The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin was first published in 2015 and has recently been updated with new material. I really enjoyed my initial reading of this book and wish I had found it sooner. Actually, it’s one of those books that now pops up in my “you might like” lists quite frequently and through a serious of random events this month became a good month to check it out. And I am very glad that I did.
The premise of this book is that the author decides to take a yearlong dive into becoming happier and as a writer she used it as a project for a book. She started in January and each month she focused on different resolutions that she thought would make her happier.
January: Boost Energy (Vitality)
February: Remember Love (Marriage)
March: Aim Higher (Work)
April: Lighten Up (Parenthood)
May: Be serious about Play (Leisure)
June: Make Time for Friends (Friendship)
July: Buy Some Happiness (Money)
August: Contemplate the Heavens (Eternity)
September: Pursue a Passion (Books)
October: Pay Attention (Mindfulness)
November: Keep a Contended Heart (Attitude)
December: Boot Camp Perfect (Happiness)
Each month also has a more specific list of resolutions for example in January she set out to go to sleep earlier, exercise better, toss, restore, organize, tackle a nagging task, and act more energetic. She kept a chart tracking her resolutions and then each month she added in new resolutions. At some point in the book she distinguishes her differences between resolutions and goals. While she acknowledges the importance of goals for her work Rubin considers what she is doing working toward resolutions because goals have an achievable end and she sees her work as ongoing. She does mention several times in the book that as the months progress her resolutions often became time consuming, and she would discuss how she modified some and abandoned others. To help with the writing of the book she started a Happiness Blog and includes things that other people sent to her in the book. As she says, “working to be happier is a worthy goal”.
Rubin’s also makes the point early in the book that her Happiness journey is going to look different than others, but she hoped by writing this book she could inspire others to go on their own happiness journey. From the response she got after this book was published, I think it is safe to say that she did that. In the years since this book was published she has written 5 more books that are related to the Happiness Project, she has expanded her blog into a website and has a podcast. Unfortunately my problem with procrastination hasn’t left me time to explore all that Rubin’s has to offer but it is now on my to do list.
Honestly that is why I’m so excited about this book. Since I have started writing these book reviews I have had a lot of people ask me what my favorite book overall has been. Without a doubt my answer is always Atomic Habits by James Clear. That is the number 1 book I think that everyone should read. One of the reasons is because the book gives you clear strategies for incorporating new habits into your life. It was and is a book that drives you to action. I’m feeling much the same way after reading The Happiness Project. I want to start making lists of things that I’d really like to focus on over the next few months. It might not be a whole year but who knows what it will look like once I get started. This book also reminds me of Atomic Habits because many of the resolutions that Rubin’s talks about are actually just habits. In the author Q&A at the end of the book she discusses habits. My takeaway from that is 10 years ago habits was not the buzz word that it is now. Her comment, “Small efforts, made consistently, brought significant results.” Sounds like habits to me.
A few other quotes that I highlighted in the book were from June on friendship, “One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy. One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.”
From March about work: There’s another hill to climb. The challenge, therefore, is to take pleasure in the “atmosphere of growth”, in the gradual process made toward a goal, in the present.” And my favorite, “Enjoy now”.
In the November chapter on attitude she says, “Do good, feel good; feel good, do good.”
Finally, in the December Boot Camp chapter she sums up her work by saying, “If I want to be happier, I need to look at my life and think about feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right, in an atmosphere of growth.”
After reading this book I am very excited to investigate some of the other resources that Rubin has for this book and to check out her podcast. I’m always looking for a new podcast. My ultimate goal is to keep the excitement that I have currently going for a few months and maybe even trying to fashion my own version of a happiness project. We shall see. At the very least I will be reading more of her books in the future.