Every now and then I run into people who don’t want to read Gretchen Rubin’s book The Happiness Project because the person mistakenly thinks it’s just one of these “spend a year doing something to get a book deal” things.
I always try to disabuse these people of their mistaken notions. What I like about Rubin’s writing is that she doesn’t just write about her own experiences (although she does write memoir skillfully), but also writes about all sorts of interesting research and observations about life and culture. Her work is well-written, engaging, and always illuminating.
Plus, it does talk about how to be happier. In her second book, Happier at Home, Rubin talks about happiness as it relates to where you live. The book picks up where The Happiness Project left off, and again chronicles how Rubin set out to really examine her life, what was working, what was not working, and how to create the atmosphere she was looking for in her home with concrete, doable resolutions.
Although my goals for my home are somewhat different from Rubin’s, I found it helpful to read over her resolutions and why she chose those specific concrete actions to rectify problems. It’s really a concept that echoes the idea of habit training: that you can only break a bad habit by replacing it with a good habit.
A couple of points that really stuck out to me:
- If I want the atmosphere of my home to be a certain way (loving, calm, encouraging, whatever), then I must be that way. For example, I could choose to underreact to situations (my husband just laughed out loud as he read that) to cultivate a calm attitude.
- Rubin writes, “Each period of life has its own atmosphere, its own flavor…I want to make sure this time doesn’t slip by unremarked.”
- I loved this point about how to spend time: “I shouldn’t focus on doing less or doing more but doing what I valued. Instead of pursuing the impossible goal of balance, I sought to cram my days with activities I loved…I pushed myself to take a wider view of what was ‘productive.'”
- I thought a lot about the concept of “bids”–that bid for attention when someone tries to connect with a touch, question, comment, or look. Rubin writes, “Sometimes people intentionally ignore a bid, but more often they don’t respond because they’re preoccupied.” It doesn’t take long to notice bids, but with three small kids and a husband and work and the house to keep up, I sometimes get too wrapped up in the pace of life and don’t make time to really stop to connect with the kid hanging on my leg while I try to get dinner on the table. I ought to. Dinner can wait a few minutes.
Again, I liked Happier at Home more because of the overall insights it offers, not for it’s being a 12 step plan (because it isn’t one). I’d highly recommend it.
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