Saturday, October 1, 2011

Book Response: The Happiness Project

A week ago, I finished reading 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 by Gretchen Ruben.  It was recommended to me months ago by a happy woman I met at one of my speaking gigs.
I confess there is a part of me that thinks that happiness is not cool.  As a sophisticated thinker in the modern age, I should understand that happiness is an unrealistic, na├»ve response to life .
The world is so full of a number of things,
I'm sure we should all be as happy as kings,
and you know how happy kings are.
-James Thurber.
For her happiness project, Gretchen Rubin studied happiness and created a list of personal commandments and a resolution chart. Each month for a year, she addressed a theme (vitality, marriage, work, parenthood  etc.) and acted on resolutions related to it .

In her parenthood month, for example,  her resolutions were
  • sing in the morning
  • acknowledge the reality of people's feelings
  •  be a treasure house of happy memories
  •  make time for projects
She followed her progress in a blog and the book includes comments on the blog from readers who were participating in their own happiness projects.

This is the second book I've read this year in the new genre of "method journalism," where the writer takes a year to do something and documents her process (Eat, Pray, LoveJulie and Julia).

As someone who loves process, I find it a delightful genre. I'm also cheered that it often uses a blend of old and new publishing technologies; blogs informing books engendering websites.

The Happiness Project also satisfies the obsessive-compulsive in me. Its reliance on charts and checkmarks is comforting. Ruben identifies her Resolution Chart as perhaps the most powerful tool of her happiness project.

The project is inspirational. The book is fun and engaging.

Along the Way, Rubin began a Happiness Project Toolbox website, which is an online community containing resources and stories of people embarked on their own happiness projects. It has become a Movement!

I'm not planning to create my own happiness project, but the process has added another blossom to my "what's next" thinking bouquet.


Kayla said...

Agreed - I like the genre, and I enjoyed Rubin's book. I'm not planning my own happiness project either, but the book did give me some inspiration and things to ponder in my continual quest for growth.

nicole said...

You sure do your share of reading!

Kate Wolfe-Jenson said...

Hi Kayla and Nicole.
I love reading and posting "book responses" is one way of cheering myself along.

Portugal said...

The author shares with you concrete ways to develop an appreciation for the good things you currently have going in your life. In addition, there are many good quotes that I have taken from this book and used to help me focus on being happier and more appreciative.

Kate Wolfe-Jenson said...

You might want to visit her websites and for tools and other folks who are working with the book.