The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

Monday, July 16, 2012

Title: The Happiness Project
Subtitle: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun
Author: Gretchen Rubin
Pages: 292
Genre: Non-Fiction; Memoir; Psychology
Publisher: Harper (Harper Collins)
Pub. Date: December 29, 2009 (hardcover); March 1, 2011 (paperback);


The concept of happiness and how to achieve it has always been of interest to me. But I hesitated to read this when it first came out because I feared it would be too arbitrary or too personalized to the author and not enough practical information for the casual reader. I wanted to read about application of general ideas that I could apply to myself and not just a memoir. And a quick peek through the book showed me she focused on things I couldn't apply to myself such as parenting. But it's been on my mind ever since. And I decided that at this point, working as a therapist, I did have a good enough understanding of the concept and self-awareness that I could enjoy this book regardless. But then, in the end, I really enjoyed this book and found myself actually thinking about how I could apply the information to myself or what I would do with my own happiness project.

Rubin discusses in the beginning that she isn't depressed or necessarily even sad. She just wanted to find ways to improve her well-being overall. She didn't feel the need for therapy or anything like that. She just wanted to make small changes. So after researching the topic, she chose main themes to focus on each month and then broke that theme up into specific tasks she wanted to focus on. She added on each month to what she was already doing and kept a resolution chart throughout the year to help monitor herself each day. She chose differing themes that focused on behavior, physical well-being, and on cognitive processes as all good changes in self should.

It was amusing to read about her experiences and thoughts as she tried to maintain her resolutions. She seems like a really Type-A person as well as someone who was easily irritated which is opposite my temperament, so it was interesting to see how she incorporated these changes into her life and reacted to them. She included a lot of research, some that was more common and some things which I hadn't read. And I liked how she pulled everything together at the end both in the book and for herself.

I would say this was an entertaining read but it was also inspirational and made me think. It made me think about what my own resolutions would be (as opposed to goals, the difference which she astutely discusses). The first chapter, January, which focused on boosting her energy was significant to me because this is something I've struggled with lately and I know is something that would improve my happiness. (Although I am happy, in general). And for this specific chapter, I found the specific ideas would benefit me. In fact, (though I'd already been thinking about it for a while) I was inspired to go sign up for a gym. (I have an incredibly bad record with gyms and throwing money down the drain, almost literally, but I'm going to give it a go again). And her discussions about sleep hit home for me because I certainly don't get enough of that.

The only thing I didn't care for was that the author included some blog comments (from her blog www.happiness-project.com) to add support to what she was saying, but I found these unnecessary. I thought her arguments were plenty and didn't need the additional support or ideas; a quick mention from her would have sufficed if it was a pertinent point.

In the end, The Happiness Project reminded me that I am actually happy in my life and served as a reminder for the few areas I could improve upon. It also inspired me to put some more thought into these things and maybe create for myself my own version of a happiness project. This is definitely a book I will share with or recommend to others. It would make a great companion for anyone in therapy to discuss with their therapist as well... ;)


6 comments:

Audra said...

Interesting! Like you, my initial response to the premise was a bit dubious -- but I'm curious now. I appreciate your honest thoughts on this one -- it's not the kind of book I'd normally pick up but I'm intrigued now!

Zibilee said...

I would like to read this one soon, as I am struggling between finding peace and happiness in my life, and not really finding many helpful tactics. It seems like this book would be helpful to a bevy of readers, both those who are relatively happy, and those who are seeking happiness. It seems like a really cool and goal oriented book, and I am glad that it made you think deeply about your life. I liked the points you made about how you are basically happy, you are just looking to enrich that. Fantastic review today. I am eager to grab this one for myself and give it a try after reading your thoughts. :)

Ti said...

I am a fairly happy person even though I lean towards dark subjects when I read. That always surprises people when they meet me in person. I think they expect me to storm around with a dark cloud over my head or something!

That said, I am on to be irritated easily. I find that I am happiest if I can just let stuff go but some things I hang onto for far too long.

Sounds like an interesting project.

Jenners said...

I was kind of disappointed in this one … maybe because I went in with different expectations. It read more like a memoir to me than anything. In addition, I felt her advice might not be helpful to people who really have issues in their lives. It seems like she had a bit of a charmed existence in many ways … but maybe I'm misremembering it. She did have some interesting ideas though.

Meg @ write meg! said...

I bought this one for my mom last year -- she loves psychology, and she's always touting how important it is to keep learning and improving ourselves. I know right where her copy is -- think I'm going to have to borrow it!

Melissas Eclectic Bookshelf said...

Hmmm...I've been considering this one, but have to admit that it doesn't sound like what I was expecting...

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