Book Review - The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

 A great read...

A great read...

This is a non-fiction book of one woman’s one-year happiness project. The author set out to “get happier” and documented what she found as a mom of two young kids, a wife, a daughter, and a writer. Ms. Rubin is very organized about her process and set it up month by month with various resolutions and her twelve commandments. She used Benjamin Franklin as her inspiration as he came up with a Resolutions Chart that he lived by.

We get to follow her through each month as she moves through marriage, friendships, energy, money, etc. while she sprinkles in the latest research in that area and in the broad subject of happiness. I really enjoyed her down-to-earth style and her willingness to let us peek into her not always perfect life. Ms. Rubin returns again and again to her twelve commandments throughout the journey to further expand on her definitions of these fun and inspiring notions. Here’s the list:

  1. Be Gretchen.

  2. Let it go.

  3. Act the way I want to feel.

  4. Do it now.

  5. Be polite and be fair.

  6. Enjoy the process.

  7. Spend out.

  8. Identify the problem.

  9. Lighten up.

  10. Do what ought to be done.

  11. No calculation.

  12. There is only love.

In just reading this book (and I admit I am not even finished with it yet), I have felt happier because I am more focused and have set the intention to be happier. I find myself letting go and being more playful. I find myself more ready to be myself and not what I think others want me to be. This book helped me focus on my own unique journey and determine what is important to me through her own example. I also used one of her suggestions. She said that we are happier when we are more socially active and that to increase her happiness, she started a book club. So, guess what? So did I.

 I was inspired to start my own book club after reading The Happiness Project...

I was inspired to start my own book club after reading The Happiness Project...

One resolution I really connected with was to be a “treasure house of happy memories.” To her this meant, keeping scrapbooks with her kid’s photos and special events. She also started a memory box for each girl with various school projects, tickets to events, and mementos. I liked watching her progress to follow her resolution. It got me to thinking about how I’d like to be better at this for my family. I’m a bit behind on my tradition of writing a birthday letter every year to my son. It’s a very loving letter that describes the past year of his life and what he loved and did and participated in. I’m about six months behind on this year’s letter. Guess that is going on my to do list after I finish this.

I think it’s a great idea to have a theme of the month during the year when we focus on different areas of our lives. It gives us some structure and relieves us of guilt. If January is the clean-up and organize month, then we don’t feel guilty about the mess we have in the closet because we know we’ll get to it then. We just have to make sure we do get to it. And February is a good month for working on our marriages and relationships as Ms. Rubin points out because of Valentine’s Day. You can begin to come up with your own structure which I find helpful. Not everyone’s resolution list or monthly themes will look the same. We all have different things we are working on and that is what gives us a bit of variety.

 How to have more fun...

How to have more fun...

Most recently, I keep thinking about her research into three types of fun: challenging fun, accommodating fun, and relaxing fun. As she writes, “Challenging fun is the most rewarding but also the most demanding. It can create frustration, anxiety, and hard work. It often requires errands. It takes time and energy. In the end, however, it pays off with the most satisfying fun.” Some examples are learning a new language or starting a new hobby or just trying something new that is not particularly easy. It’s a challenge.

Accommodating fun is when you plan something like a family trip to the park. It’s really more fun for your kids but you are all hopefully going to have a little fun. Or it could be planning a dinner out with friends but you have to give and take on dates and restaurant choices, etc. to get to the fun part. Relaxing fun is watching television. It requires very little energy and is mildly entertaining. I need to this less. Her research showed that challenging fun and accommodating fun “bring more happiness” over the long run. It’s an interesting thought when you are considering your next move in your own road to happiness. It’s made me more conscious of how I’m spending my time which is a good thing and this book is full of good things.

I highly recommend the book, The Happiness Project, as it gets you thinking about what really does make you happy from the little things to the big things and all of those in between.