Thursday, 22 October 2015

The Happiness Project

Last week I finished reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Ruben. Finding herself with a full life built around her, a job, a marriage and two kids, Gretchen realised she wasn't actually happy with her life. The title is cheesy, even the concept of trying to make yourself happier is cheesy, but it's actually a project that hundreds of thousands of people have found helpful.
What happens when you have it all and yet you still aren't happy?

Gretchen decided to actively find ways to improve her happiness. She set up Commandments and Virtues, like Benjamin Franklin's Thirteen Virtues, that would guide her happiness. These included the ever vague, but also inspiring, 'Be Gretchen'.


And she established a blog to track her progress; a blog that grew and grew as more and more people joined her project. If you are to take anything from Gretchen Ruben's project, it's how she impressively grew to have one of the US's most popular blogs in just a few months from a simple concept - happiness. As a blogger, I was totally blown away by that. Mainly because she implies she put minimal effort into the blog in the book.

Everyone wants to be happy. And if they are happy, to be happier. It's easy to buy into the idea; I mean I did when I purchased the book.
But how did Gretchen do it? With simple, track-able goals. She started in January, and tracked every single month's achievements, experiences and enlightenments. Having 3 or 4 goals per month that feed into a wider over-arching theme of the month, happiness becomes achievable. Or at least your goals do.

They're goals we can all work on as well.

  • Don't expect praise or appreciation
  • Do things for yourself not others
  • No nagging
  • Work smart

She finds that growth, or more specifically, spiritual growth is the key to happiness. It makes sense. as this WB Yeats quote sums up exactly where and how I get my happiness from.
"Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing nor that, but simply growth. We are happy when we are growing."
Everything seemed to be going very well for Gretchen. But when May came along, it was humanising to see that not everything she tried turned out so well. Her 'fun' project was met with a lack of enthusiasm, or fake enthusiasm that didn't ever turn into something real. Up until
May, it seemed she had found an almost-too-perfect manifesto for creating happiness.
It was an important lesson that the road to happiness is paved with downs as well as ups.

Gretchen explores all sorts of routes to happiness throughout her year - like how happiness essentials such as gratitude and mindfulness are religious or spiritual in their nature. Despite the declining numbers of church goers in the Western World, maybe spirituality does have a role to play in happiness?

She also looks to volunteerism and charitable giving. I always feel great about myself after I've spent time doing good for a charitable cause, or even just doing something nice for a friend. You can't argue with doing good for others as a way to find happiness.

But another odd experiment Gretchen tried early on was de-cluttering. I was surprised at how helpful Gretchen found clearing out her unused items, unworn clothes, and creating more space, so I decided to try it myself. I de-cluttered and gave two full black bin bags of my clothes to charity. I hadn't worn some of them for years, or ever. Why I had kept them for so long I didn't know.
And do you know what? It felt like a weight had been lifted and I did feel much freer, just like Gretchen said de-cluttering made her feel.

The book is a great read - whether you are into self help books or not. Gretchen is honest, and every month she learns what works and what doesn't. But she also points out that what is successful differs for everyone. While Gretchen was a bit of a hoarder and needed to de-clutter, not everyone is and not everyone can find happiness that way. She also teaches the importance of 'thinking you are happy'. It sounds silly, but if you think that you are happy, then you are. And maybe happiness really is that simple?

Now that I've finished the book, I feel really inspired to start a project of my own. While I do feel fairly content with where I am in my life right now, there are a lot of nagging problems that pursue me, such as my self-doubt, my anxiety and . These are obstacles to happiness. I don't think a happiness project per se will work for me, but some form of self-improvement is necessary for the next stage of my life. I've started to read a lot around the topics; overcoming anxiety, happiness, and general self-improvement.

Stay tuned to the blog to see what I discover!

24 comments:

  1. It sounds like a great read! It's amazing how much of an effect decluttering can have - I've been avoiding my email because I let it pile up, this morning I just kept the first couple of important ones and deleted everything else from every folder, huge sigh of relief!

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    1. It does feel so much better when you get rid of all the unnecessary stuff! Makes such a difference x

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  2. I like the concept that if you think you are happy, then you become happy. I think it is possible to change your happiness level by appreciating what you have rather than thinking of what you don't have. And I agree about the decluttering, it feels great to have a good clear out :)
    Debbie

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    1. Thanks for commenting Debbie. I agree - we need to be thankful for the positives and try not to focus on the negative as much. Can be harder than you think for those of us with mental illness unfortunately though!

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  3. sounds interesting I really feel that you have to feel positive to create some in your life.

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    1. Totally agree! It's about changing your perspective a bit

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  4. I think she's right that thinking you're happy can make a big difference because the little things won't get you down that way. Sounds an interesting read.

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    1. Definitely was an interesting read! I enjoyed it, lots of little bits like that to take away from it

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  5. Interesting! I do think that decluttering is so important, not that you'd think so if you saw my house :) I have been trying though, and I always feel good when I manage to get rid of things I don't need.

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    1. It's such a nice 'weight being lifted' feeling when you finally de-clutter isn't it? :)

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  6. That's wonderful that the book has inspired you to start a project. It sounds very motivating. And, I agree that success is different for everyone, as is finding happienss. x

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    1. Thank you! Should be fun to see where the project takes me :) x

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  7. i agree that we need to do things for ourselves.. I wont be happy if i rely on everyone else to do things for me. especially when it comes to the blog... i have to do it all but it makes me happy when the rewards comes.

    Angela x

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    1. Thanks Angela, I definitely agree x

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  8. Oh another excellent find from you!!! I'm off to get this now, thank you!!

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  9. This sounds like a great read, I will definitely add this to my list! I have a list as long as my arm of books to read from reading your blog lol, you seem to find such interesting ones!! xx

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    1. Haha, a lot of them are recommendations from other bloggers and Buzzfeed lists to be honest Hayley :P x

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  10. I'm not into reading really. Maybe I should pick it up so I get inspired like you. But there's so little time between working the kids and blogging. Think I need to relax more. Lol

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    1. Totally understand Janine! You definitely need to make some time to relax everyday, but it doesn't have to be reading. Sometimes Netflix is just as rewarding x

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  11. Sounds like a great read! I like the idea of thinking you're happy then eventually that mind set becomes second nature. Will add this to the books j need to download xxx

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    1. It was really useful, I must say. Thanks for commenting x

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  12. I've not read this, and I'm not a self help book reader so would be unlikely to read it, but the decluttering thing is meant to be really good. I've read the Kon Mari method and she says that lots of her clients decluttered and then found life and financial improvements have happened.

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    1. I used to say I wasn't a self-help book reader Emma, but something strange has happened lately and I can't stop reading them! I shall have to check out Kon Mari!

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