I actually finished this book in January and had big plans to start my very own happiness project – I was so inspired by it.
But between being away and moving back home, I’ve been putting it off. It’s hard to say why exactly, but on some subconscious level I know that I have been. Initially, I felt so happy after simply reading the book because I felt I had a new mindset, outlook and enthusiasm for my own project (which I saw myself starting once I was home instead of while travelling) that I didn’t actually follow through with it.
I have been pretty content since being home. I’ve been busy applying for jobs, catching up with friends and family and figuring out the next step. But now everything is in place, I think I need to focus on exactly what I want in my new life and how I want it to be.
So now feels like the right time to start figuring out my project and actually committing to it (New Years challenge no.1 which you can read about in this blog).
You may think that this book is simply about what happiness is, perhaps a guide on being more happy (that’s the illusive code we’re always being told we’re trying to crack right?). Well, it’s sort of this but it’s way more than that. It’s not just a case of “How often do you actually stop and ask yourself: ‘am I happy?'”
There’s more to it than that.
Gretchen Rubin begins by explaining what led her to writing the happiness project, and it wasn’t necessarily a pursuit for some distant unattainable happiness, it was the pursuit of happiness in the ordinary. In her existing life. In many respects, it was a search for appreciation, which in turn, lead to increased happiness.
It’s about a mindset, and how you view your life. In summary, I interpret the concept like this: if I stop to appreciate what I already have, I will not constantly want more and I won’t make / feel the need to make big dramatic life changes because maybe I just need to make a few minor adjustments or tweaks to improve my happiness.
And this was something that particularly struck a chord with me… As a sat in my English style cottage in New Zealand on my quest for a job abroad because I had been so ‘unhappy and dissatisfied in London’.
Well in fairness, I wanted to work and live abroad, it wasn’t just ‘I’m unhappy so I’m moving around the world for a bit’ but it did make me realise that the life I had carved out for myself in London was actually pretty damn close to the life I wanted to carve out for myself in New Zealand. Spectacularly ironic, wouldn’t you agree?
In some strange twist of fate, being on the other side of the world gave me a greater appreciation for the life I had left behind.
The book begins by explaining the background and why the chapters are arranged the way they are.
Hobbies aka ‘pursue a passion’ was one of my favourite chapters.
I remember meeting someone for the first time a few years ago and they asked me what my hobbies were. (They were massively into mountain biking). Well… I thought this was a trick question. Hobbies I thought? Well, I pondered this for a few minutes, unsure of how to answer and can clearly recall thinking…
I have uni, my job, my boyfriend and my friends / family back home. I really didn’t have time for ‘hobbies’ although I did concede I was part of the uni karate team and enjoyed watching films. This moment has stayed with me and came back particularly vividly when I read this chapter.
I loved this chapter in particular because Rubin says: okay, you’re an adult, you have responsibilities BUT it’s okay to do things you enjoy doing including old hobbies that you may not have done for years (possibly even since childhood) because hobbies can be an important source of happiness.
It also raises the issue of making time to be happy and in some ways, for ourselves. I mean quality time. Because I think, as we get older we do less for ourselves in that sense. Our time belongs to everyone else and the free time we do have (I’m speaking for myself here), I find myself bingeing on Sons of Anarchy on Netflix.
I enjoyed the book because I found it deeply personal, yet still relatable as Rubin always brings it back to the reader so as to encourage them to start their own happiness project. I think the chapters compliment each and sort of wrap everything up nicely.
I like that the book is so personal yet is entirely personalise-able (I’m not even sure if that’s a word) but Rubin offers ideas and suggestions as to how we, the readers, can change elements to make it more personal or relevant to us.
The book is not necessarily black and white in the question of ‘am I happy’, it’s more about: can I be happier by appreciating things more now, instead of possibly looking back with regret one day because I didn’t appreciate them enough when I could? Think of that classic expression: you don’t miss something until it’s gone. Well the point of this book is to appreciate even the little things before they are gone.
I found myself disagreeing with the book at times, specifically I think, relating to the home situation. I felt that Rubin didn’t always get the help she wanted and instead just accepted doing those things herself, BUT! What she actually says is that often the approach to such matters is as important, if not more important than what you are actually saying. For instance, Rubin cites examples involving her children and husband, and how she changed her approach when she wanted them to do something.
I found this book so inspiring, I’ve decided to create my own happiness project and plan to begin in April. I know roughly how it will look, and it will focus on what makes me happy or unhappy and causes of frustration for me.
Have you read this book? Have you been inspired to create your own project? What makes you happiest?