The Sweet Stuff

My Happiness Project

lauraI’m reading this book called The Happiness Project given to me by my lovely girlfriend Grace. She raved about the book and was quoting it quite frequently on our trip to Costa Rica. This book has a gotten a lot of mixed reviews from my other friends some of them loved the book while others hated it, there was no in between. I’m always open minded about books regarding happiness because the topic has always intrigued me. I’m generally a happy person but there’s always room for improvement right?

When you ask someone what they wish for or what they want in life, the answer is always happiness. So what does that mean? Does it mean more money, a better job, getting married, a baby, a nicer apartment, peace? Happiness means something different for everyone and it changes over time. For me, happiness when I was in my twenties was completely different than what it means now.

I was a psych major so I studied happiness theories a lot in both college and grad school. Over the years, I’ve watched both friends and family pursue things that they thought would bring them happiness. In my observations, I’ve noticed that most people don’t make happiness a priority due to a number of reasons like societal and family pressures or they just don’t believe happiness is a choice. Others might look at being happy as a sign of weakness or not as important as success and power. I find it so strange then that everyone wants happiness but not many people take active steps towards happiness.

This book is about building happiness within yourself and your life so that when you face adversity, you are armed with the tools you need to get through any situation no matter how terrible it is. Like I said before, I’m a pretty happy person but it’s easy to be happy when things are great but what happens when things aren’t so great? Let’s face it, life is a series of both good and bad events and it’s inevitable that bad things are going to happen. It’s also a proven fact that happy people are more adaptable to change and resilient to bad times.

I really liked the way the book was broken down. The author, Gretchen Rubin, devotes a year to her happiness project with each month focused on a topic. For example, January was devoted to boosting energy while June was making time for friends. Everything she suggests makes perfect sense like if you have more energy, you’re more likely to do more for yourself and others which in turn creates happiness. These are just a few of the things that came up in the book that I’ve tried and thought were quite effective:

  1. Go to bed earlier
  2. Toss, restore, and organize
  3. Enjoy now
  4. Take time for projects
  5. Take time to be silly
  6. Be generous
  7. Show up
  8. Let it go

These all look like pretty simple things to do but hard to practice on a day-to-day basis. I’ve been reading the book for a month now and I’ve made a conscious effort to make little tweaks in my life to increase happiness. The whole process has definitely brought a greater sense of self-awareness which is always a great thing and it also has indirectly helped the people around me. For example, I wanted to give more to the people in my life who I love. I don’t have a whole lot of money but the one thing I could do was to give in my own way. I figured out two things that I could do 1) be generous with my time and 2) show up. Time is such an issue with all of us, we never seem to have much of it. Showing up means more to people than you think. When my friends who live outside of the city come in to see me, it means more to me than a gift or a grand gesture because they carved out time just for me. I put this idea into practice recently when my girlfriend needed a babysitter. I canceled my plans on a Saturday night, took the train to Westchester and babysat for a couple of hours. Was it inconvenient to my social life? Yes. Was it annoying to take the train and back? Yes, but it brought me so much happiness knowing that my friend and her husband were having their first fun night out as new parents.

Happiness is a topic that I can speak about for hours and hours and it comes up a lot in conversations within my own circle of friends and family. There’s so much more I want to share with you about this topic and I intend to in upcoming posts. In the meantime, I hope this will inspire you to look deep within yourself and make the decision to be happy. The most important lesson I’ve learned thus far is to be present and do it now.