The Happiness project

by Grechen Rubin

Non-Fiction
Mindset
Health

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Book in 1 paragraph

Contrary to popular belief Happiness can be intentionally improved.

Follow Grechen Rubin’s journey to improve her own happiness, one theme every month...

5 Key Ideas

  1. Happiness can always be improved "People in general are already happy, but they are not the happiest the happiest.
  2. Happiness is about growth - personal growth (helps a lot e.g. take up golf, guitar, or bridge). Material growth (helps a little)
  3. Happiness is a choice - act the way I feel, it takes more effort to appear to be happy
  4. Choose to celebrate life and try new things - things that take us out of our comfort zone
  5. Acceptance of ourselves and others - what makes others happy may not make us happy

Theory


• The more element making up our identity, the less likely our self esteem can be threatened when one element doesn't go well
   • new identity also gives exposure and contact with others,  further increasing happiness
• People crave order, a clean environment is good for the mind
• Managing mood
   • sleep improves. People who sleep < 8 hours have impaired judgement about how much it’s affecting them
   • research shows tackling easy win of nagging tasks help with mood improvement
   • act the way we want to feel - facial feedback
• Working on the little things will give us joy for the big things
• Good marriage leads to more happiness. Vice versa
• The most common sources of conflict among couples are money, work, sex, communication, religion, children, in-laws, appreciation, and leisure activities. Having a newborn is also particularly tough.
• A key to happiness is squeezing as much happiness as we can out of a happy situation


Actionable items

Sleep

8 hours every night improves mood, productivity, energy levels

Clean up

• 2 hours every Sunday to clean together when kids are napping
   • throw things out or donate
   • Create visual order

• 10 minutes before bed clean up desk, sink etc more therapeutic than reading before bed

• Have a specific place for things and put them back after use

• If something trashes less than a minute, do it now

• When feeling down: act happy (will be Happier), act with more energy (Will have more energy)


Marriage

• Appreciate, observe every little thing spouse does

• Minimal hugging time of 6 seconds, release of oxytocin

• Don’t nag. Use things like
   • systems or habits where both couple do their part - e.g. Envelope by die means making, shared iOS shopping list
   • Just do the task myself

• Respect the other person's decisions

• Don’t air every complaint or show anger. Better not to say anything than say anything in anger

• Don't expect praise or appreciation - do things for ourselves

• No dumping / venting - partner's happiness affects other partner. Over long time health also changes due to similarity in eating, exercise habits etc

• Give full attention to the other partner, appreciate them
   • Gestures of love and attention

• Fight right:
   • Don't use: you always, you never
   • Don't blow up immediately
   • Focus on problem at hand, instead of past issues
   • Use repair attempts to keep bad feelings from escalating

"each married couple should have an outdoor game, like tennis or golf, and an indoor game, like Scrabble or gin, that they play together.”


Kids

• Appreciate every little thing they do - reframe problems: how would I like it someone else did the parenting <task> for me?

• Kids just want to be acknowledged, repeating what they said, instead of saying “no” to them could be the best answer
   • e.g. you don’t like dinner because you’re full

•  don't say 'no' or 'stop'. Say yes, we'll play add soon add toy finish lunch.
   • Wave magic wand, if I could wave my magic sand, it'll it'll be warm outside and you won't have to wear your boots

Attitude

• Choose to be happy, not during down times. All the time :)

• Bank happiness. To be used during tough times

• We choose to appear unhappy because happiness is associated with complacency, those who strive we feel shouldn’t feel happy
   • Also, because of so much wrong happening in the world, we assume we need to show we’re suffering. But it’s a fallacy - our own unhappiness will not reduce the issues in the world.
   • Those who are happier contribute more to society, do more charity work, and are move productive. Doesn’t that allow us to do more to help the poor?

• When we're happy, we make other people. When other people are happy, it makes us happy

• Or takes effort and skill (Buddhism concept) to keep a Happy appearance. It's much harder to constently keep being happy

Social connections

• Social connections strengthens happiness

• Keep in touch with friends - birthdays (note down theirs)

• Cut people some slack

Money

• Money is a shortcut to give quick jots of happiness, but doesn’t last. This shortcut also eliminates the build effect of happiness - e.g. anticipate
   • Easy to get into spending spree
   • Deprivation is a easy & cheap way to reset retail addiction (also reset expectations)

Spend it out

• Don’t hold the best thing for last - don’t know how long we’ll be around for

Appearance

• Don’t hold the best thing for last - don’t know how long we’ll be around for. Give our best, experience our best today

Quotes

“The days are long, but the years are short.”

“Never start a sentence with the words 'No offense'”

“Laughter is more than just a pleasurable activity...When people laugh together, they tend to talk and touch more and to make eye contact more frequently.”

“What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while.”

“The things that go wrong often make the best memories.”

“Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I fail, but every day is a clean slate and a fresh opportunity”

“Nothing,' wrote Tolstoy, 'can make our life, or the lives of other people, more beautiful than perpetual kindness.”