Book Review: The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

Do you have a reason to be happy?

Even with her new book out, Better Than Before, (and I plan to read and review it), I decided to read The Happiness Project,by Gretchen Rubin, first, to give me some sense of perspective.

In the last year I had a lot of things to be unhappy about.My oldest son is lagging behind in school because of his ADHD, my daughter (the middle child) on a routine eye exam, I found out she was losing sight in one eye, my youngest son at 2 and a half, is still not using words to communicate, and to top all of this off, I was diagnosed with Cancer in May 2014.

But on the outside, to everyone else, I was a happy person.

Why? Because I lived in a nice house in a nice neighborhood. I had my own car, and between my husband and I, pulled in a very respectable family income. If you read some reviews of this book, people were not just unkind, but downright mean. The reviewers felt she had no right to be unhappy because she lived in a nice apartment in New York, and she and her husband make “lots” of money. Rubin had it all, or so this is what people assumed. I think that it’s been proven, time and time again, that money doesn’t lead to happiness.

You only need to look so far, as every other celebrity has turned to drugs or alcohol to mask their pain. How many people in high paying jobs have broken marriages and no relationship with their children? This is a good point of notice going forward. Money does not equal happiness.

The premise of the book is that Gretchen wanted to be happier in her life. But how would she do that? After extensive research, there are pages and pages of “further reading” at the back of her book that supports this, she decided to take all she learned and break it down. There was no way to be instantly happy. She made a chart so she could measure if she was completing the tasks, and broke the tasks down so that they would be achievable.The key to hitting any goal is to make the end goal realistic.

So in January of 2006 Gretchen set out to be happier, she made this choice. Some of the tasks that she sets out for herself really hit home with me. In January her goal was to boost her energy. To do this she broke the task of boosting her energy into measurable tasks (going to sleep earlier and toss, restore, organize to name a few of the things she wanted to do.).

The two above tasks were the ones that struck me first, as I sometimes stay up to midnight reading or working on my next day’s blogging post. Why? Because I had a full time job, 3 kids and the recurring tasks that come from running a household. Now that I am working for the blog at home. I can cross that 45+ hours a week outside of the home off, and start using my time more wisely in both my work life balance and my writing. I created a chart on when I was going to write blog posts, based on when the kids were in school, and when someone (either my mother, my husband or my mother or father in law) was going to be at my house watching my youngest.

Just the act of writing it all down and planning it out has made me less stressed about the need to stay up late, because like many people I didn’t have a good balance, and I probably still do not. Was it a daunting task?  No.  It took about 10 minutes to create a weekly template with the number of blog posts that I am responsible for accomplishing, and another 10 minutes to plan out the timing. Writing goals is good, in theory.

The other thing that struck with me is that clutter and mess make a person stressed. Since being at work, and I worked through my Cancer treatment and was only off for the surgeries and treatment, and the fact that I had 3 small children at home, the upper floors of my house (the floors company doesn’t see) were a mess.

I have wanted the time to just clean. Get rid of stuff that we don’t need or want and simplify our lives. I know that I am happier when everything is in its place and clean. You can ask anyone that worked for me in my former job. I crave clean and orderly, I planned my goals based on order and not chaos, similar to Rubin’s suggestions.

When I go home, looking at all the unfolded clothes and the toys everywhere makes me truly unhappy. I know that chaos all too well as it comes with the parenting territory, but I feel that after reading this book, I have the ability to tackle it.

I found the happiness project uplifting.

Gretchen’s husband is ill with Hepatitis C. Even though it’s not her herself that is ill, she knows what it feels like to feel helpless when I comes to health. I now have started my own list of things for my happiness project. I liked how she took me on her journey to her happiness and just didn’t spew all the facts that she had learned, at me.I look forward to reading more from her new book to see how her life progressed since 2006.

Now to fold laundry! When I get home from Montreal that is.