Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Ten Things I Learned from Gretchen Rubin

Have you seen Gretchen Rubin’s blog “The Happiness Project” ?  I've follwed it for a little over a year now and was excited to learn that she was writing a book.  Now I had an actual professional reason for arranging to meet her in person!  What a relief (but not a surprise) to find out that not only is she extremely nice and down-to-earth, but open to doing an event with us! I read her book while on vacation and now see that the book holds the #2 spot on the New York Times bestseller list.

The book is part memoir, part self-help manual, and I can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t find something useful in it. She says it many times: “Everyone’s Happiness Project is different” – so she's very clear that what works for her may not work for you. Some things, however -- like sleep -- are pretty universal. How can you be happy if you don’t get enough? Tired people are not happy.

Below are a few other tips that I’ve gleaned from her toolbox – most of them already tried and endorsed.

1. Show up for friends and relatives. How many times have you complained about going somewhere, but went anyway, and felt really glad you did afterwards? This happened to me last summer with a family reunion in Ohio. Most of these relatives I hadn’t seen since I was little. We had to travel miles and miles to get there (and there was more than a little grumbling), but it was great for my kids to meet some of their long lost relatives. I saw it as a way to honor my grandmother's memory by reuniting with her brothers and sisters. What surprisingly fun event have you been to recently?

2. Forget about results.  When I read blogs from other gardeners who are weighing and documenting the pounds and pounds of produce they’ve cultivated, it’s hard not to feel like I’m doing something wrong. When I remind myself that it’s the learning, the process, the trial and error, and even the failure that makes the experience enjoyable, I don’t feel as bad. And "Garden Amnesia,” as they say, “ensures eternal hope.” What results are you too preoccupied with?

3. Enthusiasm is a form of social courage.  I love Gretchen’s story about her friend who “came out” with her love for Barry Manilow.   I love bluegrass, clogging, and country step dancing. What “uncool” thing do you finally have the courage to admit that you like? You may find a kindred spirit.

4. Help people think big.  One of my friends is single and thinking about adopting a baby. This person would make such an amazing parent – and I tell her all the time. Even though she has major reservations and obstacles to tackle, it feels wonderful to encourage her. Are you helping anyone who is thinking big right now?

5. Wanting to be happy isn’t selfish. Research shows that happy people are more altruistic, productive, helpful, likable, creative, resiliant, interested in others, friendlier and healthier. Working on your own happiness has great potential to improve the lives of those around you.

6. Strong social bonds indicate happiness- for close long-term relationships, you need to be able to confide in others. You need to feel like you belong. Community theatre is awesome for creating these kinds of bonds. Is there a group that you’re happy to be a part of? People you can confide in?

7. Don’t take yourself too seriously. When I was a kid I had a poster with this motto on my bathroom door. As a teenager, I really think it helped me put things in perspective and worry less by reading it once a day.

8. Sing in the morning. Have you ever heard the sayings “When mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” or “You’re only as happy as your unhappiest child” ? We forget that our moods are contagious and mornings set the tone for everyone’s day. I can always guage my son’s mood by his hum. (Though I can't be counted on to utter much of anything before coffee.)

9. Create an atmosphere of growth – start a blog. I am living proof that one doesn’t need any kind of special technology skills to start a blog. It’s been an amazing way to meet people with similar interests, get feedback (and yes, some criticism) on my projects and share updates with the Relatives in Far Flung States.  And as Gretchen reminds us, if you do something wrong on the blog, it's not a disaster.  If you haven’t started a blog yet, what’s holding you back??!

and finally this --maybe my favorite.....

10. Cut people some slack.  People's lives are more complicated than they seem, and situations that we're not aware of often influence actions that we might judge more harsely than we should.  (If you doubt this, you should read the short story "A Small Good Thing" by Raymond Carver - it completely changed how I look at human relationships.)  A forgiving heart is a happier one.

Do you have any happiness tips to share?

Gretchen Rubin is the author of several books, including the bestselling Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill and Forty Ways to Look at JFK. Rubin began her career in law, and she was clerking for Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor when she realized that she really wanted to be a writer. Raised in Kansas City, she lives in New York City with her husband and two young daughters.

Gretchen is speaking at the 92nd St. Y on February 9.


*°º¤♥-=|F®äñ|=-♥*°º¤ said...


AshKuku said...

I liked it ... Very thoughtful... I liked this post too... Gets u to ponder.... & Yes! KUDOS!!!


tina said...

Great tips for sure! My tip for happiness is to garden! And to sleep-naptime for me now:)

Talon said...

I love singing in the shower and singing in the car. Loudly and badly :)

My best lesson in happiness is being content with what I have right now. And knowing that the real rush of joy that sticks around isn't something you can purchase.

Ronda Laveen said...

Great post! Thanks for the point to her book as I've not heard of the Happiness Project.

Enthusiasm is a form of social courage. I try out some pretty esoteric things and when I write or talk to others about them, although they think I'm a little nutty, the often see validity or learn something they didn't know. Which is always my motivation for learning which keeps me Happy!

Ah, the circle of life.

Joanne said...

My tip for happiness? Work little indulgences into your day. Coffee, chocolate, music. It's easy to bring those little happinesses close!

Kudos to you on bringing Gretchen to the Y. Her wisdom is so empowering. Thought you'd like to know she'll be visiting Whole Latte Life next week!

Skeeter said...

Great Wisdoms to live by! I am a thinker with my mind never slowing down. I get deep into my thoughts to the point that I dont smile when in public. I must work on smiling more as smiles can work magic....

The Snow pictures were great! I love the one with the red fire hydrant standing out...

Anna/Flowergardengirl™ said...

This is one of my favorite post of yours but then I think that every time I come. I just love you. Got to go visit Gretchen's site. You ask so many good questions and your answers are so thoughtful.

I like your answer about gardening of course. We do have short term memory on that thank goodness or we would never garden again. I hope my podager gardens work out this year and my grandiose ideas for supplying food for my family doesn't become bug food. It will live and learn.

I'm reading Carrots Loves Tomatoes so I'll know how to naturally pair things so they can fight pest and disease. Huge learning curve for this season. May not get it right first go round.

Hugs to you and really enjoyed this post.

Anonymous said...

I especially agree with "cut people some slack" I used to read a lot of ranty blogs where people vent about the "morons" they work with or how they told some stranger off for some infraction. Cut them some slack!

Patti Lacy said...

Oh, thanks for an AMAZING post!

My key to joy and contentment has followed a simpler (for me) path, which is hearing, then listening to the counsel of the Holy Spirit, which can and most likely does include all of the wonderful things you mentioned!

Second by second, minute by minute, making a difference.
thanks for being a heroine by supporting a heroine.

Another book you might enjoy: "Teach Like Your Hair's On Fire." P.S. It's NOT just about teaching but for EVERYONE!!!!

Love this blog.

Guinnah said...

Such great questions to ponder. I find that happiness is contagious and that essentially you get what you give. And for me, music is the key. I listen to music all the time and find that it greatly affects my level of happiness :-)

Loved this post and especially loved your snow pictures - amazing!

Wendy McDonagh-Valentine said...

I absolutely loved this post!!!! I received a gift card to Barnes and Noble for Christmas and I'm going to pick up this book the next time I go there. Thank you so much for letting us know about this. I completely related to all of the little excerpts you showed.

~ Wendy

JGH said...

Thanks for stopping by, my Brazilian friend!

Ash- glad you liked it. Wishing you much happiness in 2010.

Tina - hope you got a good nap in. Sufficient rest is one of the universal happiness tips. And gardening of course - some just haven't discovered that yet.

Talon - have you ever heard that saying "sing like no one can hear you?" but I doubt it sounds as bad as you think. Thanks for the wise words.

Ronda, hope you'll pick up the book. Always more to learn even for us "happy" people!

Joanne - that is so exciting that Gretchen will be at Whole Latte Life!! I'll be there too for sure!

Skeeter - great tip about the smiling and I believe she does mention that - sometimes by ACTING happy you can begin feeling that way.

Anna, I'm so excited for you and the potager and looking forward to following your progress! Hope you'll pass on some tips from Carrots & tomatoes.

Anon, people really need to chill out sometimes. They imagine these sinister conspiracies or maliciousness- sometimes it is just ignorance, thoughtlessness or other things we have no way of knowing about. The world just needs more slack in general ;-)

Patti - thanks for the book rec. I will check it out!

Guinnah, I was just thinking that I need to listen to more music. I used to know all the new alternative stuff, groups, songwriters, etc. I'm really out of it now. Let me know what your favorites are!

Wendy, the book is so worth it - do let me know what you think if you read it!

Bangchik said...

It is true about all of us being so different even to the point what make us happy or otherwise. Whenever I see Kakdah happy, I will be happy too... haha... So happiness is fairly contagious.. Cheers, ~bangchik

Catskill Snap said...

My happiness tip is:

get outside and breathe in some fresh air! If properly dressed even a short walk in an icy rain can be an exhilarating experience --stop for just a few seconds and just see the beauty of it. Take advantage of every sunny or mild day to be outside. A hot cup of teas tastes so much better after a winter walk.

Catskill Snap said...

Oh and ...step AWAY from the news from time to time... rather than going over & over all the bad news with friends & family, find some other more positive subjects to discuss. Too much crappy news just makes us cranky and stressed out. And most of the time we can't do anything about it anyway.

JGH said...

Bangchik, Kakdah is very lucky to have you ......

Catskill Snap, I hope you got outside yesterday when it was so nice out. Today was a different story. We were at Woodbury Common when it started to hail! Yuck.

It is hard not to cry when watching the news lately.

Proud Procrastinator said...

These all like good tips; I'll have to check out the book.

Leah said...

This is a wonderful list, and I love how you've related it to your own life. It's a great exercise. I especially am interested in #4, 7, and 10.