Book: The Happiness Project
I picked up this book this past summer when I was on a camping trip on Quadra Island with my six year old son. I thought it looked like some fun, light reading to keep me awake around the campfire after my son went to bed.
This book is about a mother, writer, former lawyer and wife named Gretchin Rubin who spends a year trying to improve her own happiness. Outlined in the book, is basically (as I think most of us know) people are happier if they do things such as; spend undistracted time with their friends and family, get nagging jobs done such as clearing clutter, eat well and pursue a passion. However I found myself hooked by reading about someone living their life temporarily as an experiment and seeing what ends up happening.
Even though I thought I wasn’t taking the book all that seriously, it did have an effect on me. It inspired me to put more effort into some things she suggests; such as, tackle the nagging task of decluttering my studio; quit nagging my husband about house chores (or at least keep a sense of humour about it); work smart by making it my goal to paint undistracted 3 hours a day (weekdays); take time for projects – such as my current huge project of going through all the family photos and printing/framing the best ones; making extra time to hang out with friends and also to seize any opportunity to do something fun or different.
I think in the end Rubin shows us that nurturing our own happiness (who doesn’t want to do this?!) is ironically one of the best things we can do for others.
Note: Rubin doesn’t hesitate to try tackling the question: “what is happiness”, which doesn’t necessarily mean always feeling happy, but maybe content. Sometimes I don’t realize I’m happy until something has been taken away (eg. good weather, health). It’s only in retrospect that I think, “hey I was happy when I went on that grueling bike ride”. Which makes me think I want to recognize the happy things I am experiencing now, because it’s not going to last! Which, by the way, is a comforting thought also when life is difficult, “it’s not going to last”.
Another note: I think we really have to think about “what will make us happy” and Gretchen emphasizes the importance of not only feeling good, but feeling “right”. So while I might think initially that a new fancy car or gadget will make me happy – it might be only short-term happiness and actually make me feel worse in the end (remorse of spending money, taking focus away from what is more important in my life, more garbage in environment etc…).
“Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing nor that, but simply growth. We are happy when we are growing”. William Butler Yeats.
On this note, feel free to share any thoughts this may have sparked about what you think happiness is about, I’m curious….Also Gretchen Ruben has a really good blog on this topic.