For What It's Worth

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Review & Giveaway! The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

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 FunGretchen Rubin had an epiphany one rainy afternoon in the unlikeliest of places: a city bus. "The days are long, but the years are short," she realized. "Time is passing, and I'm not focusing enough on the things that really matter." In that moment, she decided to dedicate a year to her happiness project. In this lively and compelling account of that year, Rubin carves out her place alongside the authors of bestselling memoirs such as Julie and Julia, The Year of Living Biblically, and Eat, Pray, Love. With humor and insight, she chronicles her adventures during the twelve months she spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific research, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier.
Rubin didn't have the option to uproot herself, nor did she really want to; instead she focused on improving her life as it was. Each month she tackled a new set of resolutions: give proofs of love, ask for help, find more fun, keep a gratitude notebook, forget about results. She immersed herself in principles set forth by all manner of experts, from Epicurus to Thoreau to Oprah to Martin Seligman to the Dalai Lama to see what worked for her—and what didn't.
Her conclusions are sometimes surprising—she finds that money can buy happiness, when spent wisely; that novelty and challenge are powerful sources of happiness; that "treating" yourself can make you feel worse; that venting bad feelings doesn't relieve them; that the very smallest of changes can make the biggest difference—and they range from the practical to the profound.
Written with charm and wit, The Happiness Project is illuminating yet entertaining, thought-provoking yet compulsively readable. Gretchen Rubin's passion for her subject jumps off the page, and reading just a few chapters of this book will inspire you to start your own happiness project. (Non Fiction)

I bought this book on impulse while browsing in the bookstore one day. I'm not sure why, but I thought it was going to be a lighthearted, humorous take on what it takes to be happy. I based this assumption on the this tag line on the front cover:

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.

What I found was something akin to a chart, graph and bullet list approach to being happy. Which kind of seems like the sort of thing that would take loads of time and make me the opposite of happy.

I have to admire the author for recognizing and tackling the issue but I was completely turned off by the approach. She makes charts, compiles studies, quotes, makes resolutions with a kind of wacky zeal. When she discusses her happiness project with her husband and he asks her if she is unhappy….her response is to launch into a lengthy explanation of a 2006 study that reveals how people rank themselves on the happiness scale, complete with percentages and her personal questionnaire results (Out of a range of 1 to 5 she scored a 3.92). She feels the results show she's happy - but not as happy as she should be.

I'm not knocking the approach. I do realize that most people like that type of organization and are highly goal motivated. I'm not, so I guess the whole thing rubbed me the wrong way. If I approached being happy with such fervor I might end up in the loony bin. To me happiness is attained when we stop running around like chickens with our heads cut off and learn to live in the moment. Again- I understand that this is just my way of thinking. Rubin's approach could work wonders for someone else.

That's not to say there isn't loads of useful informations in The Happiness Project. Each chapter is focused on a month and goal such as January/Boost Energy- Vitality - go to sleep earlier, exercise more etc, February/Remember Love - Marriage - fight right, quit nagging. Other chapters include leisure, friendships, money, books.

There are loads of great tips about organizing & excellent motivational quotes. And you can't argue about eating better, keeping a gratitude journal or being a better friend, wife & mother. I'm just not sure that you need to approach the topic of happiness in the same way that you may prepare for war.

The results speak for themselves though. Rubin was indeed happier at the end of her project. Her marriage had improved, she felt like a better mother and friend. I love this line from the closing chapter:

"I found that the ruby slippers had been on my feet all along; the bluebird was singing outside my kitchen window"

Rubin's approach may not be the right one for me but I say follow whatever you need to to find your Happiness.

Rating 2 out of 4

Where to find Gretchen Rubin:

Publisher: Harper (January 1, 2009)

Let's get you happy!
Now for a giveaway!

*Fill out the FORM below*
*Must be 18 years old to enter
*+2 if you follow this blog (not required)
*Giveaway ends Sunday 7/24/2011 11:59 pm ET

This giveaway has closed.

The winner is The Girl on Fire


  1. I'm organised to the point that I totally annoy my family so would probably appreciate reading this. Good luck to all who enter, I'll be sure to put it on the comp/giveaway page of my blog.

  2. This book looks phenomenal - thanks for sharing and thanks for the giveaway :)

  3. A teacher of mine who has similar tastes to me with these kind of books read it and felt the same way. She thought it would be light and it...totally wasn't. I forget the author name, but she was recently excited for a non-fiction book called My Fair Lazy. She loves the author of it and her work, and I think she's more along the lines of a 'fun' nonfiction read.