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.
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.