Thursday, March 10, 2011

Reviewing "The Happiness Project" and Feeling Happier

I just read The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. Two of my girlfriends and I are getting together this weekend to discuss it.  I chose this book after having fallen in love with Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.  Of course, my adoration for Gilbert's book stems from my love of fantasy, which is exactly what any hope of following in Gilbert's footsteps would be right now.  Truthfully, while I admire Gilbert's zeal and thoroughly enjoy her ability to tell a good story, I have no desire to travel without my husband and kids -- which would make all that meditation and unfettered sex a bit tricky.

Rubin, on the other hand, offers a tale of doable steps toward greater happiness -- admittedly, still for those of us lucky enough to have a steady income and a reasonably stable psyche.  Rubin's journey does not require a book deal, plane fare, and a job that makes extensive travel possible (I really did love Eat, Pray, Love -- I just fully understand that Gilbert's actual journey is accessible to very few people.).

Rubin divided a year into monthly goals.  My favorites are April: "Lighten up Parenthood"; May: "Be Serious About Play"; June: "Make Time for Friends"; August: "Contemplate the Heavens"; September: "Pursue Passions"; and October: "Pay Attention".  She suggests that readers do the same, based upon personal goals and one's own set of life commandments (Her commandments included such golden notions as "Let it go", "Do it now", "Enjoy the process", and my favorite, "There is only love").

Rubin, a writer by trade and mother of two young daughters, essentially walks us through the journey she experienced, month by month.  I most appreciate her candor -- there are several moments in the book when she acknowledges that she doesn't feel any happier.  But then, there are moments when she does.   Mostly, she gives helpful examples that others might consider, like how to make new friends (a challenge in adulthood) and how to better nurture the friendships you already enjoy.

While I find her life a bit exhausting and occasionally find myself feeling somewhat inadequate in my inability to keep up, Rubin has motivated me to chuck those worries for the most part and just be who I am.  Me.  Not her.  Just me.

She has also motivated me to make some considerable life changes, like devoting 1-2 hours daily to writing.  It was Rubin's message that pushed me to fully commit to this blog after several years of a wishy-washy relationship at best.  In the chapter on passions, she shares that Chris Baty's book No Plot? No Problem motivated her to write a novel in a month by writing 1,667 words a day, without bothering to edit.  I plan to try this this summer, perhaps extending my time period to three months of writing five days per week.  I also sprung off of her chapter on spirituality and decided to actually observe the liturgical season of Lent, commencing today, through a sacrifice this year (normally I add a discipline) in order to more fully discern how I might better follow the edict that we love God above all else and our neighbor as ourselves.

I did find some of the listings of comments she had received on her blog a bit redundant.  I am not sure how I feel about listing comments in a book based on a blog.  In this case, it did not add anything to my experience.  I also wanted more meat in some of her chapters, like the one on marriage.

The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More FunNeither of these issues detracted from the value of the book, however.  The Happiness Project by Getchen Rubin is an easy, fast read.  I highly recommend it if you are looking for a boost in your own happiness quotient.

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