Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Booking It 2011: The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

When I was growing up, whenever I was in a blue funk, my mom would always encourage me to make my own happiness.  Her advice was to find things to be happy about.  While that advice was not particularly helpful during my teenage years, I have often reflected back on her wise words throughout my life.  I have often thought that "happy" is much more a VERB kind of word than an ADJECTIVE kind of word.  The basic idea that one must work at being happy is the main idea of Gretchen Rubin's delightful book, and Life As Mom's February book pick, The Happiness Project.

I enjoyed reading this book very, very much.  After completing the book, I'm already thinking quite seriously about reading the book again, a bit more slowly, taking time to come up with my own happiness resolutions that correspond with each chapter.  I highly recommend this book, the combination of wonderfully practical happiness boosting strategies backed-up by research and the author's personal experience was great to read.  Overall, I found the book to be incredibly motivating.

One significant point that came up again and again in the book was that the author's happiness directly affected the people around her, particularly her family.  Therefore, working to be a happier person was beneficial to not only the author, but to her family and her wider social circle as well.  In my experience, I have found that to be so true.  As a homeschooling mother, I set the tone for our whole day every day.  I can choose to be happy and spread that happiness to my children or I can choose to drag us all down.

While I found the entire book to be entertaining, educational, and motivational, one of my very favorite chapters was January, Boost Energy, Vitality.  The connection between such basic issues as sleep, exercise, and order to happiness cannot be overstated and can so easily be overlooked in our busy, go-go-go lives.  Disorder and chaos make me feel anxious whereas order and a plan lead to peaceful, happy feelings for me.  I've had so many unpleasant interactions with my husband over the years because he innocently asked about my dinner plans.  If I have a plan, I can simply and happily answer.  If I don't have a plan, I tend to immediately feel defensive and start spouting off all of the reasons why I've been too busy to plan dinner.  Sleep, exercise, order - simple things but incredibly important to my level of happiness.

Throughout the book, there were so many great tidbits of information that truly resonated with me.  Some of these tidbits had me nodding my head as I read.  Many of them really made me think about my own behavior and how I could do better.

  • Be kind, think before you speak, and focus on the positive qualities of one's spouse.  All of these are simple to understand but take a daily commitment to put into practice.
  • Anger catharsis is poppycock.
  • Never underestimate the power of small chunks of time to get even big projects done.
  • My reactions to the moods and actions of my children can make things better or worse - I choose my reactions.
  • Reliving happy memories through photographs is important.
  • Projects are worth the effort.
  • Anticipating a happy event is part of the happiness of the happy event and the anticipation is sometimes even more happy than the event itself!
  • Take time to do leisure activities that are truly enjoyed.  If I truly love scrapbooking and sewing than I need to make more of an effort to DO those things on a regular basis.
  • Friendships take time and energy to nurture.
  • It's easy to take away the joy of others, it's harder to be a joy-supporter.
The only aspect of happiness that I felt was missing in the book was a focus on faith.  While August:  Contemplate the Heavens, Eternity touched on some issues of faith, the focus was definitely not on growing in one's faith in a personal and loving God.  My personal faith in Jesus is such a large part of my life and brings so much comfort, peace, and happiness to my life.  I can't imagine working to be a happier person without the firm bedrock of my faith undergirding me.  As well, my family's life is quite tied into our church.  In addition to church attendance, many of our social activities revolve around church functions.  Therefore, to talk about happiness in my life, it is impossible to leave out the importance of my faith.
I'm looking forward to reading what other bloggers participating in Life As Mom's Booking It 2011 online book club think about The Happiness Project.  Reading the book made me happy and participating in Life As Mom's online book club makes me happy, too!


Kelli said...

I hadn't heard about Booking It. It sounds like fun so I think I'll participate too. Thanks for posting it!

Shonda said...

Great review on The Happiness Project. Sounds like you are one busy mama. I want to homeschool too. I was a K teacher for 12 years and now a SAHM with a 2 year old and one on the way. I feel so out of my "teaching" mode. I do a few things with my little guy though.

Mary @ A Simple Twist Of Faith said...

Thanks for your book review and for stopping by my blog. I agree with you regarding faith as a center of my life and key to my happiness. I am currently reading St. Therese autobiography because of The Happiness Project. St. Therese is a model for placing Jesus first in her life.

Kara said...

Hi! I am new to your blog through Life As Mom and wanted to comment because I totally agree with your assessment of The Happiness Project and how, although an excellent and life-changing book, it leaves our a major area in my life--Jesus! I started my own Happiness Project adding resolutions like "read through the bible in one month" (lofty goal, I know!) and "memorize 10 scriptures" to the faith month and I added a whole month dedicated to service and volunteer work. I want to make that a bigger part of my life and model it for my kids (ages 4 and 1). Thanks for your review!