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Book helps find joy in life

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(Photo courtesy of Harper Perennial)
Gretchen Rubin had a problem.

She had a great life, a loving family and excellent health, and yet, she wasn’t truly happy.

It wasn’t that Rubin was particularly unhappy; she just didn’t have the joy and contentment in her everyday life that she would have expected.

After taking a hard look at her life, Rubin realized the power of happiness lay in her own hands, and “The Happiness Project” was born.

Using authors, philosophers, researchers, and even pop culture, Rubin developed a yearlong plan to see if changing her attitudes could change her life.

In this book, Rubin details the journey she took through a year of self-exploration.

She begins by developing 12 resolutions for her life, based on the 13 virtues of Benjamin Franklin. These include everything from lightening up to being herself, and to make the project manageable, Rubin addresses one goal per month.

Under each resolution, Rubin’s pathway to happiness includes everything from money management (money really can buy happiness, within reason) to cleaning out clutter and parenting, to using practical advice, as well as scientific research to back up her theories.

One of the most appealing aspects of “The Happiness Project” is that despite her best efforts, Rubin is not always, in fact, happy.

Her willingness to detail her setbacks such as yelling at her young children or fighting with her husband, as well as her successes, makes the book more accessible.

Knowing that Rubin stumbles and falls, just like the rest of us, makes her seem less like an author and more like the woman behind you in line at the grocery store.

For those wanting more information, “The Happiness Project” offers a supplemental reading list and a list of resources through Rubin’s website, www.happiness-project.com.

The website includes free downloads, tips and quizzes, and it links to Rubin’s Facebook page for anyone wishing to join a “happiness group.”

Rubin recently published a follow-up book as well, entitled “Happier at Home.”

Although I am not quite ready to start my own happiness project, I decided to try one suggestion right away: creating order in chaos.

There were plenty of areas in my house from which to choose. I spent a long, tiresome afternoon sorting through papers, books and general detritus in my living room.

Following Rubin’s lead, I sorted items into things I couldn’t live without and things to be given or thrown away.

Rubin mentions throughout the book that often the activities that make you the happiest, oddly, don’t make you happy at the time you are actually doing them.

That was certainly true of my cleaning project, even though it was only one afternoon.

But the satisfaction and feeling of empowerment from just that one job took me into the next week feeling refreshed and, well, happy.

Michelle Palmer is Read To Succeed’s One Book Committee co-chair and author of the book blog Turn of the Page (michellepalmersbooks.blogspot.com).
Tagged under  Family, Gretchen Rubin, Literature, Mental Health, One Book, Parenting, Read to Succeed, The Happiness Project

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