Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Happiness Project - Gretchen Rubin

I've been reading Gretchen Rubin's blog for years now, and this is the book that came of it. Unlike the many books that result from blogs, I think this one was the other way around. Rubin spent a year trying out different bits of folk wisdom in an attempt to make herself happier. Not because she was unhappy - but because she thought that she could make herself quite a bit happier without dramatically changing her life - and she was right.

Strangely enough, given that I spent at least a year reading her blog, and that I would happily recommend this book to anyone and everyone, I don't actually like Rubin's writing all that much, and I don't think that many of the specific things that she tried in order to make herself happier would make me happier. While her writing is just fine, and actually very easy to read, her voice reminds me just a little too much of my mother. And she is quite repetitive, which is a very good general strategy when you're trying to get a point across...but makes me completely crazy. Also...with the lists. Just like my mother.

But all these are points she actually makes herself - not everyone's happiness project is necessarily the same, but that personal anecdotes are both interesting and potentially useful. And while I don't find any of her specific examples to be at all personally inspiring, the general concepts are great. Figuring out how you can have more energy - by getting more sleep or more exercise. Doing things that you enjoy, with people that you like - she started a kids-lit book club, and while I also love kids books I am just not able to start a book club. I'm really good at participating, but I'm a bad leader - it would take me so much energy to organize something like that, that I just wouldn't be able to get anything out of it. And yet, this is an example of something she points out in her book - recognize that things which other people find fun, aren't necessarily things that you enjoy.

I've been frustrated for years by people who say "You can just decide to be happy!" and then glare at me for not being as happy as they would like me to be. I don't agree with that - sometimes I can't just decide to be happy. But Gretchen makes the wonderful point that you can decide to be happier - by putting in the effort. And sometimes by just pretending to be happy (honestly it is shocking what a difference just pretending to be in a good mood can make when dealing with a little kid who just wants you to play hide and seek with them one last time before they submit to being put to bed - grumble at them and it will be another 30 minutes of frustration for both of you, but put on a cheerful face, play along for just a minute...and presto - cooperation).

Anyway, it is a wonderful book, and I think the world is a better place for its having been written.

1 comment:

  1. Wendy,

    I saw the nice mention of my book, The Happiness Project, here. I very much appreciate those kind words and you shinning a spotlight on my work.

    Thanks and best wishes,