When I read Gretchen Rubin’s “The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have more Fun” I was a solid 4 ½ years late to the hype of the New York Times best seller. I was first introduced to Gretchen Rubin when I heard her on “The School of Greatness”. I decided to dive into “The Happiness Project” as I spent this last couple years on my own happiness project, and was curious how I would relate. I will get into details of that later, but first the premise of Rubin’s story…
“The Happiness Project” is a memoir meets self-help book, where Rubin sets out on a years’ worth of achievable resolutions to help her find a happier and more fulfilled life. Her key was setting expectations upfront, understanding setbacks, and taking one step at a time. This format helped her focus monthly on a new small resolution, leading to a big result (i.e. Quit Nagging = Working On Marriage, Remembering Birthdays = Cultivating Friendships). There were no crazy, or unrealistic characteristics she wanted to change about herself. Nor did she take any crazy, or unrealistic steps to achieve her resolutions. All Rubin was searching for was an overall way to feel happier, in her already pretty happy life. The resolutions she made and steps she took to meet them taught her mindfulness, which in turn lead her to a life filled with more happiness.
I found myself smiling a lot while reading this book. The reason for my smiles was because I could have written this book myself. Besides a few things like, living in a New York City brownstone and having children, my life now parallels that of Rubin’s during her happiness project. Less methodological than Rubin’s, my happiness project includes daily practices that have led me to be more mindful, equaling happier. Over the past year, I have introduced my gratitude journal, meditation, and more prayer into my daily life. I have put more focus on myself, expected less, appreciated more, listened, and paused before I spoke. I have been diligent to throw out clutter or things not in use, worn a more basic but quality wardrobe, and asked myself difficult questions. All of these small steps have reduced my anxiety, and given me a better understanding of myself. They have provided me with clarity to know what step to take next and confidence in my future. Added up, it has been a lot of work but feels simple, rewarding and fun. Paying off to make me happier.
Even in all the praise of “The Happiness Project” Rubin has had her critics. Many believe Rubin to be a whiny, ultra-privileged housewife. Sure she may live on famously swanky Park Blvd., with a disposable income and have a nanny and a housekeeper amongst other things. She has a lot to be grateful for and happy about and admits she was not the best at doing so (proving money does not buy happiness). She took it upon herself to change her perspective and become happier. I have taken the same small and practical steps to improve my happiness and it has worked in a time I have experienced more challenge than ever. Regardless of how much you have or do not it easy to get wrapped up in all that life throws at you, and easier to consider at the bad before the good. However applying a bit of effort, being more mindful and choosing to be better, does work and will lead to happiness.