Fiction Fridays: The Happiness Project by Gretchen RubinBy Shawndrarussell
The Happiness Project is Gretchen Rubin's year-long journey (I learned that these types of books are called "stunt nonfiction") to become a happier person. She was not depressed (a whole other beast not tackled in these pages) nor was she particularly UN-happy. She just though that she should feel happier, or in higher spirits, on a daily basis because she had a good life. Her biggest fear was that she was letting her pretty wonderful life slip by without really being engaged in every moment and aware of its ordinary wonderfulness.
To combat this fear, Rubin read everything should could about happiness, from great philosophers and thinkers like Benjamin Franklin (using his 13 virtues from his Autobiography to inspire her method) to Saint Therese of Lisieux (her "small things matter" mentor) to author Samuel Johnson ("attain....as much happiness as possible"). She created a Resolutions Chart, much like Franklin's "Virtues Chart," where she would grade herself on her self-created virtues on a daily basis. Instead of trying to be perfect every day, she focused on one "virtue" per month January through November, and then in December, she applied Franklin's daily method to all 11 previous virtues.
The result? Did she magically start skipping everywhere she went? Reach Nirvana? Nah. But she DID become more mindful of how wonderful her life already was and started appreciating it more. She yelled less, got less frustrated, acted more loving, tried new things, and had a better, more optimistic overall attitude. No huge changes were made to her life; instead, small yet very significant realizations hit her that started guided her thoughts. She basically retrained her brain to start thinking in a more lighthearted, positive way. She cut out most complaining, nagging, and just general grumbling which made her happier and more pleasant to be around.
Rubin shows that happiness is a constant cycle. If you are happy, then the people around you will also be happier, which in turn will keep you happy. We all know the "debbie downers" of this world--people who complain it's too hot, too cold, movie wasn't very good, food was just okay, this line is too long, blah blah blah. Complaining sucks the energy and life out of a room, and it is so unattractive just like undercutting, being judgmental, and being condescending. Rubin learned to bite her tongue more and follow the old adage, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all."
To begin your own Happiness Project, Rubin has a website and a toolbox to help you get started. Some readers have decided to do a week, month, months, or year undertaking like Gretchen. For me, I would like to do a 12-week project, mimicking her 12 month journey. When you go to the site at http://www.happinessprojecttoolbox.com/, you will have to create your own list of Personal Commandments, Secrets of Adulthood, and you may conclude with your own Splendid Truths, which Rubin has four of, listed on her website as:
1. To be happier, you have to think about feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right, in an atmosphere of growth.
2. One of the best ways to be happy is to make other people happy; one of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.
3. The days are long, but the years are short.
4. You're not happy unless you think you're happy.
At times the quotes and information included from happiness gurus gets a little overwhelming, but reading this book in smaller chunks (no more than a chapter at a time) will help you really absorb the wisdom and keep you from skimming over these parts. This book is 100% worth reading and has the potential to make everyone who reads it just a little bit happier without making huge changes like moving to Hawaii, changing jobs, changing spouses, etc. Like my blog, this book urges people to have "a better everyday." Happiness, here we come!
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