Why finding happiness requires a fair bit of work – Book Review of “The Happiness Project”

When I look back at my childhood, I feel as though I were much happier then as compared to now. It took very little to make me happy. Teachers turning up late for class, exams getting postponed or even canceled and getting up to random mischief with friends. Of course, there were bouts of tears, and peer pressure and pressure to perform well in exams and pressure to get through a good college. However, when I look back I see mostly the good, and not too much of the bad. It’s a particular quality the brain has, to erase the bad memories and make us remember the good. 

The Happiness Question

Which brings me to the happiness question – it’s a topic of much debate, and something which hasn’t really been solved, though many have attempted to. Since, it’s a major focus of my blog, lately, I’ve been reading up on it a lot. Given the world of “too much information” we live in now, we constantly have access to information about people embarking on luxurious cruises or traveling around the world or writing a book or becoming a visionary. And, compared to all of these, a typical 9-5 job might just seem “not very remarkable” after all. And, I suppose all of us would like to be a little more happy, if we could. 

The Motivation Behind “The Happiness Project”

All of us tend to complain and whine a lot. But, often when something bad happens, we look back and feel that “things were fine after all”. Why did I whine so much? And, that’s the thought around which the book’s motivation lies as well. Author “Gretchen Rubin” starts off about how everything in her life is fine, but she still complains, and loses her temper and wishes she didn’t. And, the central premise is that she’s scared that she’s forgetting to see the world for what it is, and forgetting to appreciate what she has. And, before it’s too late, she wants to change her ways. 

Embarking on “The Happiness Project” 

The book then goes on to talk about the author’s personal happiness project. How she spends some time in introspection, notes down the things which really matter to her, and embarks on a journey to achieve happiness. This involves small things like exercising more, sleeping more, maintaining better ties with family and friends and concentrating on what’s important to her – things we all know we should do, but rarely do. 

The point’s not to be preachy, however. And, the author hardly is. The book documents her small battles with her inner demons, her victories and her struggles as she attempts to find happiness. It touches upon how we’re all just trying to be happy at the end of the day. And, how in our quest to be happy, we are often so swayed about what “others think” and about “what we should be doing”

Applying the book to our own lives

I’m not going to give away more details of the book. However, I do feel that many may read it, and not resonate with some of the things the author has been doing to make herself a better and happier person. In fact, some may seem petty and have the danger of being dismissed by more cynical readers. The point of the book isn’t to mimic the author, however. Following are some of the learnings from the book which can be applied to all of our lives: 

1. Being responsible for our happiness: Often, we blame other for our misery, or circumstances which we feel are beyond our control. The author specifically talks about how we can be happier given the circumstances we are in currently. And, hence, shows us that we are in fact responsible for how we feel, though we may make excuses. And, if we are not happy, we should change what’s making us miserable. 

2.Being less lazy when it comes to happiness: All of us want something easily without putting in the hard work required. However, time and again, it’s been proven that achieving something meaningful requires effort, pain and hard work. It’s the same with happiness. Unless we actively think about our happiness, and change our habits accordingly we can’t just complain and hope to be happy. 

3. Being grateful: Being grateful is something all of us forget to be. We take things for granted, and only complain when something is taken away for us. And, only then do we realize that we never appreciated what we had till it was taken away from us. Being grateful is important because it helps us stay humble, and not assume that we are entitled to good fortune. 

4. Focusing on yourself: To really be happy it’s important to look at yourself. Rather than picking faults with the universe, we need to look inwards, and understand what’s really bothering us. And, once we figure that out, we need to work towards changing that. 

5. Living in the present: Often we are so focused on the past or the future, and “what could have been” and “what will happen”, that we forget to appreciate the present. Most of us go through our daily routine like robots, without realizing what’s happening around us. Taking a step back, and taking each day as it comes is the best way to be a little more mindful and happy. 

Of course, the book won’t provide you the perfect guide to being happy, and I don’t think such a guide has been invented or ever will be invented. Happiness comes from within, but we all need some help along the way. And, the book helps open our eyes to some of the small details we tend to miss, and it provides another perspective. The book is a good read for everyone, as we all tend to go through patches in our life, when we could be happier and we could do with another perspective. Most of these bad times would probably be alleviated faster, if we changed our overall outlook towards life, and focused on the positive aspects of life. 

Number of Pages: ~300

Estimated Reading Time: 7-8 hours (spread it out over a week)

Overall Rating: 3.5/5

Best quote from the book

One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy. 

One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself. 




One Comment Add yours

  1. Dr B says:

    I think that a lot of these headings are related to “mindfulness” which I suppose is the ultimate medicine for happiness. Certainly Living in the Present is essential as I recently wrote about as part of maturity in old age and not trying to be part of the Forever Young Brigade 😂

    Liked by 1 person

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