I am fine! I thought to myself as I made my way over to the Self Help section of Barnes and Noble to pick up a copy of 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 dragging my feet and stopping at almost every shelf as I made my way to that corner of the building. Then, when I couldn’t find the book and had to ask for help finding it, I almost died of embarrassment. For some reason my mind was telling me that self help books are only for people who actually need help. I’m obviously not one of those people. Yes, I recently had a dark moment in my career, but I had fixed that on my own, darn it. I have a great marriage and a wonderful house and great puppies. I exercise four to five times a week; I read books; I’m in a book club; I sponsor the writing club at my school; I journal everyday and I spend time doing the things that make me happy.
I obviously don’t even need to read this book, I thought to myself and lamented several times to my husband when I brought it home. Well, we all have to be wrong sometimes, and I definitely was. So much for my pride in knowing myself.
Well, for a book that I DIDN’T NEED AT ALL, I must say that I was transfixed. I read slowly, highlighting, underlining, and sticky-noting those places that most spoke to me. The premise is that Gretchen Rubin, during a commute, realized that she wasn’t as happy as she thought she should be. This thought sparked research on happiness and whether or not one could make themselves happier.
While I wasn’t exactly the most ready and willing audience, I can tell you that something about Rubin’s writing style put me at ease. She wasn’t preaching at me, she was talking to me over a cup of coffee, coaxing out of me some of the most important things about myself that I didn’t want to admit to. It also helped when she told the reader that she had absolutely nothing to be unhappy about. That’s when I realized that maybe this wouldn’t be as useless as I originally thought. She has a husband whom she shares a great marriage with, two daughters that are healthy and happy, a career that she loves, and supportive extended family.
At this point, you’re probably asking yourself what in the world would cause her to want to be happier, and I must say that it didn’t take me long to figure it out. One phrase that is oft repeated is her Third Splendid Truth, The days are long, but the years are short. How often do we rush through, wondering where the time has gone but wishing the time we have away. I’ve been very guilty of that recently with all of the snow days. I just want spring to come back. When we’re in July, I’ll probably be lamenting the heat. The remedy was to start a Happiness Project, where Rubin sets out to do things that she knows, based on research, will help her be happier. Each month is broken down into ways that she will make herself happier.
January: Boost EnergyIn January she focuses on going to bed earlier, exercising better, organizing her life, tackling nagging tasks, and acting more energetic. The last one is the one that has most stuck with me, because “we presume that we act because of the way we feel, in fact we often feel because of the way we act” (35).
On Friday morning, I was frustrated because I hadn’t slept well, I was worried I was getting sick, and my head was not only sore from the headache I had the day before, but it was still pounding away. I wanted to be obnoxious about it; I wanted to really vent my frustrations, but the annoying voice in my head said “Act the way you want to feel” and I had to listen to it. Simple sayings like this have saved me from many an annoyed moment. Obviously, I have been converted.
Another month that really spoke to me was June: Make Time for Friends. In June, she focused on remembering birthdays, being generous, showing up, not gossiping, and making three new friends.
Truth time: I am horrible at making new friends. I have said on several occasions that I do not like making new friends because I barely have time for the ones that I have currently. Plus, I like my friends and would hate to mess up a good thing. Wrong again, so this is something that I am going to work on. Another thing from this month that really had an impact on me is “Don’t Gossip.” I’m a really sneaky gossiper. I do it in a way that makes it sound like concern, which there is a lot of, but I still gossip and I shouldn’t. This year for Lent, I’m giving up gossiping, and I hope it lasts for all time. I don’t want to be the kind of person who talks about others, and I know that it doesn’t make me happy. Out with the gossip!
Most of the chapters had something really important to say to me, which is why this review is so long. Her tone was always friendly, not judgmental, and she always gave both good examples from her own experiences and bad examples. She showed herself as human, and that was up-lifting. No one wants to read about someone who never messes up; it’s unrealistic.
The only thing I didn’t really care for in the book was about half way through when she started adding in some of the comments from her blog. I saw some of the value in it, but I didn’t read it. I skipped over those parts because they seemed to jar me out of the story. This is one of those books that stays with you, and I’m even thinking about starting my own happiness project.