Tuesday, June 4, 2013

"The Happiness Project" by Gretchen Rubin

I would never have read The Happiness Project if it hadn't been for Danielle at the WXROZ blog.  She picked it for her blog's book club, and I've never belonged to a book club, so I thought that might be a fun way to try one out, one where I didn't have to attend meetings, lol.  So anyway, if you want to join us and discuss this book too, go here.  You can read our chapter-by-chapter comments there, and respond yourself if you're reading this.  

I'll just do a quick review here, then, and mention a few of the things I found helpful or enlightening.

Gretchen Rubin decided she wanted to be happier, and she set about learning about happiness and creating a detailed regimen for changing things in her life.  She figured that, by being happier herself, she would boost the happiness of those around her, especially her husband and two young daughters.  She admits that spending so much time on her own happiness felt a little selfish, and there were times when I did think she was kinda self-absorbed.  But she seemed to spend a lot of time and energy sharing her findings to help others be happy too, so good for her.

I don't know that I've read any self-help books since my freshman year of college.  I didn't care for the ones I read, and I'm not dissatisfied with anything to the extent that I'd seek the advice of strangers.  I've read a couple books on parenting by Dr. James Dobson, but that's as close as I've come.  However, I was pleasantly surprised to find some helpful ideas in this book.  

One thing that she suggested was, when you find a little task that would take less than a minute, don't put it off.  I've started doing that, saying to myself, "Will this take less than a minute?  Then do it!"  My house is less messy as a result.  I put away the shoes on the floor or change out the dirty towel, rather than say, "Oh, I don't have time."  She also suggested making an effort to smile more, especially when talking to people.  I've tried that for three days now, particularly when interacting with my kids, and I feel like I've been nicer and less irritable.  

Rubin also talked about her collection of True Rules -- an "idiosyncratic collection of principles" (pg. 241) -- that she has used all her life to respond to various situations.  She realized some were more helpful than others, and tried to stop using unhelpful ones.  I'm trying to figure out what my own True Rules are, and maybe I'll post them here some time, just for fun.  Rubin's were things like, "I know as much as most people" and "Never eat hors d'oeuvres, and never eat anything at a children's party."  (pg. 241)  Mine are very different, but the idea is the same -- little sayings I use to respond to things, mentally, as ways to get through things.

So, anyway, I'm glad I read this book because it had some good ideas, but I'm not inspired to start my own Happiness Project.  

Particularly Good Bits:

"Whatever love I might feel in my heart, others will see only my actions."  (pg. 55)

"Although enthusiasm seems easy and undiscriminating, in fact, it's much harder to embrace something than to disdain it.  It's riskier."  (pg. 268)

"A willingness to be pleased requires modesty and even innocence -- easy to deride as mawkish and sentimental."  (pg. 269)


  1. Wonderful review, so glad you enjoyed it! I don't think I'd start a detailed happiness project like Rubin did myself, but I see implementing some of the ideas she talks about, in my own life, as a sort of happiness project! One that doesn't have a time limit!

    1. What are some of the things you're implementing? If you don't mind sharing, that is. I know you mentioned on your blog that you're no longer going to feel obliged to finish reading books you don't enjoy, which I can see would be a huge happiness booster right there :-)

      I just realized I've also picked up her idea of "Do the next useful thing," or however she phrased that. When you don't know what you should do next, just start the task nearest at hand. I find that to be sensible, especially when you have kids.

    2. Yes, something on the lines of "do what ought to be done" has been one that's given me the motivation to do a task myself right then instead of procrastinating or nagging my husband to do it.

      Some things I want to implement are de-cluttering and organizing, I think this will be a huge happiness booster for me. We're moving in a month, though, so I have to wait until after we move to do this one. Also, making time for hobbies I enjoy, but letting go of hobbies I don't really like. This is going to result in me getting rid of a lot of stuff I've been holding onto that I just don't use - another de-cluttering thing.

      Another thing is making a better effort to connect with friends, and even trying to make new friends. This is another thing I'm going to try to do post move, perhaps as we check out churches in the area.

      Also, not nagging is something I'm trying to work on.

      One of her commandments was to "Be Gretchen" and that's one thing I'm working on as well is being myself and making sure my life is authentic.

      So those are some things that I'm implementing! Or will soon try to implement.

    3. Moving is the ideal time to declutter! As you pack, you reevaluate everything you own and whether you really need it or not. I always get rid of tons of stuff when I move, first when I pack, and then when I unpack and stuff doesn't work in my new digs.

      I'm pleased to say that I have made three new friends in two years, which is pretty awesome since I'm inclined to keep to myself. All through church, so I hope the same works for you!

      As Polonius says in Hamlet, "To thine own self be true, and it shall follow as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man." Every time she said, "Be Gretchen," I thought of that line. Always a good thing to strive for!

  2. I have never heard of this book, but its premise is certainly a good one. We might think that we would only be happy if such-and-such happens---some life-changing, miraculous thing which may not ever occur. Instead, we need to take stock of what we do have, enjoy those things, and do what we can to change what we want to change. Boosting our own happiness in the life we are currently living will undoubtedly positively affect those around us.

    1. As it says in First Timothy, "Godliness with contentment is great gain." I actually thought of that a lot during this book, wondering if she would become more contented with her life or more discontented during her project.


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