Skip to main content

Book Report: The Happiness Project

At the train station on the way back from Massachusetts last month (which feels like just yesterday and zillion years ago all at the same time), Marc and I killed time by browsing the mini-bookstore at Boston's South Station.  Browsing bookstores is one of our all time favorite activities as a couple.  We could probably spend an entire day doing it and not get bored.  While there, Marc spotted a book that had been on a list of books I'd sent him to try to get from the New York Library before we left (where he had gotten me enLIGHTened).  In bright, lovely blue and yellow, there was The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.  I snatched it up and promptly spent the entire train ride reading magazines...my biggest travel indulgence.

A few days later I started the book, and had to force myself to make it last and not gobble the whole thing up in one or two sittings.  It's just shy of 300 pages, but compulsively readable.

Gretchen Rubin, Supreme Court law clerk-turned-full-time-writer, is a wife and mother of two little girls.  One day she realized that although she had a perfectly wonderful life - a family she loved, a career she loved, a life in beloved New York City - she too often let crabby moods or a short temper  or day-to-day sources of stress get the better of her.  She often didn't act the way she wanted to feel - which was happy.  Thus, The Happiness Project was (pretty much) born.

Rubin modeled Ben Franklin's Chart of 13 Virtues (google it to download a pdf example) to create a Resolutions Chart for herself.  She decided to make this project last a calendar year, tackling a different element that contributes to happiness (and unhappiness) for each month.

January: Vitality
February: Marriage
March:  Work
April:  Parenthood
May: Leisure
June:  Friendship
July:  Money
August:  Eternity
September:  Books
October: Mindfulness
November: Attitude
December: Happiness 
(or "Boot Camp Perfect," where she tried to live up to all her resolutions every day)

In addition to all this, she makes up a list of Twelve Commandments, Secrets of Adulthood, and, as she discovers them for herself, the Splendid Truths of Happiness. 

Rubin is a wonderful tour guide through all of her happiness research as well as through her own personal day to day life and struggles.  She doesn't shy away from her own personal shortcomings at all - she is nothing if not honest, which makes her very relatable, whether or not you share the same shortcomings, or even have the same lifestyle circumstances.

Certain resolutions, elements of research, and personal anecdotes of hers resonated with me more than others.  I went wild for January's part about Clearing out Clutter, because I have the same deep love for organization but struggle to stay on top of it during busy day-to-day life.  Just reading this book has actually sent me on an organizational tear of my own - throwing out, giving away, clearing up, and finding order in my own apartment has made a big difference in my happiness/stress level.

Although I don't have children, I was fascinated by April's Parenthood chapter, both as someone who works with children and as a future mother.  The dynamics of her relationship with her husband and my relationship with Marc are very, very different, so although it was hard to relate, it was still interesting to learn what her research showed her about coupledom and happiness.

As a former law student who is nothing if not thorough and as someone who loves organization, lists, and order, there are a lot of layers to Rubin's Happiness Project.  There are quotes galore about happiness and so many tips and tidbits that I feel I should reread the whole thing and take copious notes.  It can be a lot to take it, but the overwhelming of information doesn't slow the pace of the book or affect its compulsive readability, which is the number one element I reward gold starts for in the books that I read.

Another way to get more information, aside from just rereading the whole book (which I am seriously considering) is to visit her blog at http://www.happiness-project.com.  She posts daily tips and insights, and you can also email her to get a "happiness project starter kit" if you're interested in starting your own happiness project.  She recently just announced on her blog that she'll be releasing another book next August:  Happier at Home.  I'm already excited for it!

I highly recommend this book to...well, anyone.  Whether you're happy or unhappy, motivated or unmotivated, organized or disorganized, you will take away something valuable from this book.  Or at least get a few smiles of recognition.

Comments

  1. Hi Annie! I'm a huge fan of yoga and the Happiness Project so when I was looking for an image of the book I was happy to find your blog. I just followed you and I hope you'll hop over to my site for a visit, too. :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks Carrie! So glad you found my post :)

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

The Magic of Brain Gym

I cannot believe I haven't blogged about Brain Gym yet!  That is absolutely bananas, and also sort of great because after a few years of incorporating the little bits and pieces I learned from Shari (founder & director of Karma Kids Yoga and the only boss I've ever had with whom I've also done crazy things like the pose on the right, which she named "fart neck"), I finally took the "Brain Gym 101" course this past weekend to learn more in depth about the what's and wherefore's.

Brain Gym is a lot of things, but what it is primarily is a way to facilitate better learning through movement.  Although it started in the field of education and helping children learn better, everyone can benefit from it.  You may be reading and writing just fine, but do you have a situation where you struggle to communicate your needs clearly to a partner, a friend, a co-worker?  Do you struggle with random bouts of unexplained anxiety that you struggle to release…

Faith in Humanity

The oft-quoted Kathrine Switzer, long distance female trailblazer, once wrote, "If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon."

Marathon Sunday is always one of my favorite days of the year in New York City.  I've spent these Sunday's over the last eight years that I've been here as a spectator and cheerleader, both in person and on the couch in my boot nursing my injury last year, I've been a volunteer, I went down with other marathoners and marathon volunteers to Staten Island after Sandy in 2012 after the race was canceled - and I've spent the last two years fighting to qualify for it.

Next year will be my year, along with my 'sole sister' (I'm making it happen) and work wife Laura, so this year was another year spent being absolutely inspired beyond measure cheering on the sidelines.  Seeing the heart, the raw emotion, the joy, the pain, the absolute love from the sidelines and from the runners is awe inspiring.  Ye…

Grateful.

It's been eight years today since I've been with the love of my life.

A few months from five years married (Costa Rica, here we come).

Eight years and a couple months since living in the city.

Seven years of Friendsgivings in NYC with my chosen family.

Seven years of Karma Kids Yoga - more chosen family and buckets of kids.

Ten years since college; fourteen of the friendships.

One picked-clean, no leftovers turkey last night.  A table of desserts.

And in ten days we do it again with family.

This morning I'm tired, still full, and grateful.