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The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

Hello readers! As summer is drawing to a close, I wanted to share with you what may end up being my last completed book on my summer reading list – The Happiness Project. As many of you know, positive psychology has been a long-term interest of mine – I studied it in college, and wrote a master’s thesis on how to incorporate it into a classroom. That said, I don’t always use it in my own life as much as I would like to. And while the big thinkers (Seligman, Lyubomirsky, and the Dalai Lama) behind the happiness movement are brilliant… their prose often leaves a bit to be desired in a die-hard fiction fan such as myself.

Which is where The Happiness Project went so so right. The author, Gretchen Rubin, studied the scientific literature in depth, broke it down in an interesting, very read-able manner, and then shared her experiences applying the principles of happiness research to her own life. She focuses on three main questions: “What makes me feel good?” “What makes me feel bad?” and “What makes me feel right?” and uses them to make a list of concrete, attainable resolutions. Rubin then grouped the resolutions by months, and vowed to systematically make a nearly constant effort to reach them all – adding the previous months resolutions to the current one. She wrote about her journey and the thing I LOVED the most is, it was messy. She attests that she was happier in the end (and she wasn’t horrifically unhappy to begin with) but that happiness took real effort, and, as a result, wasn’t always fun. This was monumental for me, as self-improvement of any kind is rarely enjoyable, but usually (in my own experience) yields amazing results.

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

Reading The Happiness Project inspired me to start one of my own. I, like Gretchen Rubin, am not horrifically unhappy. However, I have struggled with depression and anxiety in the past and often feel so lucky to no longer be battling those diseases on a daily basis that I don’t work to make myself happier than my current state – I just work to make myself not sick again. Thus, there’s a lot I can do to be happier, and though Rubin’s book is more of a memoir than a game plan, her website (www.gretchenrubin.com) provides an outline of the steps she took and makes it really easy for readers to design their own happiness project.

Though I’ll warn you – designing it is the easy part. It is also the fun part… because I love markers. But the implementation, like Rubin writes in her book, is not nearly as easy as you might think. Still, I am confident it is worth it. I wouldn’t recommend the book to you if I didn’t think so, and I definitely wouldn’t be incorporating Rubin’s methods into my own hectic life if I didn’t truly believe they had value.

Things that make me happy - a well-organized binder to keep track of my progress... and these adorable new throw pillows from Etsy!

Things that make me happy – a well-organized binder to keep track of my progress… and these adorable new throw pillows from Etsy!

Briefly, here are some of the goals my personal happiness project includes:

  • Letters of gratitude – I know how great I feel when people take the time to affirm and appreciate me. I’m excited to start telling the great people in my life how important they are (and hopefully giving them and me a happiness boost in the process)
  • Hosting more events at home – I just moved into my own place for the first time. I can’t wait to care for the people I love by cooking them an incredible meal as they grace me with their fantastic company and help me to see how amazing my life and relationships are.
  • Engaging in more cultural experiences – Santa Barbara has an events calendar that is crazy full. Time to take advantage of those experiences and play tourist in my own town.
  • Travel – As I mentioned, I’m in my own place for the first time in my life… so I can’t afford much travel. But when the opportunity arises, I want to be spontaneous enough to take it. After all, “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.”
  • Remember self-care – I have a real problem during the school year of forgetting to take care of myself. Sometimes I even forget meals. So I’m making a point to pay attention to my needs and then make meeting them a priority in my life. If that means I have to spend more time getting pedicures and massages… that is a sacrifice I’m willing to take!
  • Read books I never would have considered for myself – Having a wider perspective from which I view the world can only bring good things, am I right?
  • Give faith and spirituality a chance – I’m a huge cynic. Cynics generally aren’t the happiest people. So I want to get back to a place in my life where spirituality is central to my every day movements. Research shows, the happiest people are also the most spiritual.
  • Volunteer – I know, I know. I have no time. That’s what everyone says. I’ve benefited so much from the generous, loving, giving people around me. I need to give back. Selfishly – there’s also a major dopamine surge with altruism!

If you were designing your own happiness project, what would you add? Is there anything I’ve missed?

Wishing you all a happy, healthy start to the new school year (while giving The Happiness Project 3 stars ★★★),

Becca

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