I’m not really a subscriber to the self-help school of thought, whether it’s a talk by an inspirational speaker where you walk across hot coals, or a book that promises to change your whole perspective on life and being. I think it’s probably helpful for some people (in the same way that religion is helpful for some people), but I’m far too sceptical to buy into any of that. But I did enjoy reading The Happiness Project.
As far as self-help books go, it never promises any of that wishy-washy stuff, but it’s pretty straight forward with it’s premise – the author embarks on a year long ‘project’ to be happier, focusing on one aspect of her life each month. It’s a very practical approach to improving one’s life.
The twelve aspects are: energy, marriage, work, parenthood, leisure, friendship, money, spirituality, passions/interests, mindfulness, attitude and finally a whole month dedicated to distilling all of the previous 11 months’ worth of learnings into habits that stick.
The book is part self-help, part narrative. It documents Rubin’s journey throughout her year of searching for happiness, but it’s all useful, practical stuff for the everyday adult. She talks about her successes (starting a book club for adults who love reading children’s books) and failures (keeping a gratitude journal), and backs up each of her focuses with research on why those actions have a particular effect on one’s happiness. She’s a real person who still gets the shits with her husband for not taking the bins out (there’s nothing I hate more than writers who insist that their lives are completely full of love and they never get annoyed with their partners, ever).
As a bit of a frugal nutjob, I also enjoy that a popular book echoes my own approach towards finances – if money is to enhance your happiness, it must be used to support aspects of life that themselves bring happiness to you.
Some of my favourite take always from the book that I’m going to try to apply to my own life are:
- Make time for fun activities
- Make an effort to stay in touch with friends
- Use your nice things, don’t save them for a special occasion
- Clean a bit every day
And if you’re feeling selfish contemplating devoting serious amounts of time to your own happiness when there are clothes to wash, dinners to cook and emails to reply to, consider this:
“One of the best ways to make myself happy is to make other people happy. One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy myself.”