Saturday, November 26, 2011

Your thoughts on Happiness

I just finished Gretchin Rubin's The Happiness Project. This book is about one woman's attempt to spend a year becoming happy. She didn't face depression, have a recent loss or anything like that. Rather, Rubin already had the great husband, the nice house, the kids, and the job she always wanted but one day she realized even with all of those things, she wasn't as happy as she should be.

Have you ever felt that way?

The book covers the resolutions she worked toward over the year. Each month she tackled new things she wanted to be better at (such as enjoying new hobbies, being mindful of her eating habits, not nagging her husband, laughing more etc.). She kept a monster chart to track her progress.

I thought the Happiness Project was a good book and a great idea, but severely overwhelming. This woman comes across as SUPER WOMAN with all the things she did. (For instance, after tackling all the clutter in her own New York apartment, she does the same in several of her friends' homes). Instead of encouraging me to do my own Happiness Project, I was deflated with thoughts of "I could never do all that she did."

BUT.... There were many wonderful tidbits I gleaned from this book.

1. One of Rubin's Personal Twelve Commandments was "Be Gretchen." She talked about how she'd always been embarrassed that her favorite books were children's books. This didn't seem sophisticated enough compared to the heavy reading her peers enjoyed. But when she reminded herself to Be Gretchen and embraced her passion, she was happy. In fact she started a Children's Literature group that was very successful.
Over the past several weeks there have been times I've reminded myself to Be Maggie. For instance, we've often put on a big Christmas party, but when I asked myself if doing this really made me happy, I realized that it doesn't. In fact, it makes me stressed because of the cleaning and expense of putting it together. I decided to just Be Maggie this year and let the party go. I think this was Rubin's hope, that the reader doesn't think they need to tackle everything she did, but rather what works for them.

2. The Rubin family does a Polite Night often where they all dress up and have a fancier dinner (at home) and work on good manners with their kids. I think this sounds like an awesome new tradition.

3. Rubin quotes a prayer that includes the words "shield your joyous ones." She talks about how there are certain people we know who tend to have positive attitudes and be uplifting. And we tend to take advantage of these people by needing them to buoy us up and at the same time wishing they weren't always so positive. Rubin reminded me that I need to "shield my own joyous ones." For me this is my mom. I vent to her ALL THE TIME because she is encouraging and uplifting and kind and sweet. I am very negative to her because it seems like I just let everything I've held in pour out to her. I need to work on buoying her up and being more positive to her.

4. My favorite parts of the books were two of Rubin's thoughts on happiness.
~That happiness comes from increasing our feeling good, decreasing our feeling bad, feeling right, and having an atmosphere of growth. You have to read the book to really understand this statement, but I agree with her.
~I also loved her statement that The days are long, but the years are short. If you have young children, you KNOW this is true. The monotony and hardship of every day seem to go on forever, but when you look back, the time has passed so fast.

As part of the Be Maggie idea, I have really pondered what makes me happy. More specifically, what really makes me happy--not the cliche answers, and not what makes someone else happy, but me. Here are some I've come up with:

1. Holding a finished book I've written in my hands.
2. Laying with my kids in their beds at night.
3. How I feel AFTER I've ran.
4. The inside jokes Dan and I have that would only be funny to us.
5. Hottubbing with my girlfriends.
6. Letting my mom make me a cup of hot chocolate or a sandwich.
7. Watching my children succeed at a goal.
8. Watching Dan improving at wakeboarding.
9. Sitting in a bookstore all alone.
10. Sleeping on my stomach.
11. Closing my eyes and listening to music really loud.
12. Watching fireworks.
13. Surprising my kids.

*I think my happiest single moment of 2011 was one night before our friends moved away all of us adults who are best friends (9 of us) put the kids to bed and laid outside on the trampoline laughing and talking.*

This book taught me happy can be simple. We just have to recognize it.

Have you read this book yet? If so what did you think? If not, what are some of your thoughts on being happy? A "happiest moment"? What really makes you happy?


Abby Fowers said...

I haven't read this book yet, but I would like to. I like things like this. It's good to have a reminder and an eye-opener from time to time. The important thing to remember is that you don't have to do "Everything" - it's more to help you figure things out. :) Thanks for sharing this. I think I'll add it to my amazon wish list!

Jessie Humphries said...

I just gave a talk in church last week on "Happiness"...hah! So relevant for me right now. I know how you feel about the "Wonderwoman" thing-I can't compare myself to what others are doing bc what works for them usually doesnt for me. I have to find my own balance. Its always a matter of perspective. I enjoyed this helpful.

Bonnie R. Paulson said...

Oooh, You've given me something to think about. I will get back to you! Thanks!

i'm erin. said...

I definitely need to not compare myself to others. I love that you broke down the ideas in the book!

Jolene Perry said...

My good friend is going through a divorce, and her 9 year old son is having a hard time with it.

She's having him write down 5 good things that happened to him each day. And it's helping SO much.

it's one of the biggest reasons that I'm glad my kids say prayers, because it gives us a chance to realize how many incredible things we have going on.


Also - I get a little high when I declutter a closet ;D

Rebecca H. Jamison said...

I loved that book. I agree with all the comments. I always get a little bit of the winter blues, so I have to remember to get enough sunshine, think positively, and avoid the news. I notice I'm in a better mood when I watch comedies instead of dramas. Romances are okay too, though.

Peggy Eddleman said...

I haven't read the book, but it sounds like a fabulous one if it helped you to come up with so many ways to be more happy! Sounds pretty awesome.

E.R. King said...

I haven't read this book yet. My mom read it and bought me a copy. I guess I should probably crack that cover, right? The thing is, I have yet to accomplish a lot of what I think will bring me happiness. But as I'm sure you've heard people say, "It's the journey, not the destination." This is my mantra.

Ben and Ana! said...

I love this blogpost Maggie! I know how you felt. Just making the chart seemed daunting to me but I think the point is to take away the idea of the book and make it work for your reality. We'll have a lot to talk about next Thursday!