Tag Archives: happiness

The Happiness Project Review – Finally!

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.

I could go on and on and on and still not do this book justice. Check out her blog, follow her on Twitter. Also, check out the sections of her book most-highlighted on Kindle. (Very interesting!)

What are you happy about today?

Shiny, Happy People, Part 2

After writing this post, both Rachel and Leah followed up with posts. Rachel wrote about the top 10 reasons why being healthy sucks. But I think we all know that being healthy can suck. It’s hard. That’s why most people don’t do it. I like showing people that you can do it. I weighed 50 pounds more last year. I’ve since run two half-marathons and am training for the Chicago Marathon.

Like I said, I was in a different place in my life even a few months ago. I had lost a lot of weight, and I was happy about that, but I still lacked confidence, and I just wasn’t where I wanted to be in my life.

Leaving my job was actually really liberating — in that terrifying way. I got really lucky and got a big freelance gig right off the bat, which kept me busy most of that time in the interim, but still wasn’t rewarding. Through a whole lot of hustling, I found some other really rewarding freelance assignments. That was fun, and it was cool snuggling with Bailey all day, but I got sick quickly of spending so much time alone. I’m single and live alone — an extra 40+ hours of me time every week was a bit much for me. I was really proud of myself for being able to find fulfilling freelance work (other times I’ve been out of work definitely haven’t been quite so rewarding), and I felt like my creativity was really being turned on. 

But that didn’t come easily to me. The healthy thinking challenge I included in my challenge was in part for myself.

Call me cheesy, call me fake (I’m not) — I don’t care. The healthy blogs and some of the books I was reading at the time talked a lot about the power of positive thinking, and I bought into it hook, line and sinker. I needed it. I needed to conciously remind myself to think positive thoughts. I put my mind to it, and it helped. Annoying stuff still happens, but I don’t really let it get to me. It’s not worth it. I spent too much time being down on myself.

But I think being healthy ultimately comes down to balance. Make healthy decisions (eating, exercising, thinking) most of the time, but if you have ice cream (I did last night) or don’t get to workout (I didn’t get to today, I’m just adjusting my schedule and making today my rest day, rather than tomorrow) on a planned day, it’s okay. As long as you get back on track. 

For me, I’m in an incredibly happy stage of my life. So I’m going to share that. 

What do you think?