“Happiness Project” creates unexpected happiness…for me

Happiness is nasturtiums peeking over my garden wall.

The last few days I’ve taken a vacation from blogging, also from paying bills, practicing the ukulele, and reading my almost-overdue library books. I’ve taken a break from other things, too.  The vacation was a natural response to reading the first half of The Happiness Project.  If you’re thinking that the point of this book was to inspire readers to slow down, take it easy, and enjoy life more, you’d be wrong.

The book is about author Gretchen Rubin’s wish to become happier — she was happy to begin with, but feared she was missing out on even more happiness — through self-improvement. Each chapter focused on one set of activities Rubin worked to accomplish during a month — starting in January — having decided that becoming a happier self meant becoming a better self.  She then added additional activities for each subsequent month, until she completed twelve months of a cumulative improvement package.

So far in my reading– January through July — I have experienced her efforts to “toss, restore, organize; exercise better; act more energetic; quit nagging; not expect praise or appreciation; fight right; give proofs of love; launch a blog; ask for help; enjoy the fun of failure; sing in the morning; be a treasure house of happy memories; take time for projects.”  Other challenges she set for herself were to be silly; start a collection, which for her turned out to be a small bluebird collection; remember friends’ and relatives’ birthdays; avoid gossiping; make new friends; splurging in some small way; buying things she really could use; and giving up something. and that’s not all. In August, should I have the energy to spend any more time on Rubin’s happiness, her focus will be on spiritual development.

At this point in my reading, Rubin says she’s happier.  I, on the other hand, am exhausted. She has taken my playbook and added about five hundred new plays. I can’t imagine how shouldering that kind of pressure for perfection would make anyone feel better. However, I find that the book is making me happier because the pressure is not on me, it’s all on the author.  I’m feeling more content with my imperfect self, knowing how stressed I’d be trying to carry out a happiness project like this one.

About stillalife

I retired June 30, 2010 after working for 40 years in the field of education and most recently doing school public relations/community outreach in a mid-size urban school district. I wrote for superintendents and school board members. Now I'm writing for me and I hope for you. In this blog, I offer my own views coupled with the latest research on how to preserve our physical and mental health as we age, delve into issues most of us over 50 can relate to like noticing wrinkles and forgetting where we left our keys, discuss the pros and cons of different ways to engage our minds and bodies after we leave the workplace, and throw in an occasional book review, all peppered with a touch of humor, irony, and just plain silliness. Also, I'm on the third draft of my second novel since retirement.
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5 Responses to “Happiness Project” creates unexpected happiness…for me

  1. Jill Turnell says:

    Good grief! Has this woman never heard of just living in the present? I’m happy I don’t feel the need to get “happier”.

  2. JanO says:

    I’m happy too, particularly because I’ve not scheduled ways in which to be. Once again, I enjoyed the way you expressed yourself so vividly!

  3. Sylvia Soholt says:

    I wonder if some of these things are related, as in “take time to be silly” and “not expect praise or appreciation,” or “buy needful things” and “give something up” (financial solvency or the old mattress), “fight right” and “quit nagging”…guess I am just taking time here to be silly. All of this reminds me of one of the old movies I watched last week — City Slickers — and Curly’s advice on the secret of a good life: ONE thing. Focus on what matters to you the most. I can’t get my list down to one, but I’m already a “treasure house of happy memories” with the short list I have.

  4. ann oxrieder says:

    In fairness to the author, the list of things-to-do fit into twelve categories, including financial, spiritual, friendship and so on. My feeling is, see your friends without setting a goal around it, and without adding three more other goals like “be generous with them” at the same time.

  5. Sharon says:

    It is a bit difficult for me to find that there is any real substance to the “Happiness Project” when it was created by a very attractive, Harvard-educated lawyer, daughter-in-law of Robert Rubin (former Secretary of Treasury under Clinton), wife of successful investment/financial investor husband, mother of two, etc. etc. who has to “study” happiness and create a happiness project to be “happy”. Seems at least as likely that this was gimick to make money and find “fame.” Kind of like many other “self-help” books on various topics with good marketing name.

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