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On My Bookshelf

On My Bookshelf: The Happiness Project

July 8, 2011

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I’ve been doing lots of reading on happiness lately. And one of the first books I picked up (and promptly devoured): The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin. If you haven’t heard about it…in a nutshell: Woman with a good life (writer, mother, living in New York City) realizes she’s not as happy as she would like to be. Decides to undertake a year-long project of making herself happier, using all the current research and ancient wisdom she can get her hands on.

To start, I love that a book about being happy has hit #1 on the New York Times list. Love that fact.

I personally feel that happiness is a cornerstone to health and well-being. Specifically, you can eat all the kale you want and jog your little heart out…but if you’re not happy, it’s going to catch up with you eventually. (And what’s the point, anyway?)

I guess I started developing these ideas when I was digging into stress management (a fascinating topic and near to my heart). But I soon realized that happiness is more than just managing stress. It’s more than taking you to baseline. It’s about living life to the full, embracing all you are and living abundantly, completely in the moment.

So what do I love about The Happiness Project?

I love that Gretchen Rubin takes a scientific approach. She’s done a ton of reading and clearly went digging into all the latest research (and ancient writings, too), to find what makes people happy in this world. What I think is clever is how she takes a systematic approach to a very loose and new-agey concept. I’m sure this is part of the appeal of her book. She groups her thoughts into tidy categories: a theme for each month, and a short list of resolutions to go with that theme. She has some elegant and fun ideas that she lists in her “Twelve Commandments” and her “Secrets of Adulthood”.

I like her tone: plain and forthright, yet lighthearted at the same time. She comes across as self-deprecating, honest, and authentic. Her book manages to be at once inspirational and practical. Which is not easy to do.

Who do I think should read this book? People who want to be happier (don’t we all??). People who are skeptical that you can change your life (without changing your life, as she says), and could benefit by seeing how one person has done it. People who have a logical or scientific mind, and appreciate this quality in other people. People who were inspired by Eat, Pray, Love but who can’t simply take off for a year to follow their bliss (but who are on a quest for a better life nonetheless!).

The Happiness Project is not the last word on happiness. There’s much more to learn and read and think about on your quest for a happier life. To that end, Rubin’s suggestions for further reading, at the end of her book, are a terrific resource.

Next on my own reading list? (Major “happiness” guru) Martin Seligman’s new book Flourish.

Will report back.

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