Books & Reading

The Happiness Project

This year, I’m trying to read at least one substantial book a month. I’ll probably read a lot more books than that, but some of them will be easy reads, and some of them will be a second (or third or forth or fifth) reread of a favorite. For my reading goal, I want to read some books that I might not have picked out for myself on an ordinary day.

This month, inspired by Jessica at Life As Mom, I read The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.

I was surprised by how much of what I read was applicable to my life. I enjoy reading the points of view of secular authors, mostly because I think sometimes we (I) can get too caught up in the church bubble and forget to think about how the world around us sees things. I always find it enlightening to hear what people who are admittedly not Christians think about faith and God and mortality. That being said, I didn’t expect to glean much from her 12-month project.

I was so wrong. She tackled so many different areas that contribute to happiness – cleanliness, health, marriage, family, work, play – and I found myself identifying with her in every chapter.

Here are a few things I will (hopefully) always remember from this book:

1. Stuff won’t make you happy, at least not all by itself. Occasionally, when you find the perfect new decoration for your home or just the right blouse, a purchase will boost your happiness. But having too much stuff has the opposite effect.

2. Studies show that dwelling on or giving vent to anger or negative emotion doesn’t make it go away. It makes it worse. I should know this, but it’s nice to hear a secular study support something I’m continually trying to learn in my own life. That’s why Philippians 4:8 says “Therefore brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things.”

3. You can’t really change the things you like. So many of our impressions of who we should be don’t come from our passions, but from peer pressure. I remember going on a trip with some friends in college, and getting teased later for my taste in music when it was my turn to drive. I had never considered my music choices odd before, but suddenly I was self-conscious about what I enjoyed. I wish I had been confident enough to defend my choice, but instead I changed the music. Hopefully, in the future, I will not be ashamed to be myself.

4. Always make sure your water bottle is closed before putting it in your bag. Okay, this I didn’t actually learn from reading the book, but one day when I took it with me somewhere. The water spilled all over the book, ruined it, and now I owe the library $26.00, which doesn’t really make me happy. Live and learn, I guess.

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