The happiness project — Summary

Learn how to start your own journey towards happiness

What is the greatest good in life? For thousands of years, philosophers and other intellectuals have tackled this question. Most of them, including Aristotle, declared that happiness was the summum bonum, that it is the sense and purpose of the entire human existence.

Gretchen Rubin, the author of this book decided to perform an extensive research on the topic of happiness. She also mixed in her personal experiences and found that there are ways to enhance happiness. More specifically, she divided the different factors contributing to happiness like this.

  • Relationships
  • Structuring time (work, play, hobbies)
  • Perspective (attitude)
  • Money and vitality

Gretchen launched her happiness project and learned many interesting things along the way. She realized for example that by sticking to pre-established basic principles she was able to reduce negative feelings and by paying more attention to well being and health, she became consequently happier. Here are some of the lessons we can learn from her so that we too, can become happier.

Make good resolutions and take small steps

It can be daunting to people to think about this abstract concept of happiness. That’s why Gretchen adopted a simple strategy, she applied simple principles using the motto: “Change your life without changing your life”, and other phrases like “What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while”, “you don’t need to be good at everything”, “you don’t need to be good at everything”, “Be Gretchen!” and “do it now!”

With these phrases and concrete, but little resolutions she managed to take small steps towards happiness.

Be active

Rubin found that feeling energetic is a fundamental part of self-satisfaction and happiness. She isolated three factors which contribute to more energy, enough sleep, a balanced diet and physical activity. I agree on sleep and physical activity but I will disagree with the word balanced diet because we know better. A whole food plant-based diet is the healthiest diet. If you want to learn more read two of the best-researched books about medical literature, How not to die and Proteinaholic. There is also a book summary I did, Eat to live.

Getting rid of mental ballast by getting things off your to-do list also free up mental space and make you feel happier and more satisfied.

Work on yourself every day

Rubin’s research found that happy people’s relationships last longer and harmonious relationships, in turn, create more happiness.

She got two insights, number one is that you can’t change your partner. Number two: What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while.

Therefore she made an effort to avoid unnecessary arguments and instead started practicing extreme kindness without asking for anything in return. Following the statement of French author Pierre Reverdy, that there is no such thing as love but rather only proofs of love.

Happiness rubs off on others

Rubin considers children as a source of happiness for the long term and many others agree with her. In order to foster this happiness, she decided to dedicate more energy and time to them. Being more playful and tender with her two daughters, in turn, brought her greater contentment and helped her drop a lot of her stress.

Take care of your friends and widen your social circle

Shared joy is doubled joy, that’s why friendship is an essential part of a happy life. Rubin realized this and noticed that we tend to sell ourselves short with time when it comes to our friends.

She therefore made an effort to make more time for her social life and make new friends in the process. Starting out by always remembering her friends birthdays and calling them regularly, and going out more often with them.

Based on the premise that the best way to be happy is to make others happy and the surest way to make others happy is to be happy, she started being more generous. We don’t have to buy our friends expensive gifts neither will it be very helpful. It will make them much happier if we are there for our friends when they need us and spending more time with them.

Setting bigger goals boosts motivation and happiness

Work is a big source of our self-confidence and recognition. In order to grow Rubin sat herself the challenges like writing a novel in 30 days and becoming a blogger. These achievements made her proud and gave her the motivational boost to become even more inspired.

Enjoy your leisure time

Taking time for yourself so that you can do the things you enjoy is important, even if those things serve no other purpose than to make you happy.

Rubin noticed that many people have a guilty conscience about their hobbies because they compare them with other people’s hobbies and may think that they are more cultivated or creative than their own. Rubin remembered that she loved to make collages and paste them into empty books, so that’s what she started doing again. As a general rule, you should remember what you enjoyed doing when you were ten. It is a great indicator of what you truly love doing.

Money doesn’t guarantee happiness but it helps

Money is like health, it doesn’t guarantee happiness but it makes it easier to be happy. Money can help us to be happy if we spend it wisely. Rubin for example spent money on a very expensive food processor which she used since to make healthy fruit shakes for herself and her family.

The exciting feeling of buying expensive things, however, should not be viewed as the foundation for happiness. The Dalai Lama explains it well that pleasure is not the same as happiness. View money and things like an additional source of happiness, not the foundation.

Meditation and Spirituality

Rubin noticed that contemplation about life and focus on the moment could make her more present. She stumbled upon the Dalai Lama’s book, The Art of Happiness. The Buddhist view of life had always fascinated her so she decided to get more involved with the concept of mindfulness introduced in the book.

She integrated small meditation sessions into her daily life, at the bus stop or while waiting in like at the supermarket. Remember, meditation doesn’t require you to sit down like in the movies. You can practice mindfulness during many activities for example while you walk.

In conclusion: There are many methods and streets on the way towards happiness, key is to recognize how we can get started and then take little steps regularily.

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Also published on Medium.