Happiness, MIND

BOOK REVIEW | THE HAPPINESS PROJECT BY GRETCHEN RUBIN

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One of my many New Year’s resolutions for 2014 was to read twelve books. One book a month certainly didn’t sound like an unrealistic goal, but, alas, here I am in the month of June, having just finished the FIRST book of the year. I blame the teaching profession and its numbing effect on my brain. I am still aiming for that twelve book goal, even if it means cheating with a few speedily read graphic novels.

Gretchen Rubin’s ‘The Happiness Project’ is a fantastic book to kick off any year with as it is jam-packed full of ideas to make your life better. Its overt message will speak to many people who might be gliding through life, reasonably content with a nice job, nice partner, comfortable home and annual vacation in Marbella. The book doesn’t deny that all these things can make you happy; it’s just saying why wouldn’t you want to make every day a chance to be truly, madly, deeply happy?

The author achieved her happiness boost through a rigorous twelve-month plan of resolutions. Some examples of these are: “Fight right”, “Exercise better”, “Start a collection” and “Stimulate the mind in new ways”.  Each month, she would incorporate a new set of resolutions into her daily life while also continuing with her previous month’s resolutions. Sounds mentally exhausting right? Well, Rubin manages to make it sound so invigorating that you’ll soon be grabbing a pen and paper to scribble down your own happiness resolutions.

One chapter that particularly resonated with me was Chapter 6 (June: Make Time for Friends). Everything contained within this chapter I already knew: “Having strong social bonds is probably the most meaningful contributor to happiness”…”Studies show that (having strong relationships) also lengthens life, boosts immunity, and cuts the risk of depression”. However, reading Rubin’s simple resolutions and personal account of how she went about improving this aspect of her life gave me a fresh look on the subject. Tackling a big life task can seem overwhelming, whereas taking small steps towards your goal usually results in much greater success. I took some of Rubin’s June resolutions and added a few of my own:

1. Reach out to old friends
2. Strengthen existing friendships
3. Make three new friends
4. Reply to people straight away!

That very weekend I messaged some old friends who I hadn’t spoken to in a long time and truly missed in my life. I accepted an invitation for a night out with a good friend which resulted in me making three lovely new friends. I also responded immediately to any messages from family and friends instead of leaving it as something to do later. I felt happy, refreshed and galvanized by the end of that weekend; evidence that the happiness project truly does work!
(Disclaimer – resolutions are for life, not just for the weekend. They take constant work and a mild personality change. I’m still battling against my hermit self!)

I can see how some people might criticize this book; the author is a successful writer who lives quite a privileged life in New York City. Writing a book on how her already blessed life can be better is likely to annoy some people in the same way that Gwyneth Paltrow’s whole existence generally does. However, if you have read Elizabeth Gilbert’s inspirational novel, ‘Eat, Pray, Love’, then you will be more likely to welcome Rubin’s book. Not every woman has the chance to disappear into the world for an entire year and discover themselves through meditation, spaghetti and sex (as does Elizabeth Gilbert), but EVERY woman can certainly incorporate a few changes into her daily life to achieve a bit more of that which we all covet: happiness*

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