adding it all up (or THP: Chapter Twelve)

(This is part twelve in a series about The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin.  To start at the beginning, click here. )

Instead of coming up with new resolutions in the month of December, Gretchen decided to live ‘Boot Camp Perfect,’ in which she would attempt to keep ALL her resolutions from the year.  In December, no less! 

Obviously, she didn’t keep ALL of her resolutions every day of the month.  (Is that even possible?) But, she made a valiant effort, and admitted that she “was still astonished at how effectively they worked to make (her) happy, whenever I did faithfully keep them.”  She said that “even when (she) had a bad day, it was a good bad day.” I think it makes perfect sense that someone who is aware of how to improve their mood (and the moods of others) and makes an effort to do such things would feel an overall sense of improved happiness–even if she ‘failed’ to keep all her resolutions.

Of course, as her ‘year of happiness’ came to a close, Gretchen said friends wanted to know if she was any happier.  She said she was.  To prove it, she reviewed her First Splendid Truth:  “To be happier, you have to think about feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right, in an atmosphere of growth.”  She said that to her, ‘feeling bad’ was the biggest element.  By eliminating behaviors that made her feel bad (snapping, eating fake food, drinking, etc..), while also increasing times of ‘feeling good’ (such as laughing more or participating in her children’s lit group), she felt MUCH happier.  ‘Feeling right’ turned into getting involved in a cause for which she cared deeply (organ donation–her husband has Hep C).  She said the last part, ‘an atmosphere of growth,’ was surprising but that it was most certainly a contributor to her happiness. Not only had she completed her project, but she’d also mastered multiple new skills, which led to feelings of gratification and motivation to challenge herself more.

Throughout the year, people asked Gretchen if she didn’t think seeking her own happiness was a bit selfish.  Along the way, she came up with her Second Splendid Truth: “One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy; one of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.”  No one likes to be around a sour puss, and the quickest way to boost someone else’s mood is to be cheery yourself.  Truth.

Perhaps Gretchen’s most erudite claim is her Fourth Splendid Truth: “You’re not happy unless you think you’re happy.”  This, to me, is one of those ‘koans’ she talked about in October.  Which comes first, happiness or your awareness of it?  I guess it boils down to the THINKING of yourself as happy; if you don’t think you’re happy, how can you be?  (Gretchen does include that John Stuart Mill said, “Ask yourself whether you are happy, and you cease to be so.” She disagrees, and so do I.)

(Let’s not forget her Third Splendid Truth: “The days are long, but the years are short.”  Always a good reminder to find happiness no matter your situation–time flies and you can’t get it back.)

Gretchen only had the first four Splendid Truths at the time she wrote the book, but a subsequent blog post of her’s reveals eight of them.

Lastly, Gretchen said that her Resolutions Chart was the biggest contributor to her happiness because it helped her keep her resolutions at the forefront of her mind.  Additionally, she realized how important it was to ‘Be Gretchen,’ the first of her Twelve Commandments.  At the end of the day, you must truly KNOW yourself before you can be happy.

So, all of this introspective happiness talk begs the question: How has Gretchen’s attempt to ‘change her life without changing her life’ changed how I view my own happiness?

That, my friends, is the subject of the next post.





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