Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Happiness Project

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote that I would provide a book report of sorts on The Happiness Project.  Well, I've completed reading the book, and while it isn't exactly my kind of book (or, for that matter, my kind of project), there were some worthwhile tidbits in it that I'd like to share.  

The author, Gretchen Rubin, is far too anal for me.  She spent a year trying to be happier by assigning a topic each month to work on. For example, one of her resolutions during one month was to make three new friends.  I had to wonder what kind of friendship you can create when making friends is simply something on your to-do list to be checked off.  She even broke down "fun" into three separate categories. Hey, it's not "fun" if you have to categorize it.  The author has a "Resolutions Chart" where she gives herself check marks or stars if she follows through on her resolutions. She has "12 Commandments" as well as "Secrets of Adulthood" that she uses as the basis for her project.  

While this attempt at happiness is way too structured for me, I did think that there was some worthwhile information in the book - not rocket science and maybe things that I already knew, but sometimes it's good to see it in writing.   Some of her 12 Commandments resonated with me, such as "Be Gretchen" (or, in my case, Be Judi); "Let it go";  "Act the way I want to feel"; "Enjoy the process".   Her "Secrets of Adulthood" ranged from "Do good, feel good" to such things as "Bring a sweater".

So the basic premise of the book is to try to create the optimum atmosphere for happiness by tackling topics such as vitality (exercise better and get more sleep) to relationships (marriage, parenthood, friendship) to mindfulness (be more in the moment as you go about your busy life).  There is some merit in taking time to consider how we react to our environment and the people around us.  Rubin discusses studies that show "emotional contagion" where we unconsciously catch emotions from other people - both good and bad moods.  We all know that to be true, but maybe being a little more aware of this will help us avoid the bad and emphasize the good.

One of the most interesting (to me) topics mentioned in the book is that for both men and women, "the most reliable predictor of not being lonely is the amount of contact with women. Time spent with men doesn't make a difference."   So that's why I value my lady friends so much.  Aha!

I did identify with some of her suggestions, like find more fun, take time to be silly, enjoy now, be grateful, fake it till you feel it, and laugh out loud.  The book encouraged me to continue my own mood makeover in my own way, trying always to be more in the moment, lighter and, well, just plain old happier.  And to never, not for a second, forget how grateful I am.

Postscript to Post:  We take off for 10 days on Friday to Scotland for a vacation and, at the end, a wedding in a castle.  Stay tuned for photos posted here in mid-September. My goal for today is to fit everything I'm packing in one carry-on.  Ah, true happiness if I'm successful.

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