Must-Read Monday: The Happiness Project

 Typically, on Must-Read Monday I feature fiction, but today I thought I'd share a non-fiction book that I recently read and loved. Now, I know I'm probably behind the curve on this one because it came out a few years ago, but hey, better late than never. : ) 

If you stopped by the blog last week, I mentioned this book in my post about Journaling for the Chronic Journal Abandoner, but I didn't really go into details about the book. So here's today's recommendation:

The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun by Gretchen Rubin


Gretchen Rubin had an epiphany one rainy afternoon in the unlikeliest of places: a city bus. "The days are long, but the years are short," she realized. "Time is passing, and I'm not focusing enough on the things that really matter." In that moment, she decided to dedicate a year to her happiness project.

In this lively and compelling account, Rubin chronicles her adventures during the twelve months she spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific research, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier. Among other things, she found that novelty and challenge are powerful sources of happiness; that money can help buy happiness, when spent wisely; that outer order contributes to inner calm; and that the very smallest of changes can make the biggest difference.

I picked up this book because I'd seen it mentioned on a few blogs and then found Gretchen's blog. I liked her voice and the concepts she was blogging about, so I was compelled to try it. And I'm so glad I did. I'm a pretty happy person by nature, but I'm always open to ways to make life more purposeful, meaningful, and mindful. Time does pass too quickly, and sometimes we go through our days unconsciously putting one foot in front of the other, unaware of time just falling away. So I really wanted to see what she had to say on finding happiness and meaning in every day life.

I really enjoyed her voice and the way the book was laid out with each chapter being a month of tackling new resolutions specific to on topic such as Vitality, Marriage, Parenthood, Money. And I found myself taking notes and making my own resolutions as I went. It really was a great book for self-reflection. Plus, I love making goals, resolutions, and commandments, and learning new ways to think about things. It's already affected how I've gone about my days since I've read it. And now I have my mom reading it, and she's having a similar reaction.

I really do think there is something in this book for everyone--great nuggets of wisdom and practical advice. And if you're unsure if you'd be into the book, it's worth checking out The Happiness Project blog to get a taste of what the book is like.

So, has anyone else read this? Thoughts? What books have you read that really made you stop and think about the way you were doing things in your life?

Journaling for the Chronic Journal Abandoner

My stack of pretty notebooksI'm a writer. This means I love books and writing and pens and paper and pretty notebooks and words. Also, my first career was as a therapist, so I'm introspective and navel-gazing to a fault. You would think that this would mean I'd be a prime candidate to be a journal or diary keeper.

Sadly, this has not been the case. I've started many a journal. I like the *idea* of a journal. However, in practice, it usually last 2-3 entries before I bail. Something about writing to no one but myself doesn't appeal. The reason why I can maintain a blog is because it feels like it has a purpose--someone is reading, there is interaction. But waxing poetic in a journal that only I'm going to see--well, it feels like a waste of time. I don't need to write down my thoughts to know them. I ruminate enough as it is.

However, this week I finished reading The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun  by Gretchen Rubin, and she had a quote in there that really resonated with me. "The days are long, but the years are short." 

How very true this is. I feel it when I look at my son who somehow is now five even though I feel like I just cried, "My epidural is wearing off, DO something!" to my dear doctor. So, this got me to thinking about finding a better way to track the days and the memories that pass in a blink. And one of the suggestions in the book was to do a one-sentence journal. That way, the journal abandoners of the world like me wouldn't have to commit to anything more than a few words a day.

This concept appealed to me. One sentence. I could do that. So I went to Barnes and Noble and looked at some of the 5-year journals that provide 2-3 lines for each day. However, as I looked at them, I realized that although I didn't want to do long journal entry. I wanted to have room to say what I wanted to say and maybe I'd need more than a sentence at times.

So after spending way too much time looking at all the journals, I decided to get a blank, spiral-bound one. And instead of a one-sentence journal, I'm doing a bullet list journal. So maybe that will only be one bullet on a day or maybe there will be three. It will depend on the day. And I'm not recording private things that no one else can see. I'm treating it instead like a record of life passing--something that my husband or son can look through years down the line with me. It's like a photograph but with words instead. 

Here's my first journal from Monday:

  • President's Day - Kidlet informed me this morning, "Mommy, no presents for us. Only presidents get presents today."
  • Best moment of the day: Eating cookies in the mall with kidlet and hubs while we watched the carousel.
  • Caught kidlet singing Lady Gaga's "Judas" while he played with his cars. Adorable.

So, as you can see, it's no deep and meaningful pondering on life, but it's the stuff that will drift from my mind and disappear in a week or two. Little important moments that I don't want to forget. The years are short indeed, and I want to be able to look back and smile at them.

Do you journal? What do you think of the idea of the one-sentence journal or my version, the bullet-list journal? Any other journal abandoners out there? How do you keep track of the little moments you don't want to forget?