In our little Wine Club that Reads, we all take turns suggesting titles that we think everyone might enjoy. I had seen several mentions in the newspaper and a magazine on Gretchen Rubin's "The Happiness Project Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun" and was absolutely hooked by her idea. Being more of a self-help book, it's not our normal read for book club so I was thrilled when they all jumped on it as something fun and different to try.
And it was!
We had a wonderful meeting (at someone else's house) with all kinds of great treats to eat and, of course, wine to wash them down.
The thing I found most interesting was that every single person said they thought the same thing when they started reading ... "Oh no, this is just the same thing I've read before in a new cover." Then they kept reading and realized they were so wrong. Every one of us gleaned things from this book and the author's trials that spoke to us about pertinent issues we are working on or dealing with.
Gretchen Rubin breaks her happiness project into twelve months, with each new month focusing on a different aspect of happiness in her life. Personally, I was grateful that the first month, January, began with vitality and how to boost energy. She broke this chapter down into five personal resolutions that helped her accomplish her goals: Go to sleep earlier; exercise better; toss, restore, organize; tackle a nagging task; and act more energetic.
We had out-of-town company coming to stay for 10 days and I had some work to do to get ready for them, including cleaning and organizing. That first chapter really helped get me off the couch, doing some deep cleaning and reorganizing in several rooms that sorely needed it. And she was so right about acting energetic. That whole fake it 'til you make it thing really does make a difference if you let it. Cleaning out cupboards, donating things and throwing out crap; just making things sparkle really are essential to feeling lighter, satisfied and -- yes -- happier. I have yet to tackle that nagging task, which is cleaning out the master bedroom closet of all the clothes and shoes that I've collected over the years and can't seem to let go of. However, it's on my list.
And, funny enough, nearly every member of the book club said that they did some cleaning and reorganizing while reading this book last month. With marked feelings of relief and happiness.
Every chapter/month deals with another topic that the author felt would up her happiness quotient, including marriage, work, parenthood, leisure, friendship, money, eternity, mindfulness and attitude. She also came up with her own list of Twelve Commandments, which are personal to each of us. I really liked her first one, though, and adopted it immediately. When she'd struggle with uncertainty over something or waver at all, she'd start with her first commandment: Be Gretchen. This is a quick reminder that we each have to honor our own beliefs and quirks and make ourselves happy. We spend way too much time working our butts off to please everyone else out there which, come on, we all know is impossible. Be fill in your name here is the best way to make sure you are true to yourself. Love that one!
In Chapter Four, April, she focused on parenthood and especially the process of lightening up by acknowledging the reality of people's feelings. I took this one outside the box of parenthood and tried to use it everywhere I went. Lighten up because who knows what has happened in another person's life to make them sad or dour -- Maybe a death in the family? Marriage problems? Money issues? Who knows? I've really tried to give others the benefit of the doubt and lighten up (and I'm sure I'll be even more successful at it now that the in-laws have headed home). At the grocery store, at work, at the post office ... the only place I continue to have trouble with this one is on the freeway. I had to admit to the ladies at book club that I really struggle to lighten up during rush hour and could very happily just ram into some of those jerks. Hmmmm, I said happily ... do you think that counts?
I very much enjoyed this book and have recommended it to others with great enthusiasm since I finished reading it. I also plan to keep this one on the shelf and refer back to it over the years. Yep, it's a keeper.
If you're interested in a little instant gratification and reading more about The Happiness Project, you can visit Gretchen Rubin's website http://www.happiness-project.com/. Happy reading!