Sunday, 29 January 2012

The Happiness Project

I decided to pull out my copy of The Happiness Project and re-read it over the course of this year.  I'm not particularly unhappy, but I am the sort of person who is always seeking to improve themself.  I don't know at what point this became ingrained in me, it just is and I don't think it's going to go away.

Not that I want to do 'a Happiness Project'; I'm not even exactly sure what one is.  I just think Gretchen Rubin proposed an awful lot of really good ideas that I want to read again.  For example, she listed her aim in January (that particular January, I guess, but why not every January?) as being 'to boost her energy'.  She aimed to do this by

Going to sleep earlier
Exercising better
Tossing, restoring and organising
Tackling a nagging task
Acting more energetic

This chapter of her book discusses the rationale behind this list and the ways in which she approached doing them.  I had to smile at re-reading about her de-cluttering efforts.  She identified various types of clutter that most of us have had at one time or another: 

-  Nostalgic: about her earlier life***
-  Self-righteous conservation:  keeping useful things out of the landfill, even if they weren't useful to her*
-  Bargain:  purchased only because of the low price, not one of her failings*
-  Freebie:  gifts, hand-me-downs and giveaways**
-  Crutch:  comfortable clothes that no one should be seen in***
-  Aspirational: craft, household or clothing items she only aspired to, but never did, use****
-  Buyer's Remorse:  mistake purchases that didn't get returned**

I could identify with everything on her list to a greater (****) or lesser (*) degree.  Of course, the way Gretchen writes makes it sound all very logical, straight-forward and even easy.  She was after all a lawyer who clerked for Sandra Day O'Connor and she is a very successful author, so she obviously has stacks of self-discipline.

I know I need to go to bed earlier even though it matters not the least what time I get up most mornings:  the later I stay up the more likely I am to eat food I don't need after a filling dinner.  My body says it's tired and wants rest, I want to stay up and so I feed it to 'give it more energy'. 

I started out exercising better but one running club day I had a slightly traumatic visit to the dentist and it threw me off my schedule.  I've never been as habitual since.  I'm apparently easily knocked off balance these days.

I made a start at filling some charity bags, but when Bill began re-decorating - as we planned - the resulting chaos, well, I don't want to talk about the rest of this.  Let's just say I haven't mastered January's list in spite of it almost being February!  Gretchen writes about having a checklist where she adds a new habit every week, but it just doesn't work that way for me.   Still, they are good ideas.  And I enjoy reading about her optimism.

Are there any books you tend to pull out at the start of a new year?


Carolyn said...

That all sounds very sensible advice, and well worth following! What an excellent book...

Thanks for your comment, but dyeing my own clothes is something I've been doing most of my adult life, so doesn't feel at all brave anymore! I grew up in a household with very creative parents and my mother is an expert so I know all the tricks... she probably thinks my use of commercial dyes very non-adventurous actually! She herself conducted extensive experiments with different plants and minerals all the time...

Beryl said...

The nicest thing about being retired is that you have all the time to read and play around with new ideas. I wonder what the author of this book is doing these days? Shouldn't she have a teenager about now - now that when you need a Happiness prescription!

Anonymous said...

I've recently begun following Gretchen Rubin on Twitter, which sends me links to her blog as she might try that.

Suburban Princess said...

I had every intention of rereading this but never got to it. Thanks for the reminder!

I always feel great after a bit declutter! I just wish we had more places to take stuff too...we dont really have charity shops or anything like that for household things.

Anonymous said...

I read that book last September while I was on vacation, and it eventually inspired one of my 2012 resolutions: spend my money on quality items, rather than acquiring a bunch of junky stuff.

When it's cold outside, I typically turn to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, or Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. But the weather has been unusually mild so far this winter, so the usual tug to retreat into these books is absent.

Shelley said...

Carolyn, Obviously you have a wealth of experience on which to draw, not to mention an expert to consult. The skirt turned out beautifully at any rate.

Beryl, yes, that is a great thing about retirement, the free time! I believe Gretchen has been writing another book, called Happier at Home or similar. Don't think her daughters are quite teenagers yet. Yes, she'll need loads of other tips for dealing with teens, no doubt she's already researching that next book!

Terri, I have Gretchen's blog on my bloglist (currently under re-construction) using the facility that puts the most recently updated posts at the top. She has the most annoying habit of pointing out other way cool blogs...

SP, would that I could send you some of our charity shops! They crop up in villages and towns where they can't seem to rent the space to 'legitimate' (profit-making) businesses, so a dearth of such shops here would mean a boomig economy! I have noticed that many of the bags that get stuck through my door only want clothing, no 'bric brac' or books. Their are second hand book shops and community centres with annual book fairs that will take the books. There are internet sites that tell where one can re-cycle everything (apparently bras and stockings are highly valued in developing countries).

Ilegirl, love your choices for winter reading. I re-read Austen regularly, but haven't delved into the Brontes in some time.

Karena said...

This sounds like a great read with lots of super tips!! Now added to my ever growing reading list!

Art by Karena

Shelley said...

Karena, I know, I know! So many BOOKS, so little time! (I feel that way about blogs as well, no wonder I hardly get anything constructive done!).

Carolyn said...

Hi Shelley, in answer to your comment, I don't think you *have* to subscribe to Burda magazine to get it, it may come in to your local newsagent. That is where I buy my own copies (fairly infrequently, I might add!)