Book Review: The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

The Happiness ProjectI recently finished The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.  She and I had a chance meeting this past summer at BlogHer.  We were both gathered to celebrate our friends from ONE MOMS  who had just returned from Kenya.   We were about to watch an ABC segment all about their trip and mission as a result of their involvement with ONE.  It was awe inspiring, to say the least, and since then, I have joined their effort.

But back to my meeting Gretchen.  I instantly liked her, but I have to admit that I wasn’t familiar with the content of her book.  We started talking about balance as a working mom, and I mentioned that I don’t get enough sleep. She seemed to know an awful lot about the benefits of getting more sleep, and I asked her if she mentioned it in her book. She started rambling on about the benefits of getting more sleep, having a better diet and other smart tips for improving my daily existence.  It definitely made me think, and I knew I needed to find her book.

So, it made sense that on my return trip, when I had an unexpected 4 hour delay of my plane home, that I bought a copy of The Happiness Project  at the airport. It was as though the book was sitting there waiting for me to buy it, calling my name.

I wish had read this book before I met Gretchen so I could have told her personally how much I appreciate it. First of all, she writes the way she speaks. It’s personable. It’s honest.  It’s frank.  It’s extremely well-researched.  And it’s funny and down to earth, making it a completely enjoyable read.  In the book, she takes one year and breaks it up into chunks.  Each month is spent exploring something that she felt a need to change in her life.  Being methodical, Gretchen began her project by following the examples of many of scholars, including Benjamin Franklin. He constructed a written chart to measure his progress on a daily basis, so she created a chart of her own, filled with attainable happiness resolutions. She organized her resolutions into themes such as parenthood, work, leisure, friendship, money – twelve of them and then spent a month exploring each one during the course of her happiness project year.  That was the basis of her blog that she wrote during this process, as well.

Gretchen’s personal story is fascinating.  While clerking for Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, she decided she wanted to be a writer. In this book, she seeks insights on happiness with the same determination that earned her the position of editor-in-chief of Yale Law Journal.  Her book is so well researched, linked to great literature and scientific findings, but she manages to weave in her own personal experiences skillfully.  You can’t help but evaluate your own life along the way, and it’s helpful to realize what needs to be changed and how the small changes you make can such a big difference.

Gretchen’s journey while writing this book is a transformation in its own right.  Not only do some of the changes she make impact her individually, but they have implications on her children and on her husband in particular.  Before starting her journey, Gretchen felt her days slipping by unappreciated.  She started out by quoting Colette, “What a wonderful life I’ve had! I only wish I’d realized it sooner.”

And what we find out is illuminating.  We can all be happy by making small changes in our life.  We are all unique and can do whatever works for us.

From Gretchen,we learn that just by cleaning out your closets you can adopt a feeling of happiness, caused by less clutter (you have to read how she defines and distinguishes types of clutter, it’s brilliant).  We learn that by stopping to nag your husband, or better half, he or she will become more attentive and aware of your needs.  We learn that by getting an extra hour of sleep or two each night, your brain will work better the next day. We learn that becoming more light-hearted and appreciating the good fortune of having a healthy family is important. With your kids, think before you react. Your children will benefit from the change in your behavior.

I can’t stress the value of reading this book enough.  I urge you to pick up a copy of the book so that you will spend the next year trying to sing in the morning, cleaning your closets, fighting better, reading Aristotle and generally having more fun.  Just like Gretchen Rubin.

Disclosure: I was not compensated to write this review and all opinions are my own.

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