I recently finished the book “The Happiness Project”, by Gretchen Rubin. It took me a long time to finish it but I finally did. It was an interesting book and so the content really had nothing to do with the time it took me to finish it. I love to read but lately I just find that for some reason I always wind up on the couch watching TV during my down time instead of picking up a good book. It’s a habit I want to change. Reading makes me happy and it’s something I want to make time for which is one of the points in her book (make time for fun) so it’s fitting to mention here.
Gretchen Rubin makes many good observations about happiness and her book is jam packed with great advice on how to be happier. She points out that trying to improve your own happiness isn’t necessarily a selfish goal. It turns out happier people are more likely to help others and less focused on their own problems. Also, helping others is a sure way to make yourself feel happier. This book is full of interesting aspects I never took into consideration about happiness and although Rubin makes many good points about happiness and gives a lot of great advice throughout the book, my two major takeaways from the book were one of her “personal happiness commandments” to “Be Gretchen” (or in my case “Be Stephanie”) and the other was one of her resolutions to cultivate gratitude.
I identified with many of Rubin’s personal happiness commandments but the one that resonated most with me was the commandment to “Be Gretchen”. This commandment is about accepting your own personal likes and dislikes. It sounds so simple but I had never considered the idea of truly “Being Stephanie” as a way to improve my own happiness. There have been many MANY times in my life where I have done something that I didn’t really enjoy to appease others or even to lie to myself. There are many things I wish I enjoyed doing but if I’m honest with myself I actually don’t enjoy them at all. This commandment is really about self acceptance. Now, it’s important to push yourself and try new things as well (sometimes that makes me happy), but, like most things in life, it’s about balance and being happy for me I think really does depend a lot on accepting who I am as a person. For instance, some nights I’d rather stay home and read or watch TV alone than go to a party. I love Ethnic food. I hate to talk on the phone. I avoid confrontation sometimes. I find the Food Network and rainy days really relaxing. I enjoy sappy, feel good movies. Here are a few other things I wish I liked but I don’t know if I ever actually will:
1. Sparkling water – I wish I enjoyed sparkling water. It’s so much fancier. But if I’m honest with myself, I hate sparkling water.
2. Going out late and partying – I’ve never enjoyed clubbing or being out late drinking/partying.
4. Theme Parks/Roller coasters (probably because I hate heights)
5. Concerts – I’d just rather spend my money on other things.
6. Exercising in the morning – I know it’s good for you but I truly hate it. I’m not a morning person and I’m not sure I ever will be.
7. Atlantic City – I’ve never had a good experience there and I don’t gamble or like clubbing (see #2).
8. Group planning – I much prefer to plan and do things on my own.
There are lots of things on this list that I WISH I liked. But I don’t. “Being Stephanie” means being able to accept myself and appreciate my own uniqueness. It’s not always easy. Gretchen Rubin points out that although being able to accept your likes and dislikes brings you happiness it can also bring some sadness. We judge ourselves and wish we were different sometimes. We see our own limitations and we WISH we were different. It’s something I’m really working on. “Be Stephanie” and be okay with that!
The other area of the book that resonated with me was the idea of cultivating gratitude. Learning to be greatful for what I have. Learning to be thankful and appreciate all the blessings in my life. In her book, Gretchen experiments with keeping a “gratitude journal” and although it actually wasn’t helpful for her (she wound up forgetting to write in it and the journal became more a frustration than a help) it has turned out to be helpful for me. Similar to the counting my blessings post I wrote recently, the gratitude journal has helped me to be mindful of the blessings I take for granted every day. Each night, or at least a few times a week, I try to write down a few things I am thankful for that day. For instance, last night’s entry included items like starry nights, my warm duvet comforter, and pre-made cookie dough. Items that I so often take for granted when really, all those seemingly small things are amazing and I’m so lucky to have access to them.
There are other things I do on a daily basis that are important to keeping my happiness level up like trying to eat healthier, exercise more, get good sleep and rest, and having a healthy spritual and prayer life but these two things Rubin pointed out, “Be Stephanie” and cultivate gratitude (specifically through a gratitude journal), really stood out to me and were two of my favorite tidbits from her book.
I highly recommend “The Happiness Project”. It was a good, thought provoking read.
What about you? Is there anything specific you do to try and improve your daily happiness?