In a time and culture when anti-depressants are dispensed like Chicklets (wait – does anyone remember Chicklets? Do they still make them? Or dispense them? Anyway…) it seems that happiness is an elusive commodity. Countless books, studies, experiments, and papers have examined the ins and outs of how to be happy.
Was it always such a tricky thing?
Well, no. And yes. Perhaps we’ve not always been so concerned about whether we feel as happy as we think we deserve to feel (got that?), but happiness has been a subject of consideration by everyone from Aristotle to Charlie Sheen (okay, I don’t know about that last one – pick your own up-to-date icon at will).
Gretchen Rubin studied what they – as well as plenty of modern experts and scientists – had to say during the experimental year of her Happiness Project. She chronicled that year in a New York Times bestseller which you’ve probably already heard about. The paperback version was recently released. I heard about the book on NPR, but really discovered Rubin’s work through her Happiness Project Blog.
Her conclusions are anything but esoteric. Most are practical suggestions for how to manage modern life. Reduce your clutter. Be yourself. Stay in touch with friends. Let go of stuff that doesn’t matter. Do the things you usually avoid, and you’ll feel more content. Treating yourself doesn’t always feel great in the long run. Get some exercise.
From what I can tell from following her blog, happiness comes in large part from acting like an adult most (though perhaps not all) of the time. It’s not about self-indulgence so much as being kind to others. Paying attention and being grateful.
There’s a huge wealth of information on her site, and I love how much of it is inspirational while at the same time being utterly practical. And if you want to pursue your own Happiness Project you can jump right in at any point.
Oh, and that picture above? It’s there just because it makes me smile. Hope it does the same for you.