I hope you had a nice weekend, with time to do what you enjoy the most, whatever it is: watching silly TV programs, buying useless gadgets, drinking wine, reading for the 20th time your favorite comic, etc. I hope you are all energized for this new week!
From my side, I have been reading the book of Gretchen Rubin, “The Happiness Project”: You probably heard about this book, as it used to be ranked as a New York Times bestseller, and it is also the name of the blog http://www.happiness-project.com/. Gretchen is a full-time writer who lives in New York with her husband and two lovely daughters. One day, she simply got the inspiration that she could “change her life without changing life” and be happier.
After all, who wouldn’t like to be happier? Finding happiness is a question that has interested philosophers, politicians, artists, doctors…for ages! Whatever we do, we all seem to aim happiness.
Gretchen’s approach was to take a journey of happiness, and not to aim happiness as a final destination. Gretchen chose the long distance run, and decided to dedicate one year to her “happiness project”: Each month she decides to add some new resolutions, in order to improve different aspects of her life (some sound like obvious elements of a happy life: improve your physical condition, spend money wisely, get healthier relationships but also taking time to share your passions, practicing mindfulness, controlling your thought flow throw meditation or hypnosis…and much more!) Each month is dedicated to a particular “section”: marriage, parenting, work, relationships, etc.
The purpose of this article is not to summarize this book:
– first, because I think you will find good summaries and readers’ review on dedicated websites.
– also because I think reading a book is a journey: I particularly enjoyed this one, sharing some chunks of Gretchen’s life, trying to improve the way she deals with circumstances at home, with her work and trying to improve her life by smart,etc.
For these reasons I would like to give you some of the thoughts that this booked inspired me, so maybe you could be curious about reading this book and sharing this journey’s in Gretchen’s project: As I was reading this book in the London tube in the early morning, I was smiling, questioning my own perception of happiness and putting myself in Gretchen’s shoes (would I like that? How would I react to this situation?) but also making projects about what MY happiness project would look like.
I could not say I learnt something I did not know before, but I became aware of things I knew deep inside of me:
Contrary to a popular belief, happiness requires effort, energy, enthusiasm and perseverance. According to Gretchen’s experience, happiness is a set of mental habits that you can develop and strengthen day after day. If you think you are happy, so are you. Of course, external circumstances can help you a lot to feel happier: have a tidy and cosy home, meeting interesting people, taking time for your passions, etc. These are different aspects of life we can decide to improve, and enjoy the most of our lives. Still all along the book you can notice the role that negative emotions play in happiness: even if everything looks fine, there are some days where it is hard to cheer up, to be joyful, to smile. Emotions are helpful, as we need them to identify what’s wrong (or what’s great for positive emotions: think about joy, gratefulness, love, peace), but they can also be overwhelming and prevent us from being happy. For these reasons, Gretchen took a closer look at mindfulness, meditation, Zen Buddhism, which all emphasize better understanding of our emotions, thoughts… to get closer to inner peace.
What I also liked about Gretchen’s approach: She does not only emphasize the good aspects of her project: she exposes her doubts, her fears, she questions herself and her work, her limitations, her likes and dislikes: What makes her a unique person after all 🙂
Knowing yourself well is, this book, definitely a source of genuine happiness. Although we all like picturing ourselves better than we are, or with more “conventional” hobbies than what we actually like, we should admit some parts of our personality, even if we dislike them: for instance, I absolutely LOVE watching some movies over and over again, until I know all the conversations by heart (my partner finds this obsession very weird), but this is the way I truly enjoy some movies as I love analyzing the dialogues, noticing very small details… I also love putting on the music out loud and dancing like crazy at home while no one watches me. I hate rushing in the morning, aerobic classes, very loud music, and staying focused on my work right after lunch is very tough for me. I didn’t choose it, I just truly dislike it. Being aware of what you truly loves can help you to take more time having more fun and priorities your activities (yes, I DO need a full day at home to read blogs, books, and watch silly old French comedies!)
So what would I change to feel happier? What would be MY happiness project? Here are a couple of things I would like to change to my life – although I feel happy and grateful for what I have in my life: loving family, partner and friends, a good health, food on my table every day, a roof above my bed, having the chance to live in such a fascinating city as London, and many other things of course! Some resolutions have been directly inspired by Gretchen’s experience, some are more personal:
1. Turn more thoughts into notes, and keep this material to (maybe?) make something of it (maybe future articles on this blog!) Keeping a small booknote with me everywhere I go.
2. Be more patient with my partner, stop nagging
3. Be more relax with the house chores
4. Take time to be silly, make more jokes, have more fun at home!
5. Discover a new place once a month (town, restaurant, etc) to break my routine
6. Catch up once a week with a friend or a family member I have not talked for a while
7. Stop swearing (!)
8. Donate or swap things I do not use anymore: books, DVDs, clothes
9. Cutting down groceries to waste less food (I read that ca. 1/3 of our groceries goes straight to the trash)
10. Stop checking my mails every five minutes
As you can imagine, this list is likely to grow with time, every day a new resolution comes to my mind. I hope you will feel like reading this book and start your own journey!
A lot of people who read the book probably perceived it differently: so you want to share your thoughts about you “keep” from this reading, I would be very happy to read your comments!