I embarked on an unknown journey to read a book that I had no idea would impact my life in any way as I waited impatiently for NJ transit to commute to my destination from midtown manhattan. I was getting frustrated as I had just missed a train, which in Penn Station NJ transit hell terms, that means that you must wait elbow to elbow, fist in stomach with the other citizens who are feverishly trying to get to their destinations as their gate number magically appears on the screen, and the mad rush nearly stampedes the petite figures around them who haven’t been working out enough at their local gyms. All to go down a bunch of steps trying to make it down to the corridor that gets you on your ticket out of the city. As the doors close during this rush hour, your mind is racing with all the thoughts for your weekend now that freedom has started and a long work week finally terminated.
I wanted something for weekend reading and the title resonated with me “The Happiness Project.” At first it seemed a bit cheesy. In first world countries like the US of A, there’s always much talk of the term “happiness,” a struggle that many have difficulty finding. With all of the luxuries that other countries don’t afford their citizens, it seems that material things can’t cure the nationwide increase in unhappiness. Stressballs, long hours at work, having to keep up with the Smith’s for the best possessions for your kids; it seems that much of our achievements are not directly linked to happiness. The other day as I took a stroll in Central Park with some good friends, I looked at the all of the people running. One man in particular stood out to all of us. An elderly man with perceived walking difficulties was jogging very slowly. I was so inspirational that at his age and in the face of the challenges that he his facing, he is literally pushing through. I also followed up with one of my keen observations in the form of a sardonic remark “it’s so odd. I always watch these people running through the streets of the city, many whimpering in pain as they crouch down towards the end of their daily routines, their eyes winced, eyebrows crunched, yet they continue. All for the sake of ultimate happiness. It is so sad that in our culture the only way to attain happiness is through self-inflicted pain, ” to which a friend responded in a very complacent way which I just never thought about , “nothing comes easy.”
That is why this book unfolded into a great read for the weekend. Gretchen Rubin, the author of “The Happiness Project,” imparts an important lesson to readers that optimum happiness is something that is sought after and achieved through hard work. And even when you feel utter joy and happiness, there is more room to maximize this feeling and have it explode through your daily actions. The Interestingly enough, Gretchen was already happy with her life. The husband, the house, the children, and a decent job. However it dawned on her one dreary afternoon as she sat on the bus that the monotony of life placed her in a revolving door of being content but she wasn’t actively pursuing a higher level of happiness. She engaged in projects for a full year that would further her happiness, and it worked.
Some of the things that I personally will start doing and continue doing that I have adapted from her book to create my own list of things for my own happiness project:
1. Continue blogging
2. Continue working on my book
3. Join a volunteer committee; I am committed to start volunteering at a local hospital
4. Start a book collection of old books- I’ve already started looking more through books at stands near me that have old collections, and looking at bookstores that have old books.
5. Fully understand that “money can’t buy happiness” but splurging on items that will make your life might be worth it, in small quantities since less is more (just last night I purchased 3 dish towels that were better quality and a little bit more expensive than the cheap brand, and when I use it, I feel much better)
6. De-Cluttering- I already started on this. Organization tools, such as three garbage bags can assist with this- things you haven’t worn in a while go into one bag, including clothes that are weight-dependent, things that you know for certain will never be worn again, and things that you are unsure of. Buy organizers to help organize your closet.
7. Weekly class. I am part of a gym already but my schedule is slightly inconsistent. I am committed to choosing a class that I love that is at a time that I will be able to attend weekly.
8. Patience with my family and close friends. I commit to bite my tongue during conversations that may incite me to feel pained and wronged. I will try to smile when feeling like this.
9. Mindfulness- consistently use some mindfulness exercises that can be easily accessed online and downloaded to the computer, in conjunction with yoga to relieve stress and highlight the concept of “living in the moment.”
10. Do one thing a week to remember the person closest to me that is no longer here with me, my father. I commit to do things this year that would’ve interested him. Space, Star Trek, Top 10’s, reading about Jewish history. I’m sure I will think of many more.
Even if this doesn’t exponentially increase my level of happiness with a staggering shout out loud for joy, I think having a happiness list that you are committed to may provide a for a richer life.
What’s your happiness project?
For more information about this concept and to read about more of Gretchen’s work, go to: