For me, the beginning of this book was in Target. The book didn’t start there, I did! Initially, this was not the book I picked to review for May. Halfway through the previous pick, I was unsure if it was what I wanted to share with my readers. So without research or recommendations, while shopping for Mother’s Day cards, I chose The Happiness Project. Not over thinking what needed to be done and just getting it done was a great start and reflection of what I would take away from reading The Happiness Project.
In The Happiness Project, writer Gretchen Ruben decided to increase her happiness through a year of resolutions focused on becoming happier. Each chapter is an area she personal wanted to work with, however they are not meant to be suggestions for the reader. Instead, it encourages the reader to evaluate their own happiness and what areas they would improve. Then, if you want to do your own Happiness Project she offers the chart she used to outline as an example to create your own. There is much that can be learned and applied with The Happiness Project, even if you don’t want to do your own. Here are the 2 key ideas I appreciated.
1. Lighten up: “I wanted to become more lighthearted, especially in moments of anger. A line by G.K. Chesterton echoed in my head: “It is easy to be heavy; hard to be light.” Throughout this book, I felt like I was seeing a reflection of my own life. Gretchen’s realization that she needed to add more humor to life, be slow to anger and decrease criticism were refreshing. Now I catch myself thinking before I criticize my children or husband on a task they have preformed, trying to find the humor in a messy situation and cutting my tongue from increasingly having to bite it. This takes more work, but less of my energy. The added benefit is I am not sucking the positive energy from others! Yes, lightening up has the ability to increase happiness.
2. Being Amanda: “I have an idea of who I wish I were, and that obscures my understanding of who I actually am. Sometimes I pretend even to myself to enjoy activities I don’t really enjoy. And worse, I ignore my true desires and interests.” Through the year Gretchen had to accept “being Gretchen” and even more difficult was honestly identifying who that is. Being true to who we are is a great way to let go of guilt! So now, without guilt, these are some things I will no longer try to like: Jazz music, playing with Barbie’s, drawing, eating raw carrots or relaxing on a hot beach.
The Happiness Project explores if we really can be happier. This is not a solution for someone challenged with clinical depression or hormone imbalances. It is for those who are in the rut and ready to look inward to increase their individual happiness.