The Happiness Project

IMG_1354Gretchen Ruben asked herself “How could I discipline myself to feel grateful for my ordinary day”. This result in a one-year project focusing on happiness. People thought she was crazy as she wasn’t unhappy. However, Gretchen felt that “You don’t have to be unhappy to want to be happier”. We are all striving to be happy and I love that Gretchen decided to actively go for it!

Each month Gretchen focused on a different area: Marriage, Parenthood, Friends, Eternity, Attitude, Work, Play, Passion, Energy, Money and Mindfulness. Gretchen would choose specific tasks and track them for the month. Ticking them off when she had been successful.

Gretchen’s project was based on significant research and the book is full of references to other people’s thoughts on happiness. This results in so many ideas and individual could try themselves and an even longer to-do list.

On top of this Gretchen includes some findings such as:

  • Hearing someone complain is tiresome whether you’re in a good mood or a bad one and whether or not the complaining is justified”. Very wise words. Totally makes sense although complaining is a very hard habit to break.
  • The most reliable predictor of not being lonely is the amount of contact with women”. I mean who would have known that?
  • Each married couple should have an outdoor game and an indoor game”. Never crossed my mind before but makes so much sense.

I particularly would like to draw attention to one theory on happiness.

To eke out the most happiness from an experience, we must anticipate it, savour it it as it unfolds, express happiness, and recall a happy memory”. This made me think of holidays. They are usually booked months in advance so you can have the anticipation. The build up is part of the experience. Planning what you will do, where you will visit, what you will eat, what you will wear. It is all part of the enjoyment.

To no surprise Gretchen suggests that “Having strong social bonds is probably the most meaningful contribution to happiness”. So many of my best memories are with people. Holidays, birthday parties, concerts – all experiences that I had with someone else. However, does this apply even to introverts?

In July Gretchen focus was Buy Some Happiness, although “Money alone can’t buy happiness”. People are happier if they are earning more than their age peers, but how do you really know what they are earning? It also explores the idea that the reason why money doesn’t buy you happiness is because people “come to accept these once luxury goods as part of normal existence”. There has to be a balance. You need to find value in what you are spending your money on and still feel as if you are being ‘treated’.

In December, Gretchen tried to live by all of the rules of the last 11 months. Now that must have been hard during the Christmas season.

Overall, I loved this book! Normally, I don’t enjoy reading someone else’s story, but in this case I just kept reading. With a different focus each month it is so interesting. So many ways to look at how Gretchen is tackling happiness and see how you could incorporate some of the ideas. Some new ideas and some you have heard before, but never in this format. I love the idea of people starting their own happiness projects and sending them in too.

SPREAD THE HAPPINESS!

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