The Happiness Project made me happy.
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 Fun
HarperCollins 2010 $25.99 301 pages
For a year, Gretchen Rubin sets out to find happiness. She writes with such honesty and candor about her struggles and triumphs. She researches it extensively, and across disciplines- psychology, sociology, history. Using what she learned, she sets up a year of projects, themed across the months.
It makes sense that January begins with get more energy. After all, it’s the big gym-joining month. What impressed me, though, was that she folded de-cluttering into her intention for more energy. And, after working her way through keeping and tossing unneeded clothes, she discovered she really liked de-cluttering closets. (Oh Gretchen, you can come organize my closet any time you want! Please???) Also- proof that the Happiness Project has got to start with getting organized…. I had absolutely written a review of this book, longhand on a piece of paper I have now lost. This impinges upon my happiness. Attempting to reconstruct what I wrote….
What’s impressive about February’s focus on love is her own candor, her own willingness to acknowledge her flaws and frustrations. (Show love better, stop nagging and dumping, really appreciate people.) That carries out throughout the book, inviting empathy, even inspiration… if she can try to change, fail, and resolve to do better, so can any reader.
Rubin’s candor carries her throughout the work of the book, the themes and projects she encounters. She’s a smart woman, a striver, hard on herself and independent. (Nope, don’t identify with that at all. Heh.) “Ask for help” has to be a specific part of her project- because it doesn’t come naturally. “Lighten up” gets its own month, followed by May’s “Get Serious About Play,” for someone who takes on a lot of stress and drive and family responsibility. (No wonder I loved this book. It’s like the pages are holding up mirrors!)
Happiness? Over a year devoted to the project, it seems less like happiness; more like she’s collecting ways to be calmer, more grounded, better focused, and healthier. But still, acknowledging her flaws and struggles.
This might be a book that you turn to, looking for more happiness in your own life. If it is, the practical, methodical nature of these projects, and Rubin’s candor, will inspire you. (There are more specific tools for your own Happiness Project on her website. Which she started a few months into the project.) It’s more helpful than an actual self-help book, I think.
Or, it could stand alone as a memoir of ordinary pleasures and struggles, peppered with historical asides about everyone from Ben Franklin to Samuel Johnson to Elizabeth Enright. It’s a rich and busy book, with confessions, warmth, dailiness, attempts, lists, trivia, and yes…. happiness.