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The Happiness Project – one cynic’s review

Cover of "The Happiness Project: Or, Why ...

Cover via Amazon

New Yorkers are synonymous with hustle and bustle.  The term itself conjures up an image of thousands of foot soldiers stalwartly making their way up Fifth Avenue, like an army of ants returning to their queen.

I only have one friend who calls New York home, but I imagine its inhabitants to be “Type A” people, each with long “to do” lists that they keep beside their beds in the event they think of another thing they may want to accomplish in the middle of the night.  I know this is a stereotype, but it seems to be backed up by portrayals of New Yorkers in many books, shows, and movies, so I’m sticking by it.  (Hollywood doesn’t lie.)

So in reading “The Happiness Project”, although interested in this noble cause: finding happiness; I couldn’t quell the idea that author Gretchen Rubin had put “get happy” on her to do list, and was going to go to any length to achieve it, no matter that happiness is actually an intangible aspect of our beings.  This year: happiness.  Next year: wealth.

By December, the month she had decided to put all eleven methods of getting happy into play, I was so worried she was going to have a nervous breakdown that I couldn’t grasp whether or not she was succeeding.  I read on just to make sure she didn’t drop dead mid sentence from the sheer effort of forcing herself to do all of those things on her list (that didn’t necessarily come naturally to her).

Aside from this niggling feeling I had throughout the book, Rubin makes some valid points about steps you can take to improve your mood.  Strangely, I had just written a post about reducing clutter entitled “November: a new year begins”, wherein I felt so much better after ridding closets and drawers of unused items.  Likewise, the first month of Rubin’s project is dedicated to organizing and cleaning her apartment of clutter.  I agree that putting in this time and effort is well worth the reward, and can contribute to an overall sense of achievement that translates to happiness.

Another aspect of her happiness project that resonated with me was her determination to “Be Gretchen”, and ascribe her personal happiness to her own unique personality, and not base it on what she feels she should be doing.  For instance, she feels like she should love going to jazz clubs, but in actual fact she doesn’t; so she rightly learns to listen to her true self.

But the absolute most important point she hit upon was that we are all happier when in stages of growth.  Continually evolving as humans and expanding our horizons is of utmost importance when measuring happiness.  Whatever way you achieve this – by taking a course, learning a trade, reading a book, taking up an instrument, traveling to a new place – your overall well-being will stand to benefit.

Applause has to go to Rubin for her efforts to make the world a better place by sharing her Happiness Project.  If she has helped one person, and she undoubtably has helped thousands if book sales are any indication, it has been a worthwhile project.

That should make her happy.

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