“Happiness depends upon ourselves.”
Happiness is a highly subjective and relative term and varies from one person to another. There are so many ‘experts’ telling us how to be happy; how can we apply one hard and fast rule to so many different kinds of people? There are the kinds who go off on great adventures, seeking the answer abroad… and the ones who can’t. What happens when the adventure finally ends? What then? What happens when the routine and repetition of daily life threatens to undo your idea of what makes you happy?
Quite a few years ago I came across The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin and the cynic in me ignored it for quite a long time. The first time I saw it was just after I had read Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert and needless to say I wasn’t taken with it – at all. When I finally ordered a copy of The Happiness Project, I expected to find a book that would tell me that happiness would be easy to find if only I took steps A, B and C. I approached the book with a fairly negative attitude until I was suddenly at the last page with a smile on my face and a spring in my step. What makes this book any different from the others?
Gretchen Rubin begins her book by acknowledging the good things she has in her life; she has a home and a family, a job she likes and extended family and friends. However one day she felt like she was letting it all pass by her, without taking the time to properly enjoy herself. She assumed she was happy; while she wasn’t unhappy, she felt like something was wasn’t quite right. After some research on happiness, she decided that she wanted to make a difference in her life, not by sweeping her family off to some foreign location, but by making the most of what she had right in front of her. The happiness project was born; Rubin was going to use the next twelve months to improve different areas of her life. She practiced singing to her children in the morning instead of yelling; she avoided sleeping on arguments with her partner; she de-cluttered her home and she focused on being creative, something she enjoyed but thought she didn’t have time for. After a few months, she started to notice a difference, not only in the way she felt, but in the way the people around her were responding. Her husband was happier. So were her kids. At the end of the twelve months, she noted that although not much had actually changed, she had taught herself to make the most of the life she had.
Her approach to happiness was one that resonated with me on an intellectual and personal level. I am a true believer that happiness beings within yourself and I really liked the way Rubin recognised the good things in her life and worked on making them the best they could be. The book contains the tools for the reader to do the same if they wish; however the possibilities and interpretations are endless. Of the many, many articles and books I have read on the topic, this is the only one I have kept laying around. I think it’s a keeper!