The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

Because who doesn't want to be happy? 

I rue that my daughter is growing up so quickly. Truly, the days are long, but the years are short. And if you nodded in agreement - even just once - while watching the video, then you must agree that there is a nugget of truth, so simple, so elemental, that actually feels like a kick in the butt. The Happiness Project Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun by Gretchen Rubin is a series of these seemingly common sense truths.

The book in one sentence: Gretchen Rubin embarks to find out what makes her happy, approaching it methodically like a research project.

My thoughts: Ice cream, warm and lazy days, new books, my daughter's laughter, that funny way the hubby looks at me when we have our own little secret - I know these things make me happy. But why? And why don't I have more of these happy moments?

I came across this book quite by serendipity while poring over at my neighbour's yard sale books. I went home with this hardbound for 50 cents. And I must say, it now is among those books - along with the blog - that gives me inspiration to purposely be happy.

So what does it take to be happy? I found it such a great idea to approach this often amorphous concept of "happiness" in such a stringent and rather academic fashion. Similar to bringing in professional skills into use for running the household - say scheduling or accounting - Gretchen Rubin developed a plan to be happy. Not that she wasn't, but she felt she wasn't happy as she should be. To help herself out, she devised Twelve Personal Commandments, honed in on Four Splendid Truths, and laid out a doable plan to work on certain things over a year.

Twelve Personal Commandments
  • Be Gretchen.
  • Let it go.
  • Act the way I want to feel.
  • Do it now.
  • Be polite and be fair.
  • Enjoy the process.
  • Spend out.
  • Identify the problem.
  • Lighten up.
  • Do what ought to be done.
  • No calculation.
  • There is only love.
Four Splendid Truths: 
  • First: To be happier, you have to think about feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right, in an atmosphere of growth. 
  • Second: One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy; One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself. 
  • Third: The days are long, but the years are short. 
  • Fourth: You’re not happy unless you think you’re happy.
Many, many, many of these things resonate with me. The above is just a sampling; the book abounds with small wisdoms that many times I was just going "oh yeah" - nod -"yes!"

For example "Spend out" - do you save your good china for "special occasions" that happen once in a blue moon? Why not use your china, enjoy them now? Or, take my once silly liking for faddish shoes ... how many cute shoes actually make it beyond a few months, and can I rant about how they hurt like crazy!? I've since learned to splurge on cute but more expensive shoes, and my feet thank me.

Or take "challenge yourself-learn something new" - I would consider this blog something along these lines. I started a reading blog to push myself to read books I would otherwise pass over. I have crossed literary genres, dipped into more non-fiction. This blog is a testament to my now immensely satisfying reading life!

I'm sure you could come up with your own examples! These is no one size fits all here - it's pick and choose what resonates and works for you.

I love how Rubin has been able to turn the spotlight on herself and can laugh at herself. I've come to love how she ruminates on mundane things in her life and get such great insights into herself. Small things can truly make a huge difference in day to day living. Her writing is honest, heartwarming and diary-like, never preachy, and always funny and encouraging!

As I don't want to spoil things for anyone, I encourage you to check out the book and her blog, which is chock-full of so many great ideas, all practical, all do-able ... and all up to you!

Verdict: Makes a permanent home in my personal library, along with Covey's Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

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© guiltless readingMaira Gall