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The Happiness Project

April 5, 2010 by  
Filed under lifestyle


happy girlIn  our increasingly self-involved, individualist culture, it’s easy to get down on ourselves and believe that our problems are insurmountable. North Americans tend to have a victim mentality that focuses on the individual before all else and fails to look at the big picture. Our counterparts to the East, on the other hand, have a more optimistic mindset, placing the collective whole before the self. Although this approach can have its downfalls, we can definitely learn a thing or two from its fundamentals, because for these individuals, happiness is a way of life.

As a former Yale-trained lawyer, Gretchen Rubin, author of the New York Times bestseller, The Happiness Project, was aware of the complexities of the way we live. All the long hours, pressing deadlines, cellphone and e-mail addictions were depleting her time and her happiness.

Leaving behind the security of law years ago to pursue her passion for writing, Rubin might have begun her happiness project much earlier than she realized. She is now the author of five captivating novels, the latest drawing perhaps the most acclaim.

The idea of embarking upon her very own happiness mission came to her while riding on a bus one rainy afternoon. “I just had a rare moment of reflection, and asked myself what I wanted from life,” Rubin shares. “I realized that I wanted to be happy and decided to make it happen.”

The result is an inspirational memoir of the year she spent test driving the wisdom of the ages, the current scientific studies and the lessons from popular culture about how to be happier.

Though Rubin’s happiness project was specifically formulated to fulfill her own contentment, readers can learn a lot from her experiences. Her recommendations and methods are both realistic and manageable enough to fit into the confines of a regular day – no matter how busy you are.

BookOne of her biggest happiness boosts came from her bed. After just one week of getting more sleep, Rubin began to notice a significant difference in her energy levels and overall cheerfulness around her children in the morning. “A lot of people don’t get enough sleep and it really, really affects you – much more than people realize,” she says. As for exercise, Rubin found that even a 10-minute stroll around the block proved to be positive. “Getting outside gives people energy, it calms them, helps them focus, it’s really good to do.”

Other recommendations include making more time for relationships and feeding areas of growth. “People are happier when they feel like things are moving forward,” she says. For some this might mean fixing something that’s broken, for others it can be planting a garden or learning a new language. “Anything where you’re making something better or making something grow is very satisfying.”

This project has not only taught Rubin about the truths of happiness, it has helped her realize some of its falsities. “I think one of the worst myths is that it’s selfish to want to be happier. Some people think that happy people are self-centred or very inwardly focused,” she says, adding that, in contrast, happy people are often extremely optimistic and heavily rooted in volunteer work and social problems.

What started as a year-long research project for Rubin became a happy rebirth. “I really did make myself a lot happier and I’m kind of surprised at how well it worked,” she says. Now, the mother of two lives by her newfound acumen, and makes a daily effort to appreciate her gifts, get enough sleep, exercise, do something productive and make time for friends and family.

“When you are happy, others want to be around you. And when people are happy, they are more likely to help others. It starts a wonderful cycle.”


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