really hit home for me. Eventually, I do plan to create my own reference points, but here are the big takeaways for me, and the changes I've been working on to be just a little happier in my own life.
Be Gretchen: So simple yet not always our first inclination. Why not?? It's the effort to really be you. Let all the other things you think you should be interested in fade away. For me that means paying a little less attention to sports and not judging myself for really not caring what music is 'cool' at the moment. I like music but I don't live for it. That's okay. I can use the time to do what lights me up instead.
Blog: Pick a challenge! I told a coworker of mine that I know I'm not as hardcore as Gretchen because she decided to commit to blogging and since that day she has written six blog posts a week. What!? I did the same and so far I'm really proud of one per week. Baby steps. Details aside, taking on a new task can feel daunting but the rewards are many!
Friendship: Gretchen talks a lot about relationships, and how time and time again, research proves this is a major key to happiness. As an introvert with a job that requires me to be an extrovert much of the day, I am often craving quiet time. Combine that with my crazy hours, and sometimes it gets isolating. Making an effort to invest in friendships lately has *definitely improved my happiness. The phone calls, the texts, remembering birthdays-- it matters to people and it matters to me.
Declutter: I've been working on this one since I skimmed through Marie Kondo's book a few years ago. It really does make a difference! Again, I have an easy excuse to fall back on for this. I work in tv. I have more clothes than the average person. The lone closet in my apartment is more full than I would like, but there's always room for improvement. Getting rid of clothes you don't wear really does give you more options and a much easier time getting dressed. Take out a few shopping bags of clothes and I guarantee you'll feel lighter.
These are just a few of the big ones! I have also really enjoyed the podcast Gretchen Rubin does with her sister, who is a TV writer. (Side note: this has officially made me determined to someday collaborate with my sister! She's a doctor in NYC...hmm, what would we talk about??) Have you listened to the Happier podcast?
Let me know what you think of the book! Any lasting changes in your life since reading it?