Gretchen Rubin and me when she spoke at NYJL
I’ve alluded to and beat around the bush of reviewing The Happiness Project quite a bit in the past few weeks. It’s one of the best books I’ve ever read — no hyperbole here! I think a big part of living healthily is mental, so I wanted to share my thoughts on this book with you.
The premise of the book is that author Gretchen Rubin (she previously wrote a book about JFK and a book about Winston Churchill) was taking the crosstown bus when it dawned on her that she wasn’t truly happy. She wasn’t going to go off to an ashram in India or make a drastic life circumstance change — she is married and has two children. Rather, Gretchen Rubin decided she’d look for happiness in her everyday life.
An author and a former lawyer (she clerked for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor), she had a very methodical way of going about it. Each month, she would focus on a different area of happiness. January was vitality; February was marriage; March was work; April was parenthood, and so on.
But wait, you’re thinking, I’m not married, and I don’t have children. What the hell is in this book for me? I nearly skipped these chapters, but then decided that the lessons in interacting with a husband or children could be applied to the other people we interact with.
What I loved about this book was it was mostly about changing your perspective and looking at the sunny side of things. It’s all things we can all do in our ordinary lives. Some of her suggestions might come across as common sense to you, but a lot of them will get you to think differently. It’s interesting how she shows applying her suggestions to her life.
She has her “Twelve Commandments,” such as “act the way I want to feel,” which might also be known as “fake it until you make it.” She talks about getting an energy boost from acting with energy.
She also talks about being mindful and living in the moment.
For me, I realized I wasn’t doing this one day last December. I was walking my dog at lunchtime. At the time, I wasn’t happy in my job. I love and treasure my sweet little dog, so walking him at lunch should have been the best part of my day and a more-than-welcome break in my day.
Instead, all I could think about was the to-do list that awaited me upon my return to the office. “What is wrong with me?” I thought. Here I am, walking my sweet little dog, who is one of the most important things in my life, and all I can think about is getting back to work. I vowed in that moment I would try to be more mindful and appreciate the situations that I could — and appreciate that the situations that weren’t optimal weren’t permanent, either.
But why focus on your own happiness? Isn’t that a little selfish when there’s all this suffering in the world? Well, it turns out, according to Gretchen’s research, that happy people are actually more inclined to help other people, whether it be through volunteering or giving money.
What are you happy about today?