Book Review: “The Happiness Project”



There’s some irony to me writing this review today, since I woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning and am being an impossible grouch. Then again, just thinking about this book makes me happier (at least a little) and if it can do it today, imagine what it would do on a day I’m not grumpy.

Seriously, here’s my advice to you – go out and get this book. Buy it, borrow it, check it out of the library, whatever you need to do – get it and read it. It’s one of the best, most practical books I have read in a long time. Gretchen Rubin writes of realizing one day that she had a great, fortunate life, and felt the need to appreciate it more, enjoy herself and her family more, and just be more aware of how lucky she (and all of us, really) was. She set out to make a series of simple, non-earth-shaking changes, and in the process improves her life and that of everyone around her – no drama, no damage, no running off to Indonesia and living with a medicine man. It’s the polar opposite of books like “Eat, Pray, Love” that imply the only way to improve your life is to burn it down and start over – not just thinking outside the box but trampling on it and throwing it’s mangled remains in the trash. (In the interest of full disclosure, I hate those sort of books, and I spent most of “Eat, Pray, Love” wanting to slap Elizabeth Gilbert in the mouth.)

Rubin breaks down her “Happiness Goals” into twelve sections, one for each month, taking inspiration from Benjamin Franklin’s “List of Virtues”, where he worked on one virtue a week for twelve weeks – and then goes from there. Vitality, Relationships, Work – I identified with all of them (well, except for the parenting one – no kids, just the cat) and found several useful pointers in each chapter.

Even today, when I am at my curmudgeonly best, I can dredge up her advice and nudge myself into a better, if not Pollyanna-ish, state. Yes, I woke up at 6.30 am on Sunday because I have so much work to do (and am breaking one of my personal rules, to not work on Sunday). Yes, the winery event I wanted to go to was rained out. Yes, my boyfriend changed his oil in the carport and now there’s  ^*&%^% oil everywhere that I am going to have to mop up. Yes, the store was out of red snapper.

But really, is it so bad? Take a deep breath and remember Gretchen’s advice: Fight right (yes, the oil’s a mess, but he also fixed my brakes last week. And don’t drag his mother into it). Be flexible (no red snapper, but grouper – just as good) Give yourself credit – I just went out in the drizzle and cleaned the chicken coop, and just accomplishing that made me feel better. Crossing “write book review” off my list will improve my morale even more.  And have some fun – maybe I can’t go to the winery, but I can watch Pirates of the Caribbean again, and I can do it in my underwear. Can’t do that at a winery. At least not until the second flight.

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