A Mumble on Happiness with Book Review of “The Happiness Project”

The Happiness Project

I love to read but as a rule I avoid self help books. Now, at the same time I am a firm believer in the “if you’ve got a problem buy a book (and leave it on your bedside table unopened)” school of thought. For evidence I would refer you to my purchases of “Run Fat Bitch Run” and “1-2-3 Effective Discipline”.

So, when Sarah from our Bookclub chose “The Happiness Project” for our February read I’ll admit that I was skeptical. However, being the diligent bookclub member that I am I got myself a copy of “The Happiness Project” and reluctantly started reading. And then I found myself taking notes on my phone while reading, then checking on the Happiness Project Blog and finally preaching about my new learnings to work colleagues. I know, I was as surprised as you are. I’ve been preaching about this book to everyone, quoting bits of advice from it so I thought I’d do a blogpost rather than rabbit on the way I have been.

The book is written by Gretchen Rubin, a New York based writer who wanted to get more happiness from life and started her own “happiness project”. She threw herself headlong into it and read dozens of texts and examined psychologies and techniques to become a happiness expert.

What makes this book refreshing is that instead of the author preaching at the reader you feel that she’s learning with you, giving the benefit of tips that she has used, and she’s self deprecating in recognising her faults and failings. She’s not all happy clappy. In fact, she’s so self deprecating sometimes that I felt happier just seeing how BAD she was at things (like snapping at people) and I glowed in the fact that I might be bad but not that bad. I know, that makes me very bad.

The book is divided into months, with each having its own topics and resolutions, so there’s one on getting organised, one on parenting, one on spirituality etc. The writing style is anecdotal and the result is that it’s full of easy little things that I felt I could do without too much effort and which I could imagine changing my life for the better. As Merle from bookclub put it, “I wanted to read it with a highlighter”. It’s a book I will definitely refer to from time to time and won’t be lending my copy to anyone! Highly recommended.

What I’ve taken from the book

So here are the bits that have stuck with me, which I’m sharing – little bites. There was a lot that I glossed over but there was never enough to stop me reading altogether, different chapters will resonate differently with different readers, depending on where there is most chaos in your life).

Go to Sleep earlier
This is a no brainer. I get up very early and drive 55 miles to work, I work my 7.25 hours day and then I drive home, collect the boys and almost fall asleep putting the boys to bed, but I go to bed an average of 6.5 hours before my alarm goes off (and to sleep 6 hours). I sit on the couch on the laptop or on twitter, I watch rubbish TV for so called “adult time” but really I am just exhausting myself more. I owe it to myself and anyone who has to deal with me the following day to get enough sleep. The week I read this chapter I lay on my bed before 9pm and felt so much more energetic the next day. Easy. Gretchen Rubin updates during the months about failing at this task often, but she makes you feel that that’s OK, just do what you can and be aware of it.

Toss restore organise
I love getting organised, but as my friends and family know my idea of getting organised is a trip to Ikea for some MORE toy storage solutions. I always think I need more storage not less stuff. Plus, I am married to a hoarder. When I read the book my wardrobe was full of clothes that didn’t fit me, the evening I read this chapter I moved about a dozen hangers into a wardrobe in the spare room, which meant that I had room for just maternity clothes in the wardrobe in our room and could find clothes that actually fit me, very easily. Simples.

“One Minute Rule”
I LOVE this little rule. Put simply, it’s not to put off doing any task that will take less than one minute. It’s hanging the coat up in the hotpress not on the banister, clearing the plastic lunch containers away, putting the jars in the recycling bin, putting the newspapers away, putting my car keys back in their place. In your house you’ll know what it means, but you’ll soon see that it really does make a difference.

No nagging
My brothers and co-workers will be shocked to hear that when I discussed this with my other half, he said that I don’t nag! So, really I didn’t learn anything on these tips but I wanted to tell people that I don’t nag πŸ™‚ However, by posting this I have undone the next tip!

Don’t expect praise
Oh, I am terribly guilty of this, I do something and then I expect a fanfare, and if there’s none then I am disappointed. It’s not that I did the thing just to get the plaudits, but I don’t like my efforts to go unnoticed. “Look what I just did”. In fact, the previous bullet refers. Anyway… Gretchen talks about not expecting praise, as ultimately you’ll then be disappointed not to get it. So if you do something do it for yourself. You got the kids up early and let your other half sleep, go you. You cleared that messy shelf in the utility room, this will make your life better. No need for the fanfare to show your other half. (I have a LOT of work to do on this one)

photo (82)

Hugs are great

Six second hug
We all know that hugs are good and according to Gretchen’s research “to be most effective at optimizing the flow of the chemicals oxytocin and serotonin – which boost mood and promote bonding – hold a hug for at least six seconds.” I feel like editing this to read sixteen second πŸ™‚

Passwords to reflect goals
How many times a day do you type passwords? If you change your most regular password to reflect your goals they become more engrained as a mantra. Your IT system might want you to make it alphanumeric but “DothoseK3gels” or “sm1lem0re” works.

Money might buy some happiness

No, this isn’t about buying yourself a new car or an ipad or those fabulous shoes, but if you HATE ironing or need new storage (see above) or get stressed over the lawn not being cut, or the state of that corner of the garden and could afford to pay someone to do it then it would free up your time and reduce your stress, thereby increasing your happiness, a win all around.

Kids- some parenting points

I love some of these and am bunching my favourites together here:

At least once a day make each child helpless with laughter
What more can I say?There is no sound like a child breaking their hearts with laughter, it cheers everyone.

Say “No” only when it really matters
Gretchen tells us “Most messages to kids are negative- “stop”, “don’t” “no”. I don’t need to do a scientific study to know that she’s right. She suggests trying to say “yes” more- and only saying “no” when it matters. Here’s the proof that I have embraced this- my four year old was let leave the house in very clashy clothes under my watch!
photo (83)

The days are long but the years are short
This was my absolute favourite phrase and the one that I am really adopting as my own. There are times when you have small children that you find yourself exhausted and just worn down by their constant antics, but remember that this won’t last forever, they will grow up so quickly and you’ll miss the lovely things that only small kiddies do.

Other stuff
The book explores so many other areas too, but if your interest is piqued then maybe check out the website, especially the downloads section where you can print off laminates like I so helpfully gave my fellow bookclub members and some work colleagues.

What do you think?
Have you read the book or do any of the points above strike a chord? Comment and let me know.


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  2. I read it too Sinead. Thought similar to you. Suggested it for book club and everyone else disliked it!!

  3. That is what seems like a wonderful summary of that book (I’ve never read that book ..but want to now ), though, like you, I dread the idea of another ‘self help’ book . I read ‘The Monk who sold his Ferrari ‘recently , being cod
    ded by the title into thinking it was fiction . Again I really enjoyed it and am trying to put some of the theories into practice !!

    • Thanks for commenting Brid, maybe we’re just closed to the idea of the books. I might just keep an eye out for that one now, I’ve heard the title. Love that you were tricked into reading it πŸ™‚

  4. I wanted to comment to give you a wee fanfare as I really enjoyed reading this post!! I am definitely going to buy this one.

  5. What a great book review! Now all i want is read it! Off to amazon! Thank you

  6. Thanks for steering me in the direction of this book! As exhausted as I am (a 2 year old & a 1 year old – both boys!)….I sooo need some tips on how to put things in perspective every now & again and stop procrastinating and remember that they’re only small for such a short time. Now…back to scraping weetabix off the floor…again!

    • Repeat after me “the days are long but the years are short”. There’s no denying it’s hard work with smallies, I guess we’ve got to enjoy the good stuff and try not to let the weetabix bother us (or the crayon on doors, toys everywhere, lack of sleep, relentless requests for snacks!) thanks for commenting Edel, let me know how you get on with the book and hang in there!

  7. I need to read this book!:) Thanks for sharing

  8. Oh I love this – got hooked in at the mention of Run Fat Bitch Run which is lying unopened on my bedside locker too, but feel like I could actually read The Happiness Project! Or just go with the advice in your post to start….implementing one minute rule and making the kids laugh themselves silly today, hug rule in place already πŸ™‚ Thanks for sharing this lovely post

  9. Loved this post, I may be buying this book. Can relate to the Say β€œNo” only when it really matters, it’s hard with a 5 year old & 2 year old but I am going to try!

    • Thanks for leaving a comment, glad you liked the post, let me know how you get on. My two are 2 and 4 so I know how hard it is not to say know- the book and website have tips on how to say no while keeping the language agreeable – worth checking out too.

  10. Sinead I loved this post and the line that got to me most and made me cry was “the days are long but the years are short” as I sat for 3 hours with my grandson yesterday waiting for him to wake up and make eye contact πŸ™‚

  11. Great review SineΓ‘d. I’ll definitely give this book a read now. I never would’ve before! Thank you!

  12. Great review, glad you put into words what I thought of it too! Definitely one of the better book club reads and a surprise that it was so good. I will be printing laminates, I also took out of it the One minute rule and the not being so negative towards the kids and the don’t expect praise. I am also guilty of feeling ‘not so bad’ when I compared myself to Gretchen.

  13. I hope my local library has this book as I want to read it NOW!
    Totally agree with all you have listed especially the Money Might Buy Some Happiness – I see no reason to make your life less bearable when a few quid a week (2 less drinks, 5 less takeaway coffees, one less top!) could pay someone else to do it for you hence freeing up your time and your head! When I grow up* I am having a cleaner and I know this as certainly as I know I will never have long legs!
    I love your 4 year old clashy colours … matchy matchy is for those with no taste

    SJ x

    *If this ever happens, lets be honest!

    • Thanks for taking the time to comment Sarah Jane. The clashing is a phase- he went through a phase of needing his socks/underwear and top to be the same shade. Let me know if you find the book and what you think.

  14. Thanks for this- I saw this book in Easons and sifted through it. Then a voice in my head yelled at me ‘No more of these stupid self help books that you don’t read!’ (which is an agreement I made with myself)… Anyway, I am really glad to read this as it has now convinced me to buy the book.

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