Published by HarperCollins on December 29, 2009
Length: 9 hrs, 56 mins
Read synopsis on Goodreads
Buy the book: Amazon/Audible (this post includes affiliate links)
If you were to ask me if I was happy when I first started reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, I would have said yes. I have a great husband, great friends, a job that I like, and a comfortable life. Still, there are days when I curse the day ahead simply because the sun had to rise and I have to get up and face the it. This is usually when the guilt kicks in because really, I don’t have much to complain about. In the grand scheme of things, I don’t have many problems and the ones I do have aren’t big ones, but the guilt usually leaves me feeling both angry and miserable. So when Gretchen Rubin admitted that she had a really great life but felt that she should feel happier, something clicked. I, too, should be happier. More than that, I could be happier if I really wanted to. But there’s something about commiserating over a glass of wine with friends that makes being too happy seem smug, like you’re rubbing it in their faces, which of course brings more guilt. The problem with this feeling of mine is that none of the really happy people I know seem smug – they just seem happy.
I share all of this because I have a sneaking suspicion that there are a lot of people who think just like I do. If you’re one of them, then it’s time for you to pick up The Happiness Project. Rubin takes care to explain that her book is not a solution for those with clinical depression and her path certainly isn’t the right one for everyone, but if you choose to be happy, set goals, and take steps to reach them, you’ll end up in a better place. The fact that she chose to tackle her goals in a traditional, Type-A, list-making fashion hooked me and I knew I would soon be doing the same. An unexpected bonus is that Rubin narrates the audiobook herself in the same style as Jen Sincero, whose book You Are a Badass, I love.Be honest - you could probably be happier (and here's how to do it). Click To Tweet
Over the course of a year, Rubin tackles one thing each month that she thinks will make her happier – read more, exercise more, get a good night’s sleep, and tidy up being a few. She mixes in her own experiences with practical tips for others to follow, three of which are:
- Changing your password to something positive because you type it in several times a day.
- If it takes less than a minute to clean or tidy something up, just do it.
- Rewards for a job well done can backfire – the motivation has to be intrinsic. She likens it to paying kids to read books – they end up reading for pay and not for pleasure. This was particularly relevant to me because I hit my 6 week goals after working with a personal trainer and bought myself a new Fitbit the same day I listened to this section, which left me thinking, I just did this (but I kept the Fitbit).
By the end of the year, Rubin was happier, which is a given considering she wrote a book about it and titled it The Happiness Project rather than the Unhappiness Project, but she was quick to point out her own failures and challenges throughout the year. During her “Pollyanna” week, in which she was nice to everyone, particularly her husband, she’s honest about how hard it is. Because let’s face it – it’s easy to take things out on the ones we love. I actually employed this piece of advice in my own marriage and found it to be eye-opening (my husband became much more attentive as a result), so I suggest you try it for yourself. She also discusses how it’s easy to become a happiness bully, judging other people for wallowing in unhappiness. Rubin also had such success with her own month of tidying up that she became inadvertently rude by offering to clean everyone else’s house, which not everyone appreciates.
It’s hard to pick out which monthly task stuck out the most for me, but it’s a tossup between being nice, tidying up, and going to bed earlier. I started tidying up while listening to this book and then followed it up with The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, so it’s safe to say I’m a tidying up machine lately. I’ve purged, organized, trashed, recycled, and donated so many things both digitally and physically that it’s anxiety inducing when I look back on it but, wow, do I feel great now. I’m still working on the going to bed early thing but I did delete Facebook from my phone and am unplugging a lot earlier, which makes for better sleep even if I still stay up late reading.
So am I happier having read this book? Yes. Granted, the book itself didn’t make me happier but it did make me pay attention to the things that make me happy, which I’m doing more of. I’m taking more time to read because my time management has been terrible lately, I’m not drinking coffee in the afternoon because while I love it, it disrupts my sleep, and I’m being nicer to my husband. My house is cleaner, my files are organized, and all of my tupperware have lids, so I consider it a success.
Recommended for: Anyone who thinks they should be happy but know they could be happier. And remember, “listening is easy, doing is hard.”