Mini Book Reviews: The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

Welcome to my second Mini Book Review – I am on fire with reading this last month (famous last words…)!

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This book is from another of my preferred genres – self-help / lifestyle guides. I love a non-fiction book, especially if it involves trying to get some aspect of my life in order. I was drawn to this book, as I hadn’t really considered happiness as something I should be working towards (rather I thought of it as something that just was or wasn’t happening). Did Gretchen Rubin persuade me I should be more active in pursuing happiness, or do I remain to be convinced? Let’s see below…

Genre: Non-fiction / self-help / lifestyle

Title: The Happiness Project (Revised Edition): Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun

Author: Gretchen Rubin

Series: Not part of a series as such, however there is a further book called Happiness at Home

No. of pages: 324

Summary: So, you want to be happy? This is your guide to making the most of your own happiness in a handy twelve-month plan. There are no big life-changing gimmicks, just little things to focus on to try to make yourself (and those around you) happier. We follow the author as she tackles her own happiness project, which she is at great pains to advise will look completely different from anyone else’s – we are all individuals, as are our paths to happiness. It’s a good mix of happiness theory and science put in to practice.

Strengths: It is written in a very personable manner, and as such, feels like quite a friendly guide. You are made aware of the author’s mistakes and successes, and it makes it feel like an honest account. We are treated to the author’s complete happiness project, and this acts as a good base for anyone thinking of starting their own. There are plenty of tips, inspirational quotes, and a handy revision guide at the back. It works well as an extension of the author’s blog, from which she includes many readers’ quotes, and there is a ready-made community online should you want to dip your toe in the happiness project waters.

Weaknesses: Sometimes points can be a bit over-emphasised. As the author fully acknowledges, the project can’t be considered a scientific study, and as such there was no fundamental measurement of whether her happiness increased – it was more of an objective outcome. However, that was never the point of the book, and it should be taken as the author intended, which is as a ‘highly idiosyncratic personal account(s)’.

Verdict: It has certainly got me thinking! I am going to start a small-scale happiness project myself after reading this book, and will document it on the blog. It has made me think beyond my anxiety and depression, and look at what aspects of my life I can tackle separate from my mental health. I think it’s important to acknowledge my mental health will have a bearing on my happiness, but my happiness is also something which can be tended to on its own basis and I quite like that approach. I found myself employing techniques the author was exploring in the book and repeating key phrases she used as I went about my day – I think that is a pretty good sign of a job well done! One of the most important ‘personal commandments’ the author tried to live by was to ‘Be Gretchen’. And I’ve found myself very much inclined to ‘Be Pam’ more since reading it – here’s to a book which really does have the potential to teach you how to be happier! And we could all do with a little of that, surely?

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