Thursday, January 28, 2010

Review: "The Happiness Project" by Gretchen Rubin

Gretchen Rubin is pretty happy. She's got a wonderful husband, two great little girls, they are financially secure and she's doing what she loves- writing. One day on the bus she comes to a realization- she's happy, but she could be happier. This realization leads her to create a "happiness project"- 12 months of tasks and resolutions that will (hopefully) result in her being the happiest Gretchen that she can be. Armed with her personal 12 commandments and her secrets of adulthood, she sets out on her year-long quest for personal happiness, and The Happiness Project is born.

I loved this book! I actually just finished it, less than an hour ago, and decided to write my review before I "lost" all of the things that I wanted to say about why this book was great. I think that one of the reasons why I enjoyed this book so much was because it really resonated with me. Gretchen Rubin and I have a few things in common- enough that much of what she is saying and doing could be applied to my life as well. We're both happily married, we both have kids (she has two girls, I have three boys), we're both not planning on any more additions to our family. We're both passionate about books, and we both expect praise for a job well done. For example: if I spend all day cleaning, and my husband comes home, I expect him to tell me that the house looks great. If he doesn't, I'll say "Honey! I cleaned all day! Doesn't it look good?", and he, being the good husband that he is, will quickly agree that yes, the house does look great. These things in common made it easy for me to relate to the book.

I also managed to pick up a lot of great ideas from the tasks that Gretchen set out to do. I learned the most from the months of January (Boost Energy), February (Remember Love), April (Parenthood), and July (Buy Some Happiness). After reading January's chapter I was inspired to organize my home more effectively, February's chapter inspired me to nag my husband less and to be thankful for the great person that he is, April reminded me to be more patient with my frustrating, aggravating, yet amazing children, and July inspired me to make some more concrete goals when it comes to saving money.

Gretchen encourages everyone to start their own happiness project, and I can honestly say that I don't think that it's something that I will personally embark on anytime soon, but I can say that I will try to implement some of the tips that she gives in my own life. I found it funny that some of the things that she resolves to do are things that I have started doing myself in the past few months and have found that, yes, they do make me happier! One such example can be found in her chapter on January. She resolves to tidy up before bedtime, making the mornings run more smoothly. That's something that I've been doing myself for the past six months or so; after the kids are in bed at night I do a "sweep" and pick up dirty clothing, dirty dishes, scattered toys, and anything else that may have made its way onto our floors and counters. In the morning, when I'm greeted by a tidy house rather than a mess, I'm inclined to get through the morning in a better mood, making me (you guessed it!) happier! I really hope to learn from Gretchen's personal experiences, in the hope of making my life a little happier in the long run.

Another thing that I liked about the book was that Gretchen never tries to be anything that she isn't. In fact, one of her commandments is "Be Gretchen". When some of her friends tell her that she should take up meditiation, or that she should see a therapist, and those suggestions don't resonate with her personally, she just doesn't do them. She's not saying that they don't work, just that they don't work for her. She doesn't encourage anyone to do her happiness project, but to do one that works for them. She also openly admits when she fails, giving her a human quality that I really appreciated. She's not saying, "I did it, and I did it perfectly", she's saying, "I did it, and sometimes I failed, but in the end, I felt happier".

I did have a few minor problems with this book: she often incorporates comments from her happiness blog into the book. They were relevant, but truthfully if I wanted to read the comments of her blog readers, I would probably just read her blog. They got a little repetitive. I also found that things dragged a little in the chapters for the months of September, October, and November. I found that the things that she was saying were similar to those things said in previous months, so I skimmed those chapters a bit. These were minor problems, though, and they really didn't take away from my overall enjoyment of the book.

Before I wrap up this review, I want to leave you with something that Gretchen reminded herself of throughout the book. I think that this sentence is worth remembering: "The days are long, but the years are short". So true! I may wish that bedtime for the kiddos would hurry up, or that we were closer to the weekend, but someday soon I will look back at this time in my life and wish that I could do it all over again.

Thank-you to HarperCollins for this review copy! You can browse inside this book here and read the entire January chapter that I found so interesting! Gretchen Rubin also has two websites: her blog about her ongoing happiness project can be found here and her author website can be found here.

Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Recommended to: Memoir lovers, anyone who could use a little boost in their happiness
Challenges: 2010 100+ Reading Challenge, New Author Challenge 2010