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.
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 🙂 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)
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 🙂
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!
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.
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.