How important is happiness to the average human being? How much of a difference does it make, really? Is it overrated or, as Aristotle once said, is happiness “the meaning and purpose of life?”
Studies show that happy people earn more money, are less likely to get sick, and are more successful in relationships than their unhappy counterparts. Happy people live longer. (Its effect on longevity is the equivalent to that of a smoker versus non-smoker.)
In the United States, the founding fathers believed in it enough to include it as one of three unalienable rights — life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But exactly how does one go about pursuing happiness? Where do we find it and how do we hang onto it?
This is where Gretchen Rubin comes in.
Rubin is the author of a trilogy of books designed to help readers find their joy. Once a Yale law student and clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, today she is the go-to person on happiness and how to have it. And you know you want it!
The Happiness Project
Noting how quickly time was passing and questioning whether she was focused on things that really mattered, Rubin decided to spend a year of her life in the conscious pursuit of happiness. She used a resolution chart, (downloadable at her blog), where each month she set small, measurable goals designed to enrich her personal life. For January, the topic was vitality. Her goals included going to sleep earlier, exercising better and tackling a nagging task. In August, she focused on eternity — keeping a gratitude journal and imitating a spiritual master. The book includes twelve months of tasks designed to fine-tune your world.
Happier at Home
Rubin’s first project was such a success that she decided to embark on a second, this one highlighting happiness in the home. It is similar in format to the first, with more of a community focus. Topics include parenthood, family and neighborhood. Looking to improve your marriage? Give gold stars and kiss your spouse in the morning and at night. Want to enjoy parenting? Try under-reacting to a problem and plan Wednesday adventures. Simple actions that get big results.
Better than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives
The final book examines habits and how we can change them to better align with a happy life. You’ll find out which of the four tendencies you gravitate towards, (you’re either a habit upholder, a questioner, a rebel or an obliger); learn how to identify the most common habit loopholes; and garner some safeguards to keep you from stumbling. Of the three books, this was the first one I read and it is my favorite. (What can I say? I have a lot of habits that need changing.)
Rubin’s writing is upbeat, practical and thought-provoking. And if you just can’t get enough of her work, she also has a blog and a podcast channel with additional content updated regularly. Enjoy!
All three books are available at the Cedar Rapids Public Library.