Oh, Happy Day! That’s the song I want to sing when I wake-up. Unfortunately, most days I wake up singing, nope, nope, nope. Thus, I’m always on the lookout for ways to increase my happiness or my overall level of contentment. When Jenn from Optimal Actualization gave The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin a rave review, I immediately added it to my TBR. While not a life-changing read for me, I still found plenty of golden nuggets to implement.
A Quick Recap: The Happiness Project
After realizing she spent too little time focused on the things that really matter (sound familiar? yes, replies everyone), Gretchen Rubin spent a year improving her life and increasing her happiness. Each month she tackled new resolutions, like ask for help, while ultimately discovering that both big and small changes can make a profound difference. I enjoyed Rubin’s humor and candor. Sometimes she annoyed me, but I also appreciate her realness and how she didn’t hide the less flattering parts of herself.
A Cautionary Note
This is not a new book, full of revolutionary ideas, which is not a bad thing at all. I often find certain things resonate stronger with me at different times in my life, even when the concepts are already familiar to me. If you are very familiar with happiness concepts and want the latest and greatest ideas on happiness, this may not be the right book for you. But if you want a refresher or are new to exploring ways to improve your happiness, then this a good book for you. Also note, this is Rubin’s story so some (or many) of her resolutions may not reflect areas that interest you.
More Happiness Leads to a Better Life
These are the golden nuggets that really hit home with me.
Everyone Deserves Happiness
Rubin was honest about her initial guilt or uncomfortableness with seeking more happiness … is it selfish? Narcissist? She concluded it wasn’t and I wholeheartedly concur with her assessment.
Many ills and wrongs exist in this world, but my being unhappy does not solve those problems. If anything, it makes things worse, because when we are personally unhappy (which Rubin noted and I will stress is very different from being clinically depressed), we tend to be our most selfish. The woe me factor is high and we only see our own suffering. But when we are happy or content, our willingness to help others expands and grows. This served as a great reminder that wanting to improve my happiness was more than a worthy cause but a necessity.
You Can Improve Happiness without Leaving Home
I tend to be a romantic at heart, so I also envision growth happening at far-flung locales, i.e. Eat Love Pray style. And with no disrespect to Elizabeth Gilbert, most of us cannot go elsewhere to find ourselves or our happiness but must do so within the confines of our current reality. Rubin was in the same situation and wanted to increase her happiness without being uprooted, which I found refreshing and hopeful.
At retreats, I make grandiose promises and goals because I get caught up in the group energy and I’m also not standing in my apartment with dirty dishes on the counter and clothes piled on the bedroom floor. This explains my actual struggle with implementing the changes I desired once I returned home. Pie-in-the-sky goals no longer entice me, because I see the lie. Real change in the world I currently inhabit is what I seek.
Determining Your Own Happiness Commandments
One thing I plan to emulate is the happiness commandments Rubin created at the start of her project. These commandments acted her guiding principles and were simple but hard actions, such as Be Gretchen, let it go and so on. This resonated strongly with me because I am someone who follows the herd or is a people pleaser. This is a way to separate what I want from what others want/expect from me that don’t align with my happiness resolutions. My commandments represent me and act as my beacon. To shine a light on what I actions to take and to help me see when I start to fall back into old habits.
The Power Resolutions Versus Goals
I tend to poo-poo resolutions because no one keeps them, especially me. But Rubin did not create happiness goals and instead created resolutions, which initially struck me as odd until she explained that goals are meant to be achieved and replaced with another goal. Her resolutions, on the other hand, were not meant to be achieved once but intended to become a part of her DNA, so to speak. A core belief or habit that she did not do once but did every day, sometimes repeatedly in the same day to help stay/maintain/increase her happiness and the happiness of those around her. This is a radical shift for me and I plan to distinguish goals (which people should still have) from resolutions.
To Read or Not To Read? I Say Yes!
Most people could use a little more happiness in their lives but don’t know where to begin. Or even know if they should be so bold. I say you should be so bold because you deserve happiness. Everyone does. If happiness or contentment seems elusive, I recommend you read The Happiness Project. It definitely helped me gain some insight and look at some of my behaviors and beliefs in a new light. My plan is to create my own Happiness Project and I’ll be sharing more of plans and resolutions with you in the upcoming weeks.
Have you read The Happiness Project? If so, do you create your own happiness project? Are you happy with the amount of happiness in your life? Why or why not?