The Happiness Project

By Falon Sweeney

I’ve done it again. I finished my first summer pleasure read before midsummer! Last year, it was It Starts With Food, by Dale and Melissa Hartwig. This year? The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin. Two completely different titles, but both incredibly inspiring in their own ways.

the happiness project bookI picked up The Happiness Project from a friend on my abroad program and couldn’t put it down until I was, well, done. It’s a fairly short (200 something pages), easy read about one woman’s journey to consciously be happier. Her “Happiness Project” is a year long series of resolutions, broken down by month. Each month has a theme or subject (her marriage, work, parenthood, friendship, and happiness, among others), and within each theme she makes several specific resolutions to guide her to be happier and more mindful with respect to each month’s theme. At the beginning of the book, Rubin explains her methodology – her “Resolutions Chart”, her “Secrets of Adulthood” (my favorites: “Do good, feel good,” “If you’re not failing you’re not trying hard enough,” and “Bring a sweater”). She also establishes her “12 Commandments” to help remind her how exactly she wants to grow throughout the year. A few of my favorites from her commandments: “Be Gretchen”, “Act the way I want to feel”, “Do it now,” and “There is only love“. Rubin’s witty charm, funny anecdotes, and strategically weaved in scientific “happiness facts” combine for the perfect self-reflective read.

I found it easy to relate to Rubin, as I love to make lists and set goals, and I am always trying to maximize my happiness. Happiness is a funny thing, in that we all seem to be searching for it like it’s some big epiphany we’ll have one day when we get that big promotion, find our soulmate, or buy our dream house. But what occurred to me while reading Gretchen’s musings on happiness, is that it is entirely possible to be 100% happy, right here, right now, in this moment. Regardless of your car, your job, your friends, or your significant other. Basically, happiness is something that comes from within and that shouldn’t be relative to anything else but yourself. From the outside, it looks like a tall order, but take it from me – after reading this book and doing a bit of self reflecting, it really isn’t all that hard to be happy. Taking into account gratefulness, kindness, mindfulness, positivity, attitude, and the power of small changes, Rubin portrays happiness as something well within reach for every single one of us, if we could only open ourselves up to it. Making small, but crucial changes to our daily habits and mindsets and the way we treat ourselves and the people in our lives proves key to finding happiness. 

While reading, I kept a list of my own resolutions, commandments, and other inspiring ideas scribbled on a JetBlue napkin. My number one commandment? Let go of destination happiness. Among others: Be here now, Show up, Stop complaining, and of course, Be Falon.

Rubin recommends and gives detailed instructions on how to conduct your own Happiness Project. Personally, I probably won’t embark on my own formal project, but reading about Gretchen’s experience has inspired me to be mindful and has already helped me feel happier in the present moment. In addition to her book, Gretchen updates her Happiness Blog daily. For book information and for guidelines on how to conduct your own Happiness Project, see her website here.

6a00d8341c5aa953ef0162ffffa2f0970dWhether you decide to read the book, create your own Happiness Project, or do none of the above, remember the piece of advice that Rubin offers at the beginning of the novel: “The days are long but the years are short”.

Make your days worthwhile, HBer’s!

It Starts With Food

On Monday, I finished my first pleasure read of the summer. A great stride, if I do say so myself. Every semester I find myself needing a stronger prescription for my contacts. I blame the hundreds of pages per week I’m required to read. That’s why it’s unlikely to find me reading anything more than online health and fitness articles and the occasional Sunday Globe front page until at least midsummer. This summer, however, is a little bit different. My interest in health, nutrition, and fitness has kicked into high gear, so you can almost always find me reading up on the fitness world’s latest and greatest. So, naturally, my first pleasure read was about food and its mind-blowing impact on our health. 

Note: When I come across something I love, I talk it up. Big time. Not because I’m an aspiring saleswoman, but because I truly believe in the value of whatever it is I happen to be raving about and want the whole world to reap its benefits. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always play out like that. But, I do believe that if I talk about something enough, the right people will listen.

So, without further ado, my thoughts on It Starts With Food by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig. 


It Starts With Food (ISWF) is exactly what I have been looking for in a health book. It explains all the trappings of healthy lifestyle (and diet) and why they matter. It debunks the motives behind trendy gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free diets, and explains why we feel the way we do when we eat certain foods—something that I’ve been struggling to grasp for a long time—in a simplified yet oh-so-scientific manner. In my humble opinion, it is a book that would do worlds of good for the hundreds of thousands of Americans suffering from lifestyle related diseases, such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression, and even some kinds of cancer. If you want to understand the effect of what you’re putting into your body has on your health or are just seeking some motivation, seriously, read this book. Or at least a few of the creators’ blog posts (

The book encourages you to make lifestyle changes, rather than failing on diet after diet. It offers a solution many dietary and lifestyle issues, should you so choose to listen. The creators wrote the book in conjunction with the development of a 30-day no-cheat program that recommends no added sugars, vegetable oils, dairy, or grains. Oh, and it claims to change your life.

I know what you’re thinking—don’t all diet gimmicks make that claim? Yes, but…Whole30 is different. Just read the hundreds of success stories on their website (, and at the beginning of each chapter. Whether you lose 20 pounds or simply discover more about your body and it’s response to certain foods, it just might, in one way or another, change your life.

What it is not: An over-complicated diet book with meal plans, cheat days, and unsustainable requirements that makes promises it cannot keep.

The Best PartISWF’s authors created the Whole30 program to show you how good you are capable of feeling. The program asks that you make various dietary changes for only one month as a science experiment, if you will. If you can make it through the 30 days and want to continue with the lifestyle changes you made, hooooray! If not, that’s O.K., too. But at least you know how you could feel with a little bit of effort. Heck, you don’t even have to do the program. But at least you will be able to understand the emotional, hormonal, and immune reactions you have to certain foods.

I finished ISWF with a new understanding of why my body does what it does. Why it doesn’t shed pounds when I restrict calories and exercise like a maniac. Why I crave sugar after dinner. Just about everything except for why my eyes are blue. I embarked on my first Whole30 journey with my best friend on Monday, July 8. Four days in and we are going strong! I’m going to continue spinning at The Handle Bar and see what impact a change in my diet will have in addition to my regular exercise routine. Reading this book and starting its 30-day challenge is my own way of raising the bar. How will you raise the bar this summer?

Falon Sweeney