Friday, January 27, 2012

The Happiness Project

Is anyone else particularly fascinated by the idiosyncratic pleasures in which people delight? Almost two years ago I quit drinking and smoking. During that time I discovered I love fruit snacks to the point of distraction. Apparently my grandpa's childhood indulgence was orange soda with sardines. In Shift Journal of Alternatives: Neurodiversity and Social Change, Julia Bascom describes "the obsessive joy of autism": positive emotions she attributes to personal characteristics related to autism ( I knew my boyfriend and I were kindred spirits a couple weeks into our relationship. I had recently moved and as soon as the cable guy hooked up my DVR, Tommy set Jeopardy to record: something I had intended to secretly do as soon as he left. Together we shout out answers, comment on the ridiculous names of personal injury lawyers (Brad Bradshaw, anyone?) and fast forward through the inane bios.

That's why I picked up Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project. I wasn't anticipating that I would learn anything new. Rather, I was pursuing the voyeuristic enthrall of discovering other people's unique methods of happiness. My expectations were satisfied. It wasn't the most enlightening of the stunt memoir genre (A.J. Jacobs is the master of the "My Year ________" musings) but it was interesting. One of Gretchen's philosophies is to "Be Gretchen". Things that make other people happy may not translate into her personal happiness. I thought this was one of the best messages of the book. Reflection and introspection are critical when determining what will make a person individually happy. I know people whose ideal Friday nights are spent at the casino or getting bottle service at clubs. The mere thought of that makes me want to turn off my phone, put on pajamas and order a pizza. Also, Gretchen clearly researched the topics of happiness, positive psychology and mindfulness. Her book is a helpful reference for anyone interested in doing the same.

As for Gretchen's idiosyncrasies, there are none that particularly stand out. She engages in a multitude of impressively varied hobbies, miniprojects and goals. However, there isn't the voyeur's ideal dramatic reveal: no hidden obsession with decorating taxidermied animals or creating duct tape art or participating in civil war reenactments. Which is, you know, okay... To each her own.


Trev said...

New follower via book blogs, thought i would say hi! Trev @

Jeremy Bates said...

i quit smoking... still working on the drinking thing lol

Jonathan Wilhoit said...

I wholly agree about the little rituals that make us happy. I think everyone is just a little OCD at the core.

Me, I feel best when I'm productive. It doesn't have to be anything in particular. It could be yard work or going for a run or finishing a book or getting a lot of writing done. Hell, it could even be doing work work. Whenever I sit on my ass all day I feel worthless.

What about you? What other little things make your day seem "right?"

Bibliomania said...

Oh, I absolutely agree. I jump rope every day to counterbalance the sitting that research and reading require. Also, I try to be outside as much as possible!

Vanessa K. Eccles said...

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Elizabeth said...

GREAT POSTS on your blog...stopping by from Book Blogs to take a look around.