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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

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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.

301 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2009

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About the author

Gretchen Rubin

42 books89.2k followers
Gretchen Rubin is one of today’s most influential and thought-provoking observers of happiness and human nature. 

Her previous books include the #1 New York Times bestseller The Happiness Project, as well as the bestselling books Better Than Before, Happier at Home, The Four Tendencies, and Outer Order, Inner Calm. Her latest book is Life in Five Senses: How Exploring the Senses Got Me Out of My Head and Into the World.

She’s the host of the popular, award-winning podcast Happier with Gretchen Rubin, where she and her co-host (and sister) Elizabeth Craft explore strategies and insights about how to make life happier. As the founder of The Happiness Project, she has helped create imaginative products for people to use in their own happiness projects.

She has been interviewed by Oprah, eaten dinner with Nobel Prize-winner Daniel Kahneman, walked arm-in-arm with the Dalai Lama, had her work reported on in a medical journal, been written up in the New Yorker, and been an answer on Jeopardy!

Gretchen Rubin started her career in law, and she realized she wanted to be a writer while she was clerking for Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Raised in Kansas City, she lives in New York City with her family.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 13,895 reviews
Profile Image for Laura.
132 reviews566 followers
December 4, 2013
I don’t know which is stranger – that people like this book, or that it was written in the first place. It came into being because Gretchen Rubin, a woman with a bizarrely charmed life, decided to spend a year devoting each month to a “theme” designed to make herself happier and then write a book about it. The whole thing smacks not only of a calculated stunt, but also of the sort of “list” approach she used for her breathtakingly trite book on Churchill. Regardless, any reasonable person would wonder why this woman was worrying about how to be “happier” than she already was with her “soul mate” husband, two healthy children, a family she likes, in-laws* she likes, plenty of free time, and money coming out the wazoo. The obvious question is: “If she wants to be happier, why doesn’t she do more service?” The question you’ll also probably ask, repeatedly, is “What could a smug perfectionist with an easy life possibly teach me?” Honestly, I have no idea, unless it hasn’t already occurred to you to.....are you sitting down?.....stash your crap in file boxes instead of leaving it strewn all over, and stop nagging your husband. Other previously unmined gems of insight: “You can’t change others,” “Exercise makes you feel better,” “Be friendly,” “Do things you like to do,” “Be grateful,” and, my personal favorite, “Money can buy happiness.”

Even better, every ten sentences or so she inserts – not to be confused with “works in” – a quotation that sounds like the first entry in its category from The Big Book of Quotations. Based on the self-congratulatory tone she doesn’t quite have the skill to avoid, I’d guess she’s deeply invested in showing she is Educated, and has Done Research. I think you’re also supposed to surmise she’s really smart, based on the number of references to editing the Yale Law Review or clerking for a Supreme Court Justice. What she never mentions, yet you can also surmise, is the fact that money is no object. Neither is time.

While being rich and leisured doesn’t disqualify her from having wisdom, it does place her situation in context. She’s not struggling to find happiness amidst real trials – illness, poverty, loneliness, relatives who drive you bonkers – she just wants to be “happier.” What’s amazing is that with all her research, she doesn’t come up with anything profound. At best, her paper-thin “insights” are merely summaries of other people’s research. And yet, inexplicably, a couple of women in my book group actually liked it! These women don’t sit around wondering if they’re happy enough – they probably wonder if they’re faithful enough and doing enough good in the world. So what did they find valuable?? A couple of them said that the organization chapter prompted them to clean out closets, which is always good, but there are at least a hundred books on de-cluttering that were written by people who were already aware of file boxes. (I know this because my sister has bought all those books and occasionally gives them away as presents, unless you’re really lucky and she just throws your stuff out without being asked.) So the organization chapter struck me as a bit silly. But not as silly as turning to Nietzsche for tips on happiness. And I think that indicates the biggest flaw – her approach is entirely secular. Joy and fulfillment (a bit deeper and more lasting than “happiness”) come through doing good and, eventually, becoming good. Every now and then she stumbles as if by accident upon versions of the Golden Rule Lite, but, naturally, in her eyes the point of being nice to others is to make herself happier.

*Father-in-law is Robert Rubin, Clinton’s Assistant to the President for Economic Policy. He later served on Citigroup’s board as Senior Counselor. During his eight years at Citigroup, shareholders suffered losses of more than 70%; Rubin earned over $126 million.
Profile Image for Michele Chapman.
64 reviews13 followers
December 4, 2013
I couldn't finish it. In fact, I couldn't get past page 49, and that really hurt, because I BOUGHT this book in HARDBACK. Sigh. And I wanted to like it, I swear, but it just wasn't happening for me.

I picked this book up because I have an interest in how others achieve happiness, enjoy getting a glimpse into how others conduct their lives on a daily basis (I even find grocery selections interesting, and what goes into them), and have gotten a kick out of several stunt journalism projects. Rubin's research and methodical attempts at achieving her elusive gold star happiness appealed to me. However, the persona Rubin projects on paper didn't appeal to me. Perhaps in real life she is a fantastic person to hang out with, but if this book was her resume, I would have to pass on an invitation to grab coffee.

I find it interesting that early on in the book she recounts a conversation she had with someone at a party in regards to her happiness project, and this individual pointed out that she probably would not have a wide appeal, stating that her upper East Side apartment, law degree, and seemingly charmed life would alienate her to many readers. As I went on with the book, I found myself agreeing more and more with that nameless individual.

While I do not think the book is bad, it just isn't a book that speaks to me.
Profile Image for Tina.
103 reviews9 followers
January 14, 2013
The most useful part of this book was when the author suggests not continuing to read a book you're not enjoying. I stopped there. Great advice.
Profile Image for Katie.
34 reviews6 followers
May 20, 2013
Let me preface this review by saying, I really tried to like this book. I found it at Sam's Club for $7 when I was on my monthly TP run. The cover looked fun. The concept up lifting. I went into reading it with high hopes. I didn't look at any previous review (I should have). So, here goes... This book should be re-titled "The Year I Spent Trying To Be Less of an Entitled B*tch (And Failed!)".

The author is a rich white lady living in the upper east side of manhattan with her two healthy little girls and her (as she described) gorgeous rich husband. He's rich, like, stupid rich. Research his family. Your jaw will drop that she had enough time between swimming through piles of money to write this self indulgent crap. Her project includes all the things you would expect: appreciate family more, be happy with the here and now, etc. These simple steps could be very enlightening if done by someone anyone but an upper east side yuppie could relate to. Side note: the author does reference several great books and quotes of OTHER people that would be much more interesting to check out, IMO.

I got through the cleaning out closets chapter fine. It's when the author had to start interacting with other people that it went quickly downhill. One particular story had me gobsmacked. It was her mother in law's birthday party. The point of the exercise was that she was supposed to do "proofs of love." If you've read "The Five Languages of Love" she's talking about Acts of Service. So, she starts planning this shindig, whilst farming out tasks to everyone else so don't think this was a monumental accomplishment. The entire time she's describing all the emails she had to send for this great act of love, she's passive aggressively telling the reader about how *normally* she'd be so resentful about having to do all of this. Can you feel the love?

Fast forward to the day of the party. Everything is going swimmingly. MIL looooves her party. She loves the food cooked by her son who is a private chef. Loved her presents. Love, love, love. So, the night went well? Love was proven, right? Not so fast. The author was feeling like her efforts weren't being recognized enough. Even though her MIL had a fantastic night no one stopped the party to golf clap her organizational skills. That is until her well trained husband, in the middle of gift opening, pulls out a gift for the author. AT.HER.MILs.BIRTHDAY.PARTY. Suddenly, all is well! The author stops pouting because finally it's back to being about her! Order is restored. How her MIL didn't side eye her and mouth "WTF" is a testament to how classy MIL is.

So, all in all I just can't with this book. I'll take Eat, Pray, Love or a Year Living Biblically if I need my year doing stuff fix. But this one is getting tossed.

Profile Image for Books Ring Mah Bell.
357 reviews248 followers
September 2, 2010
Author Gretchen Rubin dives into the stunt genre (where the author does something for a year and then writes a clever book about it) with a project on living happy for a year. Sitting on the bus one day, she realizes her life is zipping along and wonders if she can't make her days happier, and write a book about it and make some money. She devises a plan for happiness, reading all sorts of books on happiness, from a wide variety of authors.

I would have liked to have been more enthusiastic about the book, but it seems we have the same tired themes (simplify! find joy!) regurgitated into the tired stunt genre form.

In January, she focuses on simplifying and organizing, because hey, we are all a lot happier when we are not throwing a tantrum looking for keys or the remote. I will admit that after reading the chapter, I cleaned out my closets.

The second month, she focuses on her marriage. It is in this chapter that I decide I simply can't STAND the author. I'm really happy I'm not married to her. NAG NAG NAG NAG NAG! Suddenly all those crabby wife jokes* make perfect sense. (She admits that she nags and is often argumentative, so I will grudgingly give her points for honesty.)
But while I was shaking my head at her bitchiness toward her husband, I had an epiphany of sorts. While I'm not a nagger, I realize I can be a pouter and that I don't do nearly enough to ensure my husband is happy. Really happy. I take it for granted that he's there, and I shouldn't. Making him happier will make me happier. I can work with that.

One month focuses on friendships. She encourages us to make time for friends and to be there. All those events you don't like? (Tupperware sales party!) Suck it up and BE THERE. It means a lot. Another thing Rubin suggests is to reach out and make three new friends. I have to admit that's a tough one for me, I can't keep up with the good pals I have now. Plus, as I get older and social anxiety creeps up like a cheap pair of underwear, the friend making thing takes much more effort.

Another month is about leisure and play. In this chapter she talks about starting a collection. People really do get some pleasure out of searching for treasures and seeing them accumulate. (anyone remember Stimpy and his magic nose goblins?) And this is a part of happiness that I can't work with. I like simplicity. The one thing I struggle with collecting - books. I love to have them, but on the other hand, I don't want to be tied to all sorts of stuff. Rest assured, Goodreaders, you will NEVER see me on an episode of Hoarders.

There were a few things that I did like about the book, things I thought she got just right. In one chapter, she suggested keeping a gratitude journal. This I dig. Far too often we take stuff for granted. Especially here in a developed country. When you were thirsty today did you have to walk 4 miles for clean water to drink? Can you wipe your own ass? (being able to do this is highly underrated.) Be thankful.

October's chapter was PAY ATTENTION. Be in the moment.

November: Keep a contented heart. Here she mentions laughing, using good manners and giving positive reviews. (Sorry I'm not taking your advice on that one right now, Gretchen.)

The question that remains is, what is happy? What makes you happy? Are you happy? How do you define it? Is happy being in a constant state of bliss or exuberance? Or is happiness found in contentment? Or is happy simply not wanting to eat a gun today?

Where does this pressing NEED for happiness come from?

In 2008, more than 164 million prescriptions were written for anti-depressants here in the United States. What the hell are we so unhappy about? What exactly are we seeking? Why can we not seem to find it?

There are thousands of books on finding happiness.
I'm not convinced this is the best one.

A drunk is driving through the city and his car is weaving violently all over the road. A cop pulls him over and asks, "Where have you been?"

"I've been to the pub," slurs the drunk.

"Well," says the cop, "it looks like you've had quite a few."

The drunk grins.

"Did you know," says the cop, standing straight and folding his arms, "that a few intersections back, your wife fell out of your car?"

"Oh, thank heavens!" sighs the drunk. "For a minute there, I thought I'd gone deaf."
Profile Image for Cindy.
407 reviews113k followers
January 29, 2019
The author is right that everyone's "happiness project" will be different, but I question how much value her book actually brings when the demographic seems to be narrowed to wealthy white women. It feels less like a practical self-help book and more like the journal of a bored mommy blogger who decided to do some cute little experiments to spice up her life. It's worth noting that she is neurotypical, and that she and her family are very wealthy and live in the upper east side of Manhattan. I don't fault her for these things, but they become quite evident by how surface-level her methodologies are. I see the merit in trying out these things, but many tactics are common sense and her story is nothing remarkable nor does it provide anything new to the table. I was also turned off by the author’s self-indulgence whenever she patted herself on the back for not feeling resentful of friends and family who don't show appreciation to her (unsolicited) acts of kindness. I’m glad she’s trying to improve her passive-aggressive tendencies but the book should've been marketed more accurately as a journey that isn’t so much about becoming happier as it is about becoming less entitled.
Profile Image for Alea.
282 reviews259 followers
June 5, 2010
I have no idea how to properly convey how I feel about this book. I felt so much for it and because of it and it's kind of crazy. I saw so much of myself in the author and some of the examples she explained, half the time I was sitting there dumbstruck. She breaks down her resolutions in such a way it's very easy to follow along and she is so specific in how they work out you really can't ask for much more.

Rubin writes in a way that it was very easy for me to relate to and understand. It's a real achievement how much research she did and how many information she is easily able to get across to the reader. Just her Happiness Project in general was a large undertaking but it seemed like so much fun as well. I actually feel happier just having read it and also trying out and noticing little things here and there about myself. This is a book that I think will stay with me forever and one that's definitely worth a yearly read, I can not stop talking about it. I would consider it a must read for just about anyone. I found myself only reading a bit a day so I could draw it out longer, I didn't want it to end.

It's funny that I've reacted to The Happiness Project so strongly too because originally it just sounded like a cute and fun memoir which is something I love to read, but it was so so much more than that. You might think with it being a bit of a self help book that it could get preachy or be filled with boring clinical talk or charts and graphs but it's nothing at all like that. It's someone sharing their wonderful experience with great insight that is very easy to transfer to your own life.

The Happiness Project is an achievement by the author and I would strongly suggest this book to everyone.
Profile Image for Jenna Copeland Kristensen.
125 reviews9 followers
January 10, 2013
Wow... what interesting irony that a book on happiness has so many haters. I'm not one of them-- while I don't think the book will change the mostly-good-already trajectory of my life, there were some nice insights and a swift kick in the rump to remember to enjoy life more and nag less. Absolutely worth my investment of time. Do be warned, though, that Gretchen Rubin is a classic Type A overachiever and this book is organized and written accordingly. Being a gold star addict myself, I've gladly written my resolution checklist and have it hanging on my wall-- full of happy little pencil marks. But, if you are a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of person, this book may just annoy you a lot.

My favorite criticisms that I've seen here and elsewhere use the life comparison argument: "if I lived in a mansion in Manhattan....". Yes. We all know that money buys you all the love and happiness you can ever need without one having to even lift a finger. NOT. You may not have the time or resources to do all of the things suggested in the book (and which wouldn't likely make YOU happy anyway) but get inspired and what's the worst that can happen? You get a little more sleep or do that nagging chore or nag your spouse less or reconnect with an old friend. And all without the upper east side address. Wow.
Profile Image for Melanie.
Author 6 books1,203 followers
December 11, 2013
This is not great literature. This is not earth-shattering or mind blowing in any way.
Yet somehow, underneath the veneer of light-hearted entertainment, this sneaky little book is filled with profound truths.
It is also filled with extremely interesting bits of psychology and sociology research that are sprinkled throughout its pages, mixed with her personal journey and constantly evolving considerations. A study in self-empowerment if I've ever seen one.
A witty, self-examined life which bristles with good ideas and a contagious desire for self-realization that actually ends up radiating a stubborn, beautiful light.
Often funny and self-deprecating, Gretchen Rubin made me think about many areas in my life which could use a little boost of "intention", and mindfulness.
And just for that, I'll willingly give her 5 stars.
Profile Image for Kate.
349 reviews83 followers
May 20, 2011
Wow, when did I become so cynical and not even realize it?

Just like Julia from Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen I too am in danger of becoming nothing but a secretary on a road to nowhere, drifting toward frosted hair and menthol addiction.

However, this book helped me get out of my funk and become more creative. I didn't want to review this book until I tried my own "happiness project" because to be honest I was very sceptical about the results.

So, my personal journey to getting back on track to being happier started in the LGA airport in the Hudson News Bookstore. I was traveling back to Chicago after visiting family in Long Island and Conneticut for Easter. My plane was delayed and I had finished my other book I had brought with. So, being bored and knowing I was going to sit there for a while, I purused the books at Hudson News. This is the one that spoke to me and I started reading it in the airport.

Most of the information isn't anything spectcular and it's all stuff that I already knew, but obviously I needed to hear it again for the millionth time, before it finally sunk in. I wasn't happy because I wasn't making time for the one thing that really makes me happy...writing every day.

So, I decided to start my own project. The first thing I did was clear the clutter out of my apartment. Not only did this make packing tons easier for my move to my new home, but it also lifted a mental weight that too much stuff can have over you and you'll not even realize it. This was a good first step for me. The stuff I didn't have use for I gave away or donated in hopes that someone else who does need it can.

The second step was making more room for creativity every single day. I am really good at making time to read (since I have an hour commute via train) but I wasn't showing up at the page everyday to write and that really soured my mood. So, I started a journal where I would write just a sentence every single day, even when I didn't want to, and you know what? Because I showed up and made the time for creativity, I started writing more than a sentence. I was writing paragraphs, and then pages. That made me really happy and for the first time in a long time I realized, I can do this!

The third and final step (and the one that's still a work in progress for me) is spending money on unnecessary things. I became addicted to internet shopping. It's really easy to do. I would just log on to some of my favorite sites: Etsy, Sephora, Groupon, Amazon and could order in an instant anything I wanted via my credit card. Pretty soon, I was in debt, and I had massive amounts of unnused products, books, and other things I didn't need. So, I stopped spending on the internet all together and bought only the things I absolutely needed like food and began to use up the things I had lying around. This made me feel happier, however, it's still hard for me to go into a store and say, "yes, this is a really good deal, but I don't need it." I'm slowly getting better at this and practice does make perfect.

Like Gretchen, I too just wanted to share my thoughts on this subject, and hopefully inspire others, not to do the same things I've done, but to find their own passion that will make them happier every day and grateful for the little things that we tend to overlook.
Profile Image for Lori.
20 reviews1 follower
December 4, 2013
I found it the epitomy of self absorbtion. I've read many happiness books, often looking to use excerpts in my hospice speaches and volunteer training, but I felt this was so dumbed down. If you don't mind the constant references to her clerking for Supreme Court Justice O'Connor and her monied life and the mundane attempts at her "happiness project" you might be ok. Anyone who ever had any religious, marital of psych type of background, ie "Golden Rule", would be able to do this and probably already is.

I didn't realize through the library's description it would carry you through one month at a time of her life. Hey, be kind, take your husband's clothes to the cleaners before he asks you?? Plan a super party for an inlaw, by gosh, just jump in and plan it and take control. Don't snipe at your spouse over stupid things for one whole month and you will feel happier.

I realize she comes from a monied background and that doesn't influence my take at all. The book was shallow and just another version of I'm unhappy, it hit me one day, so I called my hubby outside his office and told him to look down at me while I waved because it made me happy type blog.

Maybe the intentions were good to get folks to start their own plan, maybe I'm too harsh because I strive to make others and myself happy knowing full well each day is a gift and it's not about money, position, bragging or power, it's about being the best you an be at that moment every day, 24/7, and yes, that means helping your fellow mankind (never mind your own spouse without resentment). This book was very 80's without the good advice.
Profile Image for Diane.
1,080 reviews2,655 followers
February 2, 2015
Oh, how I loved this book. I have read quite a few year-long project memoirs, but this is one of the most meaningful to me.

Gretchen Rubin decided she wanted to be happier in her life, and, being an organized and thoughtful person, she devised a plan. Each month she would focus on one area of her life to improve, and by the end of the year, she should be measurably happier. The first month she focused on her energy levels, then her relationships, later she concentrated on being more successful in her work, she also tried to be more mindful, etc.

I found this book to be very inspiring, and I have adopted several of her methods. One of the key lessons I took away was that it's easy to fantasize about making your life more enjoyable, such as dreaming about winning the lottery and moving to the Carribbean, but the reality is that if you want to change your life, you need to find a way to do it here and now. Don't get so hung up on the big things that you miss the small stuff — there are little things you can do every day that can help improve your life. Focus on those positive behaviors.

I first read The Happiness Project several years ago, and since then I have pulled it down from the shelf several times to review a chapter, or to draw inspiration from Rubin's enthusiasm. Her project won't work for everyone, but maybe you'll be inspired to try your own.
Profile Image for sleeps9hours.
362 reviews2 followers
April 16, 2010
This was an inspiring book in some ways, but also annoying. The author admits that she is part of a new trend in books in which the author takes a year for self improvement. I liked that she seems fairly normal and doesn’t escape her regular routine to make some changes. Over time the book dragged though. I was quite impressed with the plethora of quotes throughout (she collects them), and tons of little ideas and research results I found interesting. I had to get past the fact that her personality seems a bit off-putting.

p. 52 The most reliable predictor of not being lonely is the amount of contact with women. Time spent with men doesn’t make a difference.

p. 62 “My Quaker grandparents, who were married 72 years, said that each married couple should have an outdoor game, like tennis or golf, and an indoor game, like Scrabble or gin, that they play together.”

p. 71 Enthusiasm is more important to mastery than innate ability, it turns out, because the single most important element in developing an expertise is your willingness to practice. Therefore, career experts argue, you’re better off pursuing a profession that comes easily and that you love, because that’s where you’ll be more eager to practice and thereby earn a competitive advantage.

p. 81 Benjamin Franklin, along with 12 friends, formed a club for mutual improvement that met weekly for 40 years.

p. 84 There is something nice about working in an office with a candle burning. It’s like seeing snow falling outside the window or having a dog snoozing on the carpet beside you. It’s a kind of silent presence in the room and very pleasant.

p. 85 Take pleasure in the gradual process made toward a goal, in the present. Called “pre-goal-attainment positive affect.”

p. 109 “Rosy prospection”, the anticipation of happiness is sometimes greater than the happiness actually experienced.

p. 120 “What did you like to do as a child? What you enjoyed as a ten-year-old is probably something you’d enjoy now.”

p. 126 Look at those things that do have a beauty to you now and look at them more and more.
... Our lives are in the space between Isaiah Berlin’s “We are doomed to choose and every choice may entail an irreparable loss” and Borges’s Garden of Forking Paths, where every choice produces a quantum explosion of alternate futures.

p. 132 I started a “Happiness Box” in which I’d collect all sorts of little trinkets meant to trigger happy thoughts and memories.

p. 153 The “fundamental attribution error” is a psychological phenomenon in which we tend to view other people’s actions as reflections of their characters and to overlook the power of situation to influence their actions, whereas with ourselves, we recognize the pressures of circumstance.

p. 156 Another reason not to say critical things about other people: “spontaneous trait transference.” Studies show that people unintentionally transfer to me the traits I ascribe to other people.

p. 169 The Epiphany of the Back Spasm. Money doesn’t buy happiness the way good health doesn’t buy happiness. When money or health is a problem, you think of little else; when it’s not a problem, you don’t think much about it.

p. 170 People’s basic psychological needs include the need to feel secure, to feel good at what they do, to be loved, to feel connected to others, and to have a strong sense of control.

p. 171 I wanted to spend money to stay in closer contact with my family and friends; to promote my energy and health; to create a more serene environment in my apartment; to work more efficiently; to eliminate sources of boredom, irritation, and marital conflict; to support causes that I thought important; and to have experiences that would enlarge me.

p. 185 People who give money to charity end up wealthier than those who don’t give to charity (?!).

p. 211 Doctor of the Church, the elite category of 33 supersaints that includes Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas Aquinas.

p. 242 Shakers deliberately introduced a mistake into the things they made, to show that man shouldn’t aspire to the perfection of God. Flawed can be more perfect than perfection.

p. 250 Listening to music is one of the quickest, simplest ways to boost mood and energy and to induce a particular mood. Music stimulates the parts of the brain that trigger happiness, and it can relax the body—in fact, studies show that listening to a patient’s choice of music during medical procedures can lower the patient’s heart rate, blood pressure, and anxiety level.

p. 259 A small child typically laughs more than 400 times each day, and an adult—17 times.


Nietzsche “All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.”
“The end of a melody is not its goal; but nonetheless, if the melody had not reached its end it would not have reached its goal either. A parable.”

William James “Action seems to follow feeling, but really action and feeling go together; and by regulating the action, which is under the more direct control of the will, we can indirectly regulate the feeling, which is not.”

Samuel Johnson “It is by studying little things that we attain the great art of having as little misery, and as much happiness as possible.”
“To live in perpetual want of little things is a state, not indeed of torture, but of constant vexation.”
“Abstinence is as easy to me as temperance would be difficult.”

G. K. Chesterton “It is easy to be heavy: hard to be light.” (or as the saying goes, “Dying is easy; comedy is hard.”)

“Happy wife, happy life” “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”

Business school truism “You manage what you measure.”

William Butler Yeats “Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing nor that, but simply growth. We are happy when we are growing.”

W. H. Auden “Between the ages of twenty and forty we are engaged in the process of discovering who we are, which involves learning the difference between accidental limitations which it is our duty to outgrow and the necessary limitations of our nature beyond which we cannot trespass with impunity.”

Matthew Arnold “All knowledge is interesting to a wise man.”

Andy Warhol “Either once only, or every day”

Simone Weil “Imaginary evil is romantic and varied; real evil is gloomy, monotonous, barren, boring. Imaginary good is boring; real good is always new, marvelous, intoxicating.”

Sarah Bernhardt “It is by spending of oneself that one becomes rich.”

Michel de Montaigne “The least strained and most natural ways of the soul are the most beautiful; the best occupations are the least forced.”

Robert Frost “The best way out is always through.”

J.M. Barrie “We set out to be wrecked.”

Saint Therese of Lisieux “I choose all.”

Francis Bacon/Heraclitus “Dry light is ever the best.”

Gertrude Stein “I like a room with a view but I like to sit with my back turned to it.”

Elias Canetti “Kant Catches Fire.”

Virginia Woolf “She always had the feeling that it was very, very dangerous to live even one day.”
Profile Image for Tasha.
77 reviews3 followers
December 29, 2011
All the navel-gazing of "Eat, Pray, Love" with none of the interesting commentary provided by other characters. Gretchen is the only actual being in her world; everyone else, including her husband and children, is merely a mirror reflecting who she thinks she should appear to be. I'm convinced that the author wants to be happy only because someone else told her she should.

I'm all for fluff reading, but this took it to a new level. The chapter on cleaning her closets (yes, an entire chapter about closet-cleaning) did me in.
Profile Image for Christy.
3,818 reviews32.4k followers
December 18, 2017
3.5 stars

I enjoyed the audio book of The Happiness Project. I always like when authors narrate their own books, and Gretchen Rubin did a nice job with the audio. I listened to the book fairly quickly, it only took me 2 days. On the parts that related to my life, I can give an awesome 4-5 star rating to. Unfortunately, a lot of the book had to do with parenting and other things (not just ones own happiness) and I found myself completely zoning out. Still, it was a solid read and there are parts of it that were insightful and I'll take away and use.
Profile Image for Caroline.
503 reviews562 followers
June 15, 2018
I enjoyed reading this book, it was fun and stimulating, and it made me HAPPY.

It involved following Gretchen Rubin in her year-long pursuit to increase the amount of happiness in her life. I learnt a lot along the way, and often they were things I was not expecting to learn. I didn't agree with everything she tried - but then neither did she - some of her projects just didn't work out. But a lot of them did, and she has given us all a lot to think about.

The book has been a great success, spawning a blog that loads of people seem to read and take part in, but the hype isn't just hype - I think she deserves the positive feedback.

She takes a different topic each month of the year..


The main messages I got from this book about happiness?

Be you. Blow doing anything you don't enjoy. If your real pleasure is collecting Cindy dolls - then just go for it, regardless of more highbrow pleasures that might turn other people on.... we must do the things that make us joyful.

Try and work out what makes you happy, and then keep a resolution chart that will ensure that you actually DO the things that make you happy. Rubin says that keeping a resolution chart was the very nub of what made this project successful for her. It ensured that she kept practising her new habits, or in Rubin's words "Accessibility to good ideas and practises makes it easier for the subconscious brain to access them." So, a resolution chart is good!

Finally, the book ends with an excellent list of books for further reading.

I shall end with my usual stack of notes
Profile Image for Jamie (The Perpetual Page-Turner).
382 reviews1,715 followers
December 8, 2009
I won this advance copy book through the Goodreads Giveaway and could not have been more stoked! I am always creating lists and goals and things to improve my life. I feel like books, songs, movies always have a way of finding me when I need them most. I just quit my job because I was way too miserable and I have been home for the past few weeks feeling extremely unhappy and like my life was just miserable. This book was just the inspiration to want to change my situation and bring about more happiness into my life.

While I am an adventurous soul and loved reading memoirs by people who go do extreme things to find themselves and change their lives (ie Eat, Pray, Love). This is not a luxury I have and I liked Rubin's idea of not wanting to reject her life but wanting to "change her life without changing my life, by finding more happiness in my own kitchen." I want to be happy here and now in my own life. Sure, I would love to go gallivanting off to other parts of the world to find myself and make myself happier but that is just not a reality and I'm just not sure it would teach me how to live my normal life.

I loved the questions that the author asked of happiness and how she approached what happiness is and if she believed it was possible to make herself happier. I liked that she was honest about really being a happy person in general and admitting that her life has been pretty easy..no dramatic stories to tell of some terrible misfortune, etc. She just wanted to see if she could bring more general happiness into her life and, if did disaster did strike, would it be an enduring and embedded type of happiness that would help her through something.

I absolutely loved the setup of each section. It went month by month. She talked about each of the resolutions she made for that month and talked about her struggles and successes. She was often times humorous and also very observant. I loved the research she did pertaining to happiness and how she used these ideas to figure out ways to her own happiness. I like how she emphasizes that everybody's happiness project would look very unique. Different things make different people happy. I didn't always agree with some of her conclusions with her own resolutions but I appreciated the research she did and that it was HER happiness project with HER own results.

I'm always skeptical of "self help" type things or 25 ways to happiness deals. I don't think there is a formula to happiness or peace or success. That is what I liked about Gretchen's book. She wasn't trying to say.."HERE! Here is the exact method by which you will be happy!" Rather, she was showing you her journey and the project that she thought would best elevate her OWN happiness. I was certainly inspired by her happiness project and I am planning on starting my own in January 2010.

The author has a blog too that is chocked full of great advice and if you go back far enough it shows her journey throughout the happiness project. The blog really shows her actually going through with it. The book is the outcome and the reflection. I actually emailed her to get her resolution chart to see if it's something that might work for me or if I should create my own. She is extremely gracious and incredibly enthusiastic about inspiring and motivating other people to their own elevated happiness.

I'd definitely recommend this book if you are finding yourself increasingly unhappy..or if you are a happy person wondering if you can be happier.
Profile Image for Gaijinmama.
183 reviews74 followers
September 10, 2011
This book got mixed reviews, but I liked it.
It was realistic, very readable, and not exploitative of developing cultures like some of these other "Go find yourself " stunt books (cough cough Eat,Pray cough cough). Rubin is up-front about the fact that she comes from a white, upper-middle class, happily-married, securely employed New York lifestyle that makes it seem a bit narcissistic for her to go out searching for yet more happiness when she has so many advantages compared to so many other people.
And yet, I found myself agreeing with her.
For example, why is it that so often people assume that if you're a happy positive person you're automatically less intelligent? why do we waste time, money and energy on things that we feel we SHOULD like as opposed to wholeheartedly making time for things we really do like? This will be the last time I make a disclaimer at work for being addicted to fantasy with elves and dragons and trashy paranormal romances! I am a university English professor and I have a masters' degree and yeah, the classics are great but I like what I like,
and will continue to recommend it to my students along with Hemingway and Salinger and the Bronte sisters.
I do not intend to follow all of Rubin's suggestions. I refuse to accept, for example, that as a mother it is MY job to "be a treasure-house of happy memories." Sorry, Gretchen, but that just ain't me and you also say in your book that rule number one is Be Yourself. My Self would rather wake up late on Christmas morning to find that the husband and kids got up early and decorated the tree.
I highly recommend this book. The writer can actually write, and all of us can find some useful suggestions or at least food for thought here.
Profile Image for Caroline .
418 reviews576 followers
December 29, 2018
Should the pursuit of happiness be turned into a project? Gretchen Rubin made it a year-long project, one she put her heart and soul, blood, sweat, and tears into. It may seem like a weird way to go about attaining happiness, but her results, as finely detailed here, are impressive and inspiring.

Much has been written about how to be happier. The general belief seems to be that happiness will come when some milestone is reached or something life-changing happens: paying off a large debt, reaching a goal weight, or winning the lottery. Prior to reading The Happiness Project, I’d read articles on this topic now and then but always found them vague. “Happiness experts” repeatedly say that deep, long-term happiness can’t be found in the life-changing moments, but it wasn’t until reading The Happiness Project that I understood happiness-attainment concretely. In plainer words: This book makes sense.

The Happiness Project is very well organized, divided into twelve chapters (one per month), with each of those further divided into a series of main points. January, for instance, is subtitled “Boost Energy” because that was Rubin’s resolution for that month on her journey to true happiness. Related to boosting energy, she covered the following points: “Go to sleep earlier,” “Exercise better,” “Toss, restore, organize,” “Tackle a nagging task,” and “Act more energetic.” In January, Rubin did all these things, methodically and meticulously. Some she enjoyed more than others, but she did all of them.

I appreciated Rubin’s candid and sincere tone. She talks of feeling rushed and anxious at times, of losing patience and getting irritable. She never pretends to be perfect, though she set the bar high for herself and persisted. It’s admirable and overwhelming just reading about all that she did over the course of one year, and, ultimately, her type-A personality probably helped.

Especially fascinating to me was Rubin’s short but thoughtful preparation. Right before starting her project, she compiled a list of twelve personal commandments to help guide her and get her back on track when needed, and a list of “Secrets of Adulthood,” something she admits was goofier. What I truly loved, however, were what she dubbed the “Four Splendid Truths,” which were born of the project (and therefore revealed themselves toward the end) and are philosophical.

The Happiness Project is a sort of memoir/self-help book/handbook mesh, but as a self-help book/handbook, the sheer amount of information is overwhelming, and this is the only major fault I could find with it, if it can be called a fault. It begs a rereading, or if not that, extensive note-taking during the first reading. Rubin does, however, have a blog that has prompts to help readers set up their own happiness projects.

Trying to catch and hold on to an immaterial concept such as happiness isn’t so ridiculous; it’s precisely because Rubin did very specific things over the course of one year that she got results. That’s how this book is valuable--in its specificity. It’s unnecessary to embark on a year-long challenge. Even if a reader makes only a handful of changes, that can help, and even readers who aren’t unhappy can find The Happiness Project helpful.
Profile Image for Swrp.
665 reviews
June 19, 2020
Pierre Reverdy wrote: There is no love; there are only proofs of love.

Gretchen Rubin`s 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 is good with some practical points and realistic advice.

This book will be more useful if read as a basic self-help book, and not a memoir.

If you are willing to take the blame, people will give you responsibilities.

It is easy to be heavy, hard to be light.

Do good, feel good ; feel good, do good.
Profile Image for Erin.
617 reviews17 followers
August 3, 2010
Inspiring! Loved it! Totally want to start my Happiness Project. Gretchen Rubin, happily married mother of 2, had a realization while sitting on a bus that she was letting her life pass her by without fully appreciating it. Being a writer, she decided to research the origins, psychology and elements of happiness and develop her own Happiness Project, a 12-month experiment (each month around a theme like "love", "work" "energy", etc) with carefully measured goals and resolutions to see if she could be a happier person, better wife, better mother, better woman. I enjoy self-help stuff when it doesn't sound too preachy, and Rubin finds a really nice tone to her book that made it compelling, human, not preachy, and honestly kind of charming. She is pretty honest and open about when things worked and when things didn't quite, the fact that she can be kind of a pill (I can relate!) when things don't go her way, and how one month built on the previous. I think most people can relate to wanting to do new year's resolutions, but never holding on to them, and she counters that by using her resolution chart and holding herself accountable. I think what I liked most about it was that she had to learn to "Stay Gretchen" (some things work for others and not for you, and that's ok), and that she wanted to change her life without changing her life (she couldn't move to Africa, for example, but wanted to make small, manageable changes she could keep the rest of her life.) That spoke to me--I don't know that I'll stay where I am forever, but I think I'll be where I am at least for another year, and want to know that I've really started to pay attention to where I am right now and made a few positive changes. Grow a little!

She is quite honest about how this could sound self-absorbed or self-indulgent, but she disagrees in general and believes (backing that up with research) that happier people are more productive, more generous, more thoughtful, etc. I'm definitely intrigued and inspired to plan my own Happiness Project.

More info on her blog here: http://www.happiness-project.com/
Profile Image for Gina.
69 reviews77 followers
January 26, 2010
Natasha's review of this book is perfect. I think Natasha should re-write The Happiness Project and then it will truly be a project about happiness.

Natasha wrote ..... "A short while ago I started a blog post by saying that I was depressed about the book The Happiness Project. I felt that I knew what the book was about and that I could have written it but now that it was written by someone else, my idea for a self-help book was taken. I said I was "depressed" as a humourous play upon the title of the book -- it seems counter-intuitive that a book about happiness would make someone depressed, right?

Except now that I have finished reading the book, the joke's on me: I actually am depressed about it. It was a sad read, in parts, because it was abundantly clear to me that the author doesn't really understand the secret of happiness. I don't feel like the book came to any conclusions on how to be happy in a lasting way. I think the book managed to get published because she was already a published author, so she had connections, and because the publishers were cashing in on what author Gretchen Rubin mentions as "stunt genre journalism", in this case, doing something for a year and then writing about it.

Before I delve into my criticisms, the book was not without merit. There are little nuggets of inspiration, like when Gretchen drastically improves her drawing ability by taking a class that gave her profound anxiety. I would be surprised if anyone could read The Happiness Project without feeling inspired to go outside her comfort zone and do something new.

But the inspiration ended there.

Basically, Gretchen wants to be happier. Her husband doesn't understand why she wants to be happier because she seems happy to him but it becomes clear before long, as she describes many insufferable habits and traits of her own, that she's not really happy.

So, instead of digging deep, getting at the root of her issues, she makes monthly theme resolutions, travelling the surface streets of why she's obnoxious, putting a superficial band-aid on her flaws.

This is not a book to read if you're looking to identify with someone else's unhappiness to have a "light bulb moment" about your own, unless you really are so uncomplicated and flawless that your only source of unhappiness is not enough extra-curricular busyness in your life, in which case you don't need to read a book to solve that problem. If she were relaying her poor behaviour so that she could follow it up with an explanation of the root reason for her behaviour and what she realised about herself and how that realisation changed her, then this book would be a worthwhile pursuit. Instead, it reads like a confessional journal, a list of sins and the penance that followed, and the lack of profundity made me sad. I felt uncomfortable for her knowing that this self-flagellation was not bringing her any lasting insight into why she was unhappy with herself.

For example, on page 266 she starts,

"... I realized I had one particular characteristic that I urgently needed to control: I was too belligerent. The minute someone made a statement, I looked for ways to contradict it. When someone happened to say to me, 'Over the next fifty years, it's the relationship with China that will be most important to the United States,' I started searching my mind to think of counterexamples. Why? ....I know very little about the subject."

She goes on to say that criticizing is "deliciously satisfying", that it made her feel more sophisticated and intelligent. She describes herself as a "know-it-all" who strives to drop literary observations to appear intelligent, a "topper" who tops other people's stories with a bigger and better one, and a "deflater" who finds something negative to say about things that other people were excited about.

On page 269 she describes the difficulty she had with trying to squelch her inclinations,

"Giving positive reviews requires humility. I have to admit, I missed the feelings of superiority that I got from using puncturing humor, sarcasm, ironic asides, cynical comments, and cutting remarks. A willingness to be pleased requires modesty and even innocence -- easy to deride as mawkish and sentimental."

On page 272 she describes a situation where her daughter is throwing up and she asks her husband to get a towel. He brings the towel and she says, "Folks, that was not the fastest action we could have had." She then asks why she tossed out that negative comment, but doesn't give the answer.

Answering the whys proves difficult for her throughout the book. She's able to narrow behaviour down as being prideful (and I admire her for her frankness) but she doesn't analyse the source of the pride.

So, without really knowing (or divulging) the source of her problems, she decides that to fix these character flaws she will give up drinking because it enables her belligerence, and she will force herself to be like Pollyanna for a week, including wearing a bracelet to remind her to remember about "Pollyanna Week". Pollyanna Week succeeds in cutting down her negative comments for that week and has "lasting effects" later, which she doesn't describe. I immediately noted the irony in going about being less negative by... negative reinforcement. "Stop saying negative things." That's not a positive approach. It's like trying to lose weight by saying, "I hate being fat. I'm going to stop being fat," instead of "I miss feeling thin and I'm going to be thin again."

(And besides, my theory is that the people around us will well tolerate our negative attributes if there are simply more positive ones than negative. Everyone is negative sometimes. We don't need to zip our mouths and be as perfect as impossible. We just need to be more positive than negative. If we're enthusiastic a lot of the time, people will forgive us for being critical some of the time. If we are frequently celebratory of our friends' successes and interests, people will better tolerate when we indulge in self-absorption for a while.)

Why didn't she just work on being more loving? Because, by her own assertion, it was "vague" as well as being harder to fake. Negative comments were easier for her to spot and measure. It's easier to stop doing something bad than to start doing something good, but... if you can succeed in being more good (instead of merely acting more good), then you have a more lasting change than the one you have by merely willing yourself to stop being bad.

As well, giving up drinking and getting more sleep is great, but not everyone who drinks or is tired is belligerent. Why is she this way under the influence when some other people are silly and more gregarious when they're boozy or tired? She doesn't ask that question.

It seems to me that the source of many of her problems is basic insecurity. She resolves early on to "Be Gretchen" and throughout the book when she runs up against insecurities, the insecurities are solved by her mantra to "Be Gretchen". So, the lesson here for the reader, when having troubles with insecurities: Be yourself. Problem solved. Why didn't you think of that, Reader?

At one point (and I can't find the page) she asks "Why?" about her behaviour and then says she has no idea.

Finally, she admits that her Happiness Project made her more judgmental of others for not being happy.

I wonder if she would have had the discipline to keep up with all her resolutions, if she would have challenged herself to take a drawing class that gave her panicky anxiety if she was not doing it for book fodder. Without the resolutions, there would be no story to tell, really, so it seems that the book is in existence for the book's sake.

The strange thing is that she's obviously a very intelligent woman who seems introspective enough that I do believe she is capable of getting to the heart of the matter of her problems, of asking the important questions and getting real answers. I just don't understand why she didn't do it for the book. I guess it just wasn't the style of book she was looking to write or HarperCollins was looking to publish?

Further, what made me sad was reading of Gretchen's struggle to love herself and others in a pure, unshakable way that comes from God and comes from a deep-seated knowledge of the value of another soul. She describes her life as having been fairly easy, her childhood being happy, and she even sounds insecure about that in about three places where she wishes she had hardship to draw on to give herself "legitimacy". I suspect that her happy upbringing is why she struggles to have true compassion for others without having to talk herself into it so much. Compassion is hard to come by without experience. It's easy to have an intellectual awareness of the need to cut people some slack, it's easy to repeat to one's self: "Everyone is doing the best they can." but it's quite another to feel that understanding of another person's soul because it comes from a place of experience.

On page 259 she said,

"Along with a more humorous attitude, I wanted to be kinder. I'd considered kindness a respectable but bland virtue... but researching Buddhism, with its emphasis on loving-kindness, had convinced me that I'd overlooked something important."

Important? Ya think? Wow. "...a respectable but bland virtue"? That really threw me. In my world, and in much of the world's religions, kindness is a branch of love, which is the most important commandment, the flavour of life, our raison d'être. How can kindness ever be bland as an idea or a manifestation?

"I wanted to practice loving-kindness but it was such a vague goal -- easy to applaud but hard to apply. What strategies would remind me to act with loving-kindness in my ordinary day? ...Perhaps mere politeness wouldn't engender loving-kindness in me, but acting politely would at least give me the appearance of possessing that quality -- and perhaps appearance would turn into reality."

Am I the only one who sees the problems with this paragraph?

The entire book is sprinkled with talk of "strategies", with wishful thinking, with "perhaps"s and "maybe"s and "acting". Is it possible that she does not see that true happiness does not come from acting kind but being kind?

On page 275 she says,

".... if I keep my resolutions and do the things that make me happier, I end up feeling happier and acting more virtuously. Do good, feel good; feel good, do good."

Again, she describes "acting" instead of "being". Tsk. And besides that, how is this a revelation worth publishing a book about? Hey, this just in folks: If you keep up resolutions for things you know you should do, it will make you happier. So, keep up your resolutions, okay? Tell us something we don't know, right? Like, how to keep those resolutions without merely gritting our teeth and digging our heels in. I know that if I would be kinder to Jim-Bob that I would feel better and that feeling better would then make it easier for me to be kinder to Jim-Bob. But how do I get the momentum to do something I don't really want to do, and won't he sense the falseness anyway?

This is why she finds it so easy to judge other people's behaviours -- she doesn't focus on the heart, she focuses on the outward appearance. If it's so easy for her to change her behaviour (um, easy because she has to or she doesn't have book fodder), then other people should be able to as well.

This was the only preconceived expectation I had when starting this book -- that she would strive to change herself by merely digging her feet in and, with sheer willpower, change her habits. I was otherwise expecting to enjoy this book. I am blown away by its superficiality and its inability to inspire me or to change anyone in a profound, lasting way. Its methodical layout, its quotes from philosophers, its articulate writing, and its New York Times bestseller's list placement does not trick me into thinking it's a life-changing book. The only reason it changed Gretchen's life was because she was writing a book. It serves as more of a mostly humour-less journal, really. It couldn't even be categorised under "self-help".

I find it profound that in the last chapter she asks her husband if her happiness project has made him happier at all. He answers, "Nope." Then she says, "But he had changed" and explains all the changes. But... that doesn't mean he's happier. Maybe he wasn't happier because he was already happy. Maybe he was happy being the kind of man who doesn't reply to her emails. Maybe he was happy not doing the things that would make her happier if he would just do them. Maybe he was happy in his imperfections... and hers. Maybe it's just Gretchen who thinks that happiness can be found in resolutions, in gold stars, in being likable.

I felt like I was reading my own journey to discovering the secret to happiness, from when I was in my early 20's. At one point I actually thought it would be a good idea to make a list of all my negative qualities and all the bad things I did. Why I thought this would be beneficial escapes my recollection. And maybe it's this reminder that made me so sad. Maybe if I didn't identify with what I see as her confusion, I wouldn't even notice it.

I think it's the idea of happiness that attracts people enough to make this a best-selling book. Bite-sized blog posts about the topic are interesting to most of us, but I expected a book to be more substantial.

(Needless to say, I am no longer bummed out that someone else wrote my book. The Happiness Project has made it easier for me to write what I need to write about, to fill in the gaps, to explore the human psyche, as pretentious as that sounds. Am I qualified? Sure. What makes Tiger Woods qualified to teach about golf is that he's good at golf. I'm good at introspection and answering tough questions honestly. My friends should expect much badgering from me for their experiences and opinions. :-) As well, there are many works to read as reference, such as Voltaire's Candide. So far, I'm only about 5000 words into my book writing but I have an outline and an inkling and a nanny. I just need some sleep, some time, some privacy, and a writerly mood. It's the passionate mood that's so hard to come by and without it, writing is so excruciating and never as good. So, we'll see.) " -
Natasha of http://www.becomingsomething.com/
Profile Image for Britany.
967 reviews417 followers
April 6, 2019
This is my second book by Gretchen Rubin, and my favorite so far.

Gretchen decides to take a resolution to a new level by creating mini goals and focus themes for each month over the course of a year to focus on happiness. I loved the structure of this book. I love how Gretchen introduces a topic for each month (I kept thinking, how will she come up with another topic, and alas she surprised me every month past July!). I loved her proclamations and her essence as she went through her project. I appreciate her honesty when she was frustrated or when she lost her patience with something. This book felt authentic and there are so many things I can take away from her project. She offers great tips like creating photo books for all your notes and journals (who knew?) and keeping an empty shelf in your closet.

This book will definitely be one that I revisit in the future.
Profile Image for Jenn.
61 reviews2 followers
January 12, 2010
"I did, however, vow to stop reading books that I didn't enjoy. I used to pride myself on finishing every book I started -- no longer."

Using the author's own words, that pretty much sums up how I felt about reading this book...although I didn't stop. I read it all the way through and wish that I had actually "Been Gretchen" for a brief moment.

I really liked the concept of the book and of the project; however, I found it to be less inspiring and much more annoying than I would expect a book like this to be. From the constant, uncited references to "resources" to the quotes from obscure researchers, from the reader responses to the author's blog to the supposed word-for-word conversations between the author and others in her book, I found the book to have a very contrived feeling that left me rolling my eyes and sighing with irritation. I felt the author contradicted herself continually throughout the book, used references to support her opinions (NOT research) while ignoring those that she didn't agree with, all to make a point... well, that really didn't have a point.

Yes, I'd like to be happier in my life. (Who wouldn't?) Yes, I think Rubin had some good ideas on how to do that (although how original those ideas are is questionable.) No, I don't think reading her book gave me any more insight into being a happier person than what my own common sense has told me over the years. Instead, I would go so far as to say that this book likely made my life a little less happy because I don't find reading someone's grumbling and whining (all under the guise of "maximizing happiness") to be particularly uplifting.
Profile Image for Chelsea.
316 reviews2,766 followers
January 3, 2020
Great book to start the year off with. Good job me! *pats self on back*
Profile Image for Niki Hawkes - The Obsessive Bookseller.
725 reviews1,204 followers
April 5, 2021
Gretchen Rubin and I see eye-to-eye on a lot of things, which made reading The Happiness Project a fulfilling endeavor.

Having loved most of her organizing advice in Outer Order, Inner Calm, I bumped up this title from a “maybe someday” to “let me get ahold of that immediately” in my TBR. And it did not disappoint.

I think change of any sort starts with observing your own behavior and evaluating if it’s serving you. In Gretchen’s case, she determined she wasn’t as happy as she thought she could be and instigated a series of happiness goals over the course of a year. Each month had a focus where she really dug into the why’s of her current behavior and constantly strove to improve, tracking her progress all the while. My favorite thing about her method is that it’s not about attaining perfection in any one category, it’s about implementing new daily habits that over time add up to meaningful results. It’s meant to be incremental. Even the tiniest change can have life-changing results in the long run.

I also like that it’s not a cookie cutter method. Each person comes up with their own categories. Many of my own personal growth goals were highlighted in Gretchen’s journey, of which I appreciated. The book is definitely front-loaded, where most of the best ideas and experiences are in the first half, but there were still a few good moments throughout (a couple of her later categories got a little too much page time for my tastes, but that’s a small trifle).

Overall, this book gave me the opportunity to revamp my life goals, along with a slightly different lens through which to examine them. A win.

Recommendations: The book is more an exhibition of the author's life and her personal strategies for dealing with her own specific deficiencies rather than a typical self help book that gives research and steps on how to achieve happiness. More creative non-fiction than self-helpy. However, it gave me a good source of inspiration for my own personal goals and I found the process she went through really interesting. Because of that, I liked the book more than most (...at least in relation to the reviews I'm reading below). Expectations before venturing in are everything with this title.

My Personal Happiness Project

Little did I know, I’ve been running my own version of this for the past couple of years, only without the structure. I call it my “Chasing Joy” objective which entails figuring out what activities brings me joy and packing my days with as many of them as possible. Here are the things:

1. Spending more quality time with my kids. And having more patience when I do.

2. Being creative every day. Cross stitching, scarf making, diamond arting, scrapbooking �� all blissful activities for me.

3. Memory keeping. Much like Gretchen, I’ve decided to “become my family’s champion” for memory keeping. I love how she phrased that – it gave my goal a lot more intention.

4. Practicing looking internally for validation.

5. Letting go of crazy perfectionism. I’m still not convinced this is possible but any attention and effort will only serve me in the long run.

6. Stronger focus on physical health which entails working out, meal planning, cooking, and self care.

7. Striving for digital minimalism.

8. Work on reviewing every day and continue to establish a strong presence in the book world.

9. Mental health focus of meditating, journaling, Al Anon meetings, daily readers, and writing raw self-evaluation posts.

10. Household goals. Decluttering, establishing routines, and getting housework out of the way as efficiently as possible so I have more time to work on other joyful things.

What does your project look like?
Profile Image for Rebecca.
3,608 reviews2,579 followers
December 17, 2018
(4.5) Probably the best self-help book I’ve read; even better than the other two Rubin books I’d read, which have the distinction of being truly helpful self-help. I read this slowly as a bedside book over the course of a few months, which ended up being a great choice because it allowed me to take in a lot more of the content. I wasn’t reading it for the narrative of Rubin’s project year, per se, but for her specific findings. The book is dense (in the best possible way) with philosophy, experience and advice.

What I appreciated most is that her approach is not about undertaking extreme actions to try to achieve happiness, but about finding contentment in the life you already have by adding or tweaking small habits – everything from keeping a one-sentence gratitude journal to organizing your closet. Like me, Rubin is a pessimist who tends to be judgmental and irritable unless she curbs her natural leanings. She realized that it takes a little more effort to be happy but is worth it. “It’s easier to complain than to laugh, easier to yell than to joke around, easier to be demanding than to be satisfied. Keeping ‘a heart to be contented,’ I expected, would help change my actions.”

I especially valued the discussion of “fog happiness” (activities that might not seem fun at the time but when you look back on are rewarding, like parenting or hosting a party) and the idea that pursuing happiness isn’t selfish but in fact equips you to act on behalf of others and bolsters you against life’s inevitable tragedies.

I could see myself and others I know in a lot of her examples. She talks about being such a perfectionist that she doesn’t often act thrilled, so sometimes she has to force herself to be demonstrative of her happiness. I was reminded of when I was in my senior year of high school and flew out to California to spend my spring break with my sister. I had the trip of a lifetime, but at the end she had to ask me if I’d had a good time – she couldn’t actually tell. “It takes energy, generosity, and discipline to be unfailingly lighthearted, yet everyone takes the happy person for granted.” I thought about a family member who I’ve only ever seen upset once. Although she’s experienced several terrible losses in the last five years or so, she’s always cheerful and thinking of others.

My only minor annoyance with the book is the way Rubin presents many of her tenets (e.g. her “Twelve Commandments,” “Secrets of Adulthood” and “Splendid Truths”) as a fait accompli rather than explaining how she arrived at them.

I’d like to go back through the book next year, taking notes and deciding how I could apply her findings to my life.
Profile Image for Kim.
286 reviews779 followers
October 1, 2014

I don’t know.

I just don’t get it. For the better part of my life I feel that I’ve leaned towards the glass half full-look at the bright side-I’d like to teach the world to sing-make lemonade-happy happy joy joy side of things.

Reading this book made me feel doomed. I snorted and harrumphed and tsk’d a lot at her observations and her truths and it made me Unhappy. I don’t much care for books that do that.
Okay, let’s back up. I wasn’t expecting a life changer here. I thought it would be anecdotal, humorous, like maybe Amy Sedaris-ish or at least kitschy Erma Bombeck-y… I thought I might find a like-minded soul.

I did not.

I will take the blame for this. High expectations and crap. I should know better. Plus, I really don’t do well with the self-helpy kind of books. They tend to read like ‘all or nothing’ and ‘I am the expert’. This book didn’t do that but it did feel a little preachy.
However… and here is where I am not liking myself and feeling sort of hypocritical and Debbie downerish….I’m not sure that she quite… she doesn’t… It’s not…

Ugh. Okay.

1. She is kind of privileged. She lives in Manhattan with a sane, functioning, providing, husband and two gifted little girls and getting to ‘work’ from home (I use quotes because she gets to write and stuff all day and she loves that and I’m not downplaying people who achieve their work nirvana or anything, but I don’t think she thinks it’s work either)

2. She has this awesome support system and lots and lots of friends. She goes to parties. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a party. Certainly not as a grown up.

3. I kind of feel like she’s throwing it in my face.

I know, I own this. She is just trying to get a little appreciation and warm fuzzies out of her day to day life (which is already pretty toasty). I am a major proponent in finding your happy place. Your gleemonex (if you are a Kids in the Hall fan). I just don’t like the way she tells it because she makes it feel like so much work.
Become clutter free, don’t expect retribution, exercise more, sleep more, meet new friends, write a novel in a month, indulge yourself (modestly), lighten up, be serious about play, aim higher, stop nagging, don’t gossip, find a spiritual master.

Wow. I have 18 marked pages of issues that I wanted to counteract. That’s not good. I shouldn’t be judging like that. But, scoring your virtues? And taking this cue from Benjamin Franklin? I don’t know. That seems sketchy to me.

Pg. 18. “Was it supremely self-centered to spend so much effort on my own happiness?”

Hell yes. I mean, I’m sure others benefited, but if you started talking about having a play date to clutter free my closet, I’m going to want to punch you in the face.

Pg. 153 “I tried to remember not to judge people harshly, especially on the first or second encounter. Their actions might not reveal their enduring character but instead reflect some situation they find themselves in. Forbearance is a form of generosity.”

Doesn’t that sound snotty? I’m not saying she’s wrong.. I guess I’m just pointing out that her little realizations made me annoyed. I don’t want to be THAT person.

Pg. 215: "It took me a long time to accept this perverse fact—many people don’t want to be happy or at least don’t want to seem happy (and if they act as if they’re not happy, they’re not going to feel happy).”

Ugh. She makes me feel like one of those people and I started this book thinking I’d find kin! Now I’m a frowning, furrowed, huffy, lip biter who sees the bad instead of the good.

Yes, it’s my bad. I said that already. Why does she have to make happiness sound so exhausting? I get it, we need to be more aware of our blessings or what have you. Gratitude journals are big right now, daily truths, calm blue oceans, yoga and colored skies and Meyers Briggs, and parachutes and all that.

I came across a site that offered Positive Affirmations! (for a price) ‘Reminder: You can still grab The Positive Affirmations for Life program (The Positive Affirmation for Life program is a 4-hour audio program, spanning 7 important life series (see below). Each series contains three 12-minute tracks in MP3 format to play virtually anywhere. Plus you get an instructional guide and the complete audio transcripts in PDF format. You get immediate access to the entire product upon purchase.) With more than 4 hours of audio affirmations for 7 life situations that impact your happiness and success the most. You can buy your very own positive affirmation with a 30 day money back guarantee.

See, I’m a cynic. I’m grumpy and I want to argue with all her observations. I want to keep butting in saying ‘but, what about’, ‘and if you aren’t able to…’, ‘really?’. Crud. I hate myself.

Things I did learn from this book:

3 second hugs release oxytocin or dopamine or something that induces calmness (I wish I were a better hugger).

Studies DO show that instant gratification is just that. Can you imagine a study where people went and put like coins in a pay phone for other people to find to make their day? Weird.

I can’t start my own happiness project because I will just make myself miserable.
Profile Image for Rosie Nguyễn.
Author 6 books5,931 followers
May 25, 2017
Có hai chữ để tóm tắt quyển sách này: nông cạn. Nông cạn, và hời hợt, và vật chất. Mới những trang dầu đã không thấy thích rồi, nhưng vì đang tìm hiểu các sách viết về hạnh phúc để tìm tư liệu cho quyển sách thứ 3 và phát triển triết lý hạnh phúc nên ráng đọc hết, sợ bỏ lỡ một chi tiết nào quan trọng chăng, và đọc để coi nó dở đến mức nào, và dù sao nó cũng là bestseller mà, nên kiên nhẫn. Nhưng mà càng đọc càng ức chế.

Tác giả mặc dù ở phần đầu và giới thiệu ghi là đọc từ Aristotle đến Thoreau đến Benjamin Franklin về hạnh phúc, thế nhưng trong sách thì chẩng có phân tích mấy về các quan niệm của các bậc vĩ nhân, triết gia hay những nhà tư tưởng lớn về hạnh phúc, mà đa phần là thấy hạnh phúc theo kiểu là thỏa mãn các cảm giác, các giác quan, hưởng thụ vật chất, và hướng về hành vi nhiều hơn. Ví dụ cho rằng hạnh phúc là mua những gì mình thích, tiền có thể đem lại hạnh phúc, okay không sai, đó là tầng đầu tiên. Nhưng còn sau đó thì sao? Rồi việc cổ cố gắng tỏ ra tử tế, nhưng mà bảo sau khi cố gắng thì thấy quá mệt mỏi vì phải kiềm chế quá nhiều. Như vậy thì không phải là đang tử tế để tốt hơn, mà đơn giản là nén cảm giác thật của mình vào trong và nói dối thôi. Nếu bên trong không ổn, không thấy hạnh phúc thì không thể giả tạo được. Lại còn chuyện phê phán nhiều người khác nhau trong sách, cảm giác như quyển sách này là nơi cổ nói xấu người quen vậy. Người viết có thể phê bình hoặc không đồng tình với các hành vi, thái độ hay cách cư xử, nhưng cách cô này viết làm đọc vào cảm thấy khó chịu. Rồi cách cổ viết về bản thân cổ làm mình cũng không thấy thích cổ, người hay cáu kỉnh, hay tỏ ra hiểu biết, tính toán với chồng, gắt gỏng với con..., vậy thì có gì để học hỏi ở một người như vậy.

Tóm lại là sau khi đọc quyển sách về hạnh phúc của cô này thì mình không cảm thấy hạnh phúc. Dù sao cũng cảm ơn cô, vì tui biết để tránh, để tui nỗ lực hết sức và không bao giờ viết một quyển sách dở như vậy.
Profile Image for molly.
505 reviews12 followers
January 15, 2013
I really want to rate this higher, but the author's writing voice and content just grated on me. The whole premise of the book is to give yourself gold stars for doing everyday life type things. There is no sort of higher thinking here- instead, her advice is essentially to trick yourself into being happier with her little tips like singing in the morning, making yourself laugh, etc. Her version of philosophy is to collect quotes and plunk them into the text seemingly at random. I have quibbles even with the premise of the book- I lean more towards the philosophy that we should aim to live a meaningful life, and happiness will follow.

The couple things that almost had me rating the book higher. One is that it did make me realize how much I did NOT agree with the author's premise, which was enlightening. Also, the part where she describes writing a book in a month was very inspiring to me. This is something that I am definitely planning on trying out- if you force yourself to write 1,500 words each day without editing for a month, you will have a book! Probably not a great one, but it will help with getting through that initial mental block for a lot of first time writers, I think.

Nevertheless, you now have these two nuggets without plowing through her 300 page book filled with boring descriptions of her avoiding nagging her husband and children and congratulating herself later.
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