I often quote fellow blogger Gretchen Rubin on Beyond Blue because most of her directives for a happier life apply to sanity, as well. I recognize many of my steps to recovery from depression and addiction both on her blog and now in her handsome and insightful book, The Happiness Project.
I have to be honest. When I was first introduced to Gretchen, I thought there was no way in hell that we’d be able to relate to each other. She had two degrees from Yale, lived in the upper-east side of Manhattan, and was, well, way too successful and pretty for me to talk to. If it’s not obvious already, let me just say that I was a tad jealous of her. However, as I started to dig into her material–and especially now after reading her book–I was blown away by how much we do have in common, and I was moved by the sympathetic and vulnerable parts of her story.
For one, we imitate the same spiritual master! And for the same reason!
In “The Happiness Project,” Gretchen writes:
I’d started my happiness project to test my hypothesis that I could become happier by making small changes in my ordinary day. I didn’t want to reject the natural order of my life–by moving to Walden Pond or Antarctica, say, or taking a sabbatical from my husband. I wasn’t going to give up toilet paper or shopping or experiment with hallucinogens. I’d already switched careers. Surely I’d hoped, I could change my life without changing my life, by finding more happiness in my own kitchen….I wanted to take little steps to be happier as I lived my ordinary life, and that was very much in the spirit of Saint Therese.
And I’ve found myself repeating one of her commandments: “Be Gretchen.” (But I say, “Be Therese,” of course.) What a succinct way of reminding myself that I don’t have to do everything perfectly. For example, just this morning, I messed up the oatmeal again. Eric was on the stationary bike and yelled “Is something burning?” “I got it! I got it!” I screamed back. “This is why I hate boiling water in small pan,” I explained. “This always happens!” He burst into laughter, shaking his head. “Domestically challenged” is the diagnosis he’s given me.
Other helpful chapters in her book, topics we’ve covered on Beyond Blue and on the discussion threads of Group Beyond Blue: making time for friends, learning how to play (something that doesn’t come easy to some folks), and paying attention to the present and cultivating mindfulness in your day.
Gretchen begins her book with some basic research on happiness, which says it’s possible for every one of us to be happier. Yah! Now some of us start at sea-level happiness while others are high on life, but about 30 percent of our happiness is a result of what we think and do, and TRY to tame those wild ideas inside our head. Says Gretchen, “People have an inborn disposition that’s set within a certain range, but they can boost themselves to the top of their happiness range by their actions.”
Try it for yourself. Pick up a copy of Gretchen’s “The Happiness Project,” and start a happiness project of your own.