Book Review: The Happiness Project

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

Gretchen Rubin had an epiphany one rainy afternoon in the unlikeliest of places: a city bus. “The days are long, but the years are short,” she realized. “Time is passing, and I’m not focusing enough on the things that really matter.” In that moment, she decided to dedicate a year to her happiness project.

In this lively and compelling account, Rubin chronicles her adventures during the twelve months she spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific research, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier. Among other things, she found that novelty and challenge are powerful sources of happiness; that money can help buy happiness, when spent wisely; that outer order contributes to inner calm; and that the very smallest of changes can make the biggest difference.

-Goodreads

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The biggest lesson of this hard year:

Out of everyone I know only two people have had a good 2020, and honestly good for them, someone should have enjoyed it. The pandemic is the heart of the bad year, but lets be honest, everyone has a different list of hardships from this year. Whether it be isolation, job loss, sickness, or other terrible things, its been a year- and not one that you’re going to commemorate with a 2020 Christmas tree ornament.

And while I spent the spring and summer struggling with our series of unfortunate events, I’ve spent this fall and winter on something else, all the blessings I have despite all the bad.

It’s easy to get carried away with the mess when one thing goes wrong after another. It’s easy to let the darkness consume you, and many bad years, I’ve let it. I’ve let the darkness win. I’ve let myself sink into depression- whether warrantied or not. And honestly no one would blame you if 2020 has left you that way. We’re in a pandemic with COVID but also with depression. We have sky high suicide rates right now. It’s been a very easy year to get lost in the darkness. If you have, you aren’t alone.

But, the message that I have is that there are still things going on to be happy about. There are still things to find joy in. The reason you can see all the shadows is because their is some form of light that is casting them.

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Trying to delete depression as it forms:

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Oh boy, another post about mental health, after a few months without them I’m back! Mental health is so important and with all that has been going on in my life lately, mine got a little rattled. As I said to my husband “I’m in a funk”, only, I knew what that funk felt like. It felt like the beginnings of something much worse, something that I needed to act on as soon as possible. My warning signs were clear. It was time to shape up my mental health, here’s how I’m approaching that:

Talking about it: Whether you do it with a therapist or with a trusted friend or family member, talking about your mental health is important. It not only makes you feel less alone but it also helps you untwist your feelings. The same way journaling is good for discovering what is really the root cause, talking helps you get to the bottom of your feelings. As I spoke about “my funk” I figured out some of the key things that were causing me to sink. It was important information!

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The gift of “good enough”

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I’ve been writing a lot of posts about self improvement. It’s been on my mind, and I honestly think it is something we should all be striving for. It’s important to constantly be shaping yourself into something better, because like it or not, you’re going to change either way, you might as well be going in the right direction.

But with all the talk of self improvement I think I need to counter it, because perfectionism is the enemy of good. If you’re aiming for perfect most the time you will fail, you should be aiming for better instead, or depending on where you started, a lot better. You can’t be great at everything, sometimes you simply have to be okay with being good at something.

So let’s talk about settling. We’ve been taught that settling is bad, and in some situations it really is. You shouldn’t settle on a spouse. You shouldn’t settle when you know your work warrants more. But there is a different kind of settling that no one talks about, a healthy kind that keeps you sane.

I’m talking about knowing when things are good enough and taking them.

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Seven Things:

 

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First of all- Happy Halloween! I hope it’s spook-tacular! I can’t believe we are already at the end of October, this year seems to be flying by. But if you have a few spare minutes to take in the day (perhaps while waiting for Trick-or-Treaters) here are some links for you to enjoy discovering and reading through!

Appreciating the little things creates a better big picture.

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You know when you have a cold and you regret not being amazed by the fact that you can breathe out of your nose 99% of the time. It’s crazy how much of life is like that- over looked, under valued honest to God gifts.

I think we take too much for granted. I think I take too much for granted.

We all begrudgingly admit that we’ve taken people and larger opportunities for granted, we can see them easily with clear eyes. We tend to see those when they hit us in the face. We hate it when it happens and it makes us try to reorganize our lives so we don’t do it again. We think big picture, and it helps our mental health, to think about everything on a larger scale, to know how important these people and opportunities are to your life.

But even if we are trying to take care and appreciate all our big items, even if we are cherishing our loved ones and trying to take every hand that’s reached down to us, we can still be stuck. We can still feel overwhelmed. We can still feel like we’re on the losing end. Maybe we don’t have that many loved ones, maybe the tasks before us are too big or simply not enough. Things happen and life often falls short of what we want it to be, even if we are trying to appreciate the big things. Even if we’re trying not to take anything for granted, but the fact is, when we’re doing these things we aren’t being overwhelmed with how amazing the little things are.

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The importance of identifying mental health cycles:

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Life comes in phases. It’s a up down cycle of happiness and sadness. A constant revolving door between good events and bad events. It’s easy to dismiss that fact, to overlook it and think that each bad phase is going to last forever, but they never do. So, why is it so easy to dismiss the cycle?

Our emotions are overwhelming. They completely take over our thoughts. Our memories of both good and bad times get fuzzy and we think the only thing we know for sure is the crisp emotions we currently feel.

Because of this it’s easy to miss the fact that it isn’t just happiness and sadness that cycle, but all aspects of our mental health. Anxieties that we have conquered in the past can come up again in different ways. Habits that we haven’t seen in a long while can come back when we least expect them.

We often find ourselves trapped in cycles without even noticing it, and perhaps that’s because we really can’t control these cycles, and they’ll always come back despite us. But not being able to control our cycles doesn’t mean that we can’t beat them.

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Key factors in happiness: Gratitude and perspective

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I think one of the most important factors to happiness is perspective and the ability to develop and nurture it before a long amount of time has passed.

Given time and distance we can see how the trail of bad things were leading us to something good. It changes our mind on whether the bad times were worth it and most of us submit to the age old truth that those things needed to happen to us. If we’re able to keep that mindset in the present it changes our reaction to negative events. We start to see them as brutal necessities that will lead us exactly were we need to go.

It’s a hard mindset to keep though, and it is always easier said than done. One thing that greatly helps us cultivate perspective in the present is gratitude.

Giving thanks daily keeps our mind centered on the good. It helps us maintain a positive outlook on the future by realizing if there is good hidden throughout our terrible day, there will be far more when the darkness starts to fade.

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