The Monroe Institute

The Happiness Project

October 05, 2010

I came across a blog post about the book, The Happiness Project, and wanted to share it with you and get your feedback.

Kristen, of Motherese, says the following of reading the book:

I followed the hype surrounding the release of The Happiness Project with equal parts curiosity and skepticism. For a long time I have felt a tension between knowing intellectually that I lead an incredibly fortunate life and feeling less than satisfied much of the time. So I am often intrigued by articles and approaches that suggest a step-by-step path to happiness. On the other hand, I am sometimes dubious about whether happiness is really the be-all and end-all of emotions...

So it was with this mixed bag of preconceptions that I cracked open Gretchen Rubin’s bestselling book. In it, she describes a year in which she attempts to stay true to a series of happiness resolutions that she hopes will improve her vitality, family life, friendships, hobbies, work, and spiritual life.

Well, I don’t know if Gretchen is a genius or if this book just came into my life at the perfect moment, but I loved it. I found her earnest, honest exploration of her life extremely resonant and I felt like I could relate to her challenges and her resolutions.

Overwhelmed by clutter? Check. Snippy toward my husband? Check. Prone to allowing items to languish on my to-do list for months at a time? Check.

Moreover, I was moved by Rubin’s suggestion that we all can find small ways to improve the lives we have now: “I didn’t want to reject my life. I wanted to change my life without changing my life, by finding more happiness in my own kitchen. I knew I wouldn’t discover happiness in a faraway place or in unusual circumstances; it was right here, right now.” As much as I’d sometimes like to pull an Elizabeth Gilbert and hightail it to Italy, India, and Indonesia for a year, that approach doesn’t seem viable for a married mom of two little kids with a third on the way, so I appreciated the reminder that a series of small steps can be as rewarding as a few dramatic ones.

While reading the book, I also broadened and personalized my own definition of happiness. I’m never going to be super smiley and bouncing with energy. Happiness for me isn’t about birds chirping and angel choirs singing. Rather, it’s a shorthand for feeling the way I want to feel and acting the way I want to act. Focusing on finding contentment, satisfaction, and resilience. Being more grateful. Being more selfish when it’s appropriate and being less selfish when it’s not. Welcoming in the good stuff and saying sayonara to the not-so-good...

Here’s to happiness – however you define it.

Have you read The Happiness Project? What did you think?

What does happiness mean to you? Do you think happiness can be increased or decreased through sheer force of will?



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