Author Gretchen Rubin had an epiphany. She was pretty happy, but she wasn't as happy as she could be, or as she should be. Her life was not going to change unless she made it change.
"The days are long, but the years are short," she realized. "Time is passing, and I'm not focusing enough on the things that really matter." In that moment, as Rubin sat on a city bus one rainy afternoon, she chose to make a difference in her life — she decided to dedicate a year to happiness.
“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” (Harper, $14.99) is a lively and compelling account of that year. With humor and insight, she chronicles her adventures during the 12 months she spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific research, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier.
Unlike radical happiness projects, like Henry David Thoreau's stay at Walden Pond or Elizabeth M. Gilbert's move to Indonesia for her memoir, “Eat, Pray, Love,” Rubin wanted to work on her happiness here and now — to get happier by making changes in her ordinary life. Many of the most brilliant minds in history have pondered the question of happiness, so Rubin immersed herself in their work while venturing into positive psychology, cognitive science, fiction and pop culture for ideas. To stay on track and measure her progress, she mapped out a monthly “Resolutions Chart” — her concrete plan to tackle areas like marriage, parenthood, leisure, work, money and mindfulness. Each month she addressed a new set of resolutions: give proofs of love, ask for help, find more fun, keep a gratitude notebook, forget about results.
Her conclusions are sometimes surprising — she finds that money can buy happiness, when spent wisely; that novelty and challenge are powerful sources of happiness; that "treating" yourself can make you feel worse; that venting bad feelings doesn't relieve them; that the very smallest of changes can make the biggest difference — they range from the practical to the profound.
What Rubin discovers during her life-changing year — some of it simple, some of it powerful — will strike a universal chord.