#BookRiffs: THE HAPPINESS PROJECT
I don't expect to actually review books here, but I thought I would write a little bit periodically about books that I've read and what I've taken from them. Gretchen Rubin's THE HAPPINESS PROJECT is the first.
The germ of this #ProjectNomad blog actually owes itself in part to this book (and in part to a conversation with my astute and thoughtful dad), which I found on one of the many bookshelves that adorn the family farm.
The author starts a blog to document her yearlong Happiness Project, and though she begins with trepidation, she ultimately finds it rewarding, both as a creative outlet and a way to connect with people who are themselves studying happiness.
First things first, I would recommend this book. It's not something I would have necessarily picked up before #ProjectNomad, but I've been interested in strategies for self-improvement and I was attracted to the author's mix of scientific, historical, and personal anecdotal interpretations of happiness.
She focuses on a different facet of happiness every month, from marriage and work to parenthood, friendship and money. I'm not a parent, but I found that chapter enlightening nonetheless--and it kind of made me eager to have children myself!
Apart from the blog idea, there were a few concepts here that stuck with me: the author talks about her tendency to buy things like clothes, stationary, etc, that are so nice that she never uses them. I do the same; I have shirts I love so much I never wear, because wearing them will inevitably mean they'll be worn out. Consequently, they go years without leaving my closet, and I never truly enjoy them.
She talks about taking a mindful approach to one's eating habits, which is a project I've put to work with great success (more on that in a later blog), and about boosting one's energy by tackling nagging tasks immediately and decluttering one's space.
The concept that stuck with me the most, though, was her First Splendid Truth, which observes in part that we need an atmosphere of growth to be happy.
Thinking about an atmosphere of growth in relation to my own life, I've often realized I'm at my happiest when I'm working on a project--say, I'm halfway through the first draft of a novel, and the work spreads out before me and I know where I'm going, and my mind is alight with the possibilities to come when I finish the novel and send it away to be published.
Similarly, I've noticed that I've really enjoyed making a commitment to a healthy lifestyle, not only because I've learned to prepare delicious food and because exercise boosts endorphins, but because I'm working toward a goal (burn fat, build muscle) and I can sense that progress is being made, and that feels good.
I think the trick here is to uncouple yourself from the belief that it's the attaining the goal that will lead to happiness, and instead to recognize that it's in the pursuit that you find happiness.
After all, my life will not suddenly become rainbows and unicorns if I hit a bestseller list or get six-pack abs. That's not how life works. But I do really believe we can find fulfillment in setting goals and striving to reach them.