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THE HAPPINESS PROJECT

The Happiness Project (Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closest, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun) is a chronicle of author Gretchen Rubin’s year long quest in achieving greater happiness in her everyday life though the use of age-old wisdoms, current scientific research, and lessons from today’s society and popular culture.

Each month, chronologically from January – December, Gretchen focuses on a certain aspect of life: Vitality, Marriage, Work, Parenthood, Leisure, Friendship, Money, Eternity, Books, Mindfulness, Attitude, and Happiness. Along with these topics she sets a series of resolutions to tackle, going in-depth on her experiences with each and how they aide in achieving said themes. Her resolutions range from “Go to sleep earlier”, to “Go off the path”, to “Stimulate the mind in new ways”.  At the end of each chapter, Gretchen reflects on how these resolutions have helped in making her happier and gives the reader an update on whether she is in fact happier.

Before Gretchen begins, she lays down the twelve commandments she used when struggling with her resolutions. Principles such as, “Be Gretchen”, “Act the way I want to feel”, and “Let it go”. She also developed a list titled, “Secrets of Adulthood”, of lessons she’s learned while growing up. My favorites include “People don’t notice your mistakes as much as you think”, “You can choose what you do; you can’t choose what you like to do”, and “Happiness doesn’t always make you feel happy”.

I wanted so much to read The Happiness Project ever since I saw it in an airport last December. I am by no means a depressed person, but, like everyone else, can get a case of melancholy from time to time. Especially when I get bored. For some, happiness is not a key goal to strive for (surprisingly enough to me – still, they should read this book!). I, however, want nothing but to achieve true happiness, my only resolution with every new year, my key goal in life. Happiness is a feeling that can’t be beat. And while I know I will never be in a state of total bliss 24/7, I can sure as heck try my hardest. The days are long, but the years are short.

Here are a things I learned directly from the memoir:

  • To help get more sleep and sleep better, get rid of all light; lights confuse the body’s circadian clock, so keep lights low before bedtime and block out all lights. I now hide my cell phone and cover up my clock/radio light.
  • Exercise can delay dementia.
  • Keep an empty shelf as a symbol of possibility and room to expand
  • If it can be done in one minute or less, do it now.
  • Don’t expect praise or appreciation.
  • Don’t think critically about another and you will learn to like them. There is only love.
  • The idea of who you wish you were obscures one’s understanding of who they are.
  • Challenge and novelty are key elements to happiness.
  • Enjoy the fun of failure.
  • Sing in the morning.
  • Be a treasure house of happy memories.
  • Acknowledge what you enjoy, not what you wish you enjoyed.
  • Start a “happiness box”.
  • Strong relationships can strengthen life, boost immunity, and cut the risk of depression.
  • Cut people slack: other people’s actions are not always reflections of their character – don’t forget that the power of situation can influence actions.
  • Indulge in a modest splurge.
  • Spend money in ways that support your happiness – it’s okay if it’s important to you.
  • A modest pleasure can be a luxury if it’s scarce.
  • Spend out – don’t save or hoard. Saving is another form of wasting.
  • Trust in abundance of new ideas.
  • Keep a happiness journal; note one happy moment of each day.
  • Read about catastrophes so to learn and live in the present and appreciate it.
  • Depravation sharpens pleasure.
  • Accept your own nature.
  • Make your goals your passwords so they become constant reminders.
  • It’s easy to be heavy; hard to be light. 
  • Find areas of refuge: distraction is a powerful, mood altering device and focusing on a bad mood only aggravates it.
Merely days after finishing the book, I find myself repeating Gretchen’s mantras in my head and passing along things I’ve learned as advice for friends. Be Gretchen. Do it now. It’s easy to heavy; hard to be light. Indulge in a modest splurge. Depravation sharpens pleasure.

I hope you read The Happiness Project and let me know if you do!
Feel free to comment back with book suggestions for me.

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