REVIEW: The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin


One of my best friends’ favourite quotations is ‘Don’t be so open-minded that your brain falls out.’ If being so open-minded was a leading cause of brains falling out, then I’m sure I lost mine in infancy.

I’ve always been somewhat of a contradiction – I have a laid-back easy-going personality but I suffer from anxiety (you might think it impossible, but it’s true – I was easy going as a child, but the laid-back personality developed out of necessity to cope with the anxiety). 

Perhaps because of my oxymoron-ish relationship with anxiety for near-on a decade now, I’ve developed a fascination with what makes people happy. My ‘guilty pleasure’ book genre is what’s called stunt non-fiction – the author goes on a stunt and then writes a book about it – think Eat, Pray, Love or even Wild.

The most recent book I read in the Stunt Non-Fiction genre was The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.

I’m not the kind of person who likes routines, but barely a chapter into this book, I developed a nightly routine including, and because of it. I make sure I stop using all digital devices at nine pm, I do half an hour of yoga, and then I read The Happiness Project for half an hour to an hour. It was easy to get through this book in a handful of days thanks to my new routine.

About The Happiness Project

The Happiness Project follows Rubin, a not particularly unhappy woman living in New York with her husband and two children she loves, a job she enjoys, and an all-round seemingly blissful life.

You might wonder why she would undertake a year-long mission to make herself happier? The answer is simple, although we might be happy, we can always be happier. It’s the little things, yeah?

Over the course of the year, Rubin makes a conscious effort to focus on the little things that are bringing negativity into her life and mind – from her tendency to snap, to her tendency to forget to be compassionate to strangers, grateful for what she has, and patient with everything.

Thoughts on The Happiness Project

The book is broken down into twelve sections, one for each month of the year, each with different goals for Rubin to achieve. I related to and enjoyed some more than others, which seems to always be the way when a book is divided into sections. 

If reading a book about how a generally happy person with a generally pleasant life achieves more happiness isn’t your thing, then I’d advise upon either not reading this book, or perhaps risking your brain falling out and opening up a little.

To me, this book was far less about happiness, and far more about self-improvement. And we all have room to improve.

Perhaps it fascinated me in part because Rubin and I are very different people. In fact, in most ways, we’re opposites.

Yet, we value the same thing – happiness.

To me, happiness is the point of life, happiness is why we do what we do. It’s our sole, underlying goal, even if we don’t know it. This is probably why I’m so fascinated by books on happiness.

What I enjoy most about The Happiness Project is what I enjoy most about nearly all books on happiness that I read – it made me remember that I must make happiness a priority.

All too often, I think of happiness as a passive thing, when the wind is in the right place or the moon is in the right phase (or whatever) then I will be happy. But in effect, I’m actively wishing my life away for that someday.

Books like The Happiness Project remind me that my someday could be every day if I make happiness a priority.

If all that comes out of my reading The Happiness Project is my nightly routine, then it’s achieved its job of making me reevaluate my happiness, and of making me happier.

I sleep better, therefore I’m nicer. I do yoga, therefore I’m kinder. I make time to read, therefore I am less stressed that I don’t have time for anything (and spend plenty of said time-I-don’t-have thinking about all the things I need to do in that lack of time).

Maybe it won’t last, even though a large portion of The Happiness Project was about setting resolutions vs setting goals (things to stick with, not things to simply achieve and move on from), but I have hope that it will.

Favourite Tidbits:

“The days are long, but the years are short.”

“What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while.”

Star Rating for The Happiness Project

For that simple act of making me reevaluate my priorities and my use of time, I gave The Happiness Project a full five out of five stars.

Let me know your favourite happiness book in the comments below.

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

by Gretchen Rubin

Blurb: Gretchen Rubin had an epiphany one rainy afternoon in the unlikeliest of places: a city bus. “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, she decided to dedicate a year to her happiness project.

In this lively and compelling account, Rubin chronicles her adventures during the twelve months she spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific research, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier. Among other things, she found that novelty and challenge are powerful sources of happiness; that money can help buy happiness, when spent wisely; that outer order contributes to inner calm; and that the very smallest of changes can make the biggest difference.

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Mikaela is an illustrator, and writer based in QLD, Australia. She's been writing novels for eleven years and editing for six. You can often find her with a coffee by the beach, pondering existentialism and the psychology of writing. She has a Bachelor of Biomedical Science and takes pride in her paradoxical nature. She's also very much like a cat.

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