The Happiness Project by Gretchin Rubin – A Book Review

This week’s book was The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. It tends slightly towards the genre of self-help book (not really my thing), but is more of a published diary, or as it more recently is called ‘stunt non-fiction’. In this particular genre you follow the writer’s progress through a project, challenge or stunt, which is essentially what many blogs are, including mine.

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For this book we read as Gretchin attempts what she calls her Happiness project. She starts by identifying what makes her happy and unhappy and then by forming resolutions to optimise the happy and minimise the unhappy. The book is split into month chapters with a focus for each month that incorporates a few resolutions, which are then built on the following months.

I found the book extremely interesting to read. The readability was great and the concept is one that could do us all good. As she states at the start, each of us would have our own happiness projects as we all have different preferences and needs, but the approach she takes is a tried and tested method of a resolution chart combined with getting to know yourself better. Throughout the year the book was created she also kept a blog (part of her project) and the feedback and comments she received related to her updates are often added to the relevant chapter. This adds a little bit of variety and a different tone. Because each of us finds different ideas fun and struggles with different issues, having additional input and other points of view really spices things up.

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At times perhaps there are some filler paragraphs with nothing new or interesting being mentioned, but mostly it flows at a good pace with a good solid structure. Particularly pleasing is that we also read about her struggles, worries and moments of demotivation. It comes across as quite an honest review of her year and is wrapped up well at the end.

She has quite clearly undertaken a mammoth amount of research and it shows in all the little references and scientific studies she mentions. In fact some of them sound so intriguing I have decided to look into them myself. Particularly I am going to find ‘Story of a Soul’ the spiritual memoirs of Saint Thérése of Lisieux, a young unremarkable nun who died an unremarkable death aged 24, whose every day efforts would later be recognised for the wonder they were. Another person I intend to look up is Samuel Johnson, An Englishman in the 1700’s, one of the greatest literary figures of that era and, according to The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, the second most-quoted Englishman ever. Also Schopenhauer, who seemed to have a real grasp on the human state.

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Something I noticed about this book, was the vocabulary. Though I have commented on the easy readability of the book, it actually used many words I hadn’t come across before (and I consider myself to have a reasonably good vocabulary, one of the side effects of reading.) As a few examples the words ‘interlocutor’, dilettantism’ and ‘ennui’ were new to me, though in one of the later chapters in the book Gretchin tells us about her love of words which explains it.

As one who takes great joy from ticking something off a list, completing a project, and seeing progress, this book really was interesting and rewarding to read. To go with the Happiness Project there is a Happiness Project One-Sentence Journal (A five year record). This is a five year journal with useful happiness related quotes and space on each date for 5 years of entries. As a concept it’s one I am very keen on (surely I can write one sentence a day) the idea that I can compare what was happening in different years sounds interesting. Unfortunately so far I’ve not done great. I was doing well for the first few weeks but the last several months I haven’t written anything, something to restart in the New Year I reckon. On a similar note there is a Q and A version (not related to Rubin Gretchin’s Happiness Project) which has a question prompt each day so you can compare how your answers change over the years. These range from the simple ‘What’s your favourite colour?’ to the slightly more thoughtful ‘If you had to spend 5 years in prison what would you finally have time to do?’

So in summery a great, thoughtful, uplifting book with some useful ideas for resolutions and goals, particularly apt this time of year.

If you would like to check out Gretchin Rubin’s Happiness Blog, it can be found at https://gretchenrubin.com/

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