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.
I 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.
Whether 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!