Happiness Project book review

This book is part memoir, part thinking person’s self-help book. And, being a thinking person myself, I loved it!

Cover of "The Happiness Project: Or, Why ...

Cover via Amazon

I like the fact that it draws not only on recent research in the new field of positive psychology, such as the work of Martin Seligman, but on the wisdom of thinkers as disparate as Samuel Butler.

I also loved all the wise quotations that are included in the text. I appreciate that Gretchen Rubin has done a lot of research and reading, and how she distilled it all in her book, attempting to answer some vital questions.

I was particularly interested in the following:

  • Is it possible to become a happier person?
  • Is happiness a meaningful and worthwhile goal?

She comes to the conclusion that while we may have a happiness set point, and a great deal of our mood is determined by heredity (50% or so), to some degree it is under own control (perhaps 30%). As you can tell from my own blog, happiness is something that I feel  every human being wants, and deserves. It is the goal that motivates much of my own day to day striving. And rather than suggesting a life of self-centered hedonism, research (and Rubin)  indicate that the very factors that make for a meaningful life–good relationships, acting in a loving and generous way, engaging creatively with the world–contribute to happiness.
Another pressing questions I’ve always wanted to know was: Will revamping my life and taking a systematic approach to seeking happiness work?

Rubin’s research indicates that it may. “I really am happier,” she says after a year of following through on her own personal happiness plan. It really made me think that maybe I should start my own happiness project (similar to our 40 day joy journey.)

I am probably the perfect person to read this book because, while I’m not deeply depressed, I do feel that my happiness waivers more than I would like it to, especially after having a baby. (Rubin is clear that her intent is not to treat a medical condition, i.e., depression.)

I also like how generous she is about revealing the details of her own life–her own “happiness project.” We have a few things in common, we both get a little high when we organize our closet, we both love children literature, and we both are goal oriented (we like gold stars!) While I do not intend to do everything she did in her own happiness project –particular actions she decided to experiment with in order to become more happy– I do plan on designing steps to become happier, making monthly resolutions, carrying through and being accountable–and of course I will share them all here.

Rubin includes a specific guide for those who want to construct their own happiness plans, and also directs the reader to tools on her website –nice helpful touches. All in all, a terrific book.

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