Tuesday, 9 February 2010

The Happiness Project

Happiness ProjectAs a regular reader of Gretchen Rubin's inspirational blog The Happiness Project, I couldn't wait to read her book which was published at the end of last year.  It finally arrived a couple of weeks ago and I just finished reading it. It was a great read and one I think many of you would also enjoy.

The book details her year-long pursuit of seeking to increase her personal sense of happiness through focusing on different areas of her life and following a set of resolutions.  She read a lot on the philosophy of happiness and her resolutions involved a variety of techniques based on what she felt might be worth trying. It's a very engaging read and the strategies Gretchen employs are things that we can all try out ourselves.

These are the subject areas Gretchen chose to focus on for the project (one for each month of the year, with December as the final month to try all of them at the same time!):

  • Vitality (Boosting energy)

  • Marriage

  • Work

  • Parenthood

  • Leisure

  • Friendship

  • Money

  • Eternity

  • Passion (Pursuing a passion)

  • Mindfullness

  • Attitude

There were many helpful and insightful resolutions in the book but I'll highlight three in this post, each from a different subject area:

Vitality (boost energy)

Going to sleep earlier: Only the other night my husband said to me, 'Every morning I tell myself that I will go to bed earlier, but every evening I stay up late finishing something and then in the morning I regret it!'. This is a great correlation to Gretchen's task of going to bed as soon as she felt sleepy. Many of us mums can relate to her point that evenings are valuable to us because the children are in bed, our partner is home, we have some free time....all these things make it hard for us to go to bed. We stay up watching TV, reading, browsing the internet, sending emails and go to bed later than we intend. Yet, as her resolution proved to her, Gretchen felt the benefits of getting a full eight hours sleep at night. More sleep really does equate to more energy.


Acknowledge the reality of people's feelings: This might not sound like something concerning parenting but Gretchen discovered the importance of acknowledging her children's feelings. She realised that she frequently said things to her children like, "You can't possibly want more Legos, you never play with the ones you have" or "You're not hungry, you just ate". When she instead repeated her child's assertions back to them, it was surprisingly effective as a means to diffuse their frustration. Instead of saying "Don't whine, you love to take a bath!", she said, "You're having fun playing. You don't want to take a bath now, even though it's time". Gretchen wondered if they felt reassured that their thoughts had been recognised and acknowledged, instead of feeling like they were being ignored. In addition to this technique, Gretchen lists five other ways to acknowledge her children's feelings that she tried out. In all cases, Gretchen demonstrates that responding in a caring way rather than jumping to be dismissive of something your child says works best for both parent and child.


Give positive reviews: Gretchen's aim here was to tone down her critical side and to show more warmth and enthusiasm towards others. Finding the positive side to a situation isn't always easy but it makes a big difference on those around you. Gretchen gave one example of going to see a movie with her husband and when her mother-in-law asked her about it afterwards, she resisted the urge to say, "Well, not bad" and instead told her, "It was such a treat to go see a movie in the afternoon". Being surrounded by happy, positive, cheery people usually tends to reflect back on us, making us feel the same way. We can all probably aspire to be a bit less critical in our interactions with others. Whilst it's a lot easier to snap at someone, trying to override that inclination and saying something positive will make you and those around you feel happier.


Have any of you read the book or plan on doing so? Are there any areas of your life that you think could benefit from a resolution or two?



  1. I wrote a piece about her project a few weeks ago. It's the one mentioned in today's post: the happiness effect. I haven't read the book yet. I'll wait till it comes to the library. I keep happy if I listen to my inner guidance telling me what's good for me and what's not. Simple but not always easy.

  2. Sounds like a good book. May have to add it to the ever growing pile on my bedside table! Thanks for the potted version, great review.

  3. Maryse - I remember reading your piece about it too. Good for you in following your inner guidance, that's usually what knows best!

    Its a muumys life - glad you enjoyed the review. I struggled in deciding what bits to focus on to keep it to a condense post!


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