I absolutely loved the book ‘The Happiness Project’ by Gretchen Rubin. Funny, thought provoking, informative, useful and inspiring, it provided everything I want in a self-help book.
The book charts a year in the life of Rubin as she tries to make herself happier. Along the way, she deals with issues such as ‘is it selfish to want to be happier when you aren’t miserable?’ which highlight how good this book is for the majority of the population. Rubin believes that by becoming more aware of what makes you happy, you can make yourself that bit happier even when times are hard. And by striving to make yourself happier, you are likely improving the lives of those around you too.
When focussing on relationships, the goals of ‘stop nagging’ and ‘stop demanding praise especially when you don’t give it’ spoke to me. Another point of interest was the description of the ‘fundamental attribution error’. This is a psychological phenomenon where we view other people’s actions as reflections of their characters while overlooking the power of situations in influencing their actions. Whereas in with ourselves we recognise the pressures of circumstance. For example, how often do you take someone snapping at you personally, yet expect others to realise that you are snapping just because you are hangry?
This book also reminded me of Barry Schwarz’s ‘paradox of choice’ and the terms ‘satisficer’ and maximiser’. I need to get that book onto my reading list! Since I haven’t read it you can read Rubin writing about it on her blog.
Being Happier is a Challenge
On the very nature of being happy, I found a wealth of insight in Rubin’s discourse. As a person who strives to be optimistic (or a positive realist as I like to call it), yet receives sarcastic criticism for it, I also saw truth in the following observances:
“people cultivate unhappiness as a way to control others. They cling to unhappiness because without it they’d forgo the special consideration that unhappiness secures; the claim to pity and attention.”
“The belief that unhappiness is selfless and happiness is selfish is misguided. It’s more selfless to act happy. It takes energy, generosity and discipline to be unfailingly lighthearted, yet everyone takes the happy person for granted. No one is careful of his feelings or tries to keep his spirits high. He seems self-sufficient; he becomes a cushion for others.” and further, “Because she seemed so happy, they assumed that her behaviour was effortless.”
These points vocalised why I get so frustrated by office moaning every Monday. It creates a mountain for every cheery person to climb each time you meet a colleague in the kitchen. And fitting into the norm of responding that you are ‘not bad’ to every ‘how are you’ can bring the brightest optimist down. I will strive to be more aware of my own language in future to buoy other ‘happy’ people.
Other quotes I liked:
“I think by knowing who we are as people and being ourselves, we can start making the world better.”
I hope that you grab ‘The Happiness Project’ next time you visit the library. If you’ve read it, please share your thoughts, or let me know if there is something else I need to add to my reading list. I’ve just started reading the follow up ‘Happier at Home’ which might be overkill…but I don’t care! Check out the rest of my reading list for other recommendations!