“Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure,
nor this thing nor that,
but simply growth.
We are happy when we are growing.”
– W. B. Yeats
As a rule, I don’t like self-help books.
I don’t think happiness or godliness can be taught in ten steps, a meaningful life created through a list of bullet points or a magic Bible verse. I am skeptical of writers who claim that we’re all just one book away from a more fulfilled life, and speakers who promise to unlock the single secret to joy.
...Which is precisely why I loved Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project.
I read this book as I was researching the (cleverly-dubbed) “schtick lit” genre in preparation for my “year of biblical womanhood,” and I didn’t expect to like it.
But I loved it.
I loved it because Gretchen never attempts to play the guru, but instead approaches her quest for a happier life with openness, curiosity, and pragmatism. It’s no wonder that one of Gretchen’s favorite teachers is St. Thérèse of Lisieux, for she tackles happiness the same way Thérèse tackled holiness—one little, practical, doable step at a time.
The Happiness Project gave me permission to be more deliberate about the little things that positively affect my outlook on life—getting enough sleep, making the bed in the morning (even if nothing else gets done around the house that day!), recognizing that I’m an abstainer not a moderator, rewarding myself not by skipping a run but by completing it, tracking my growth, clearing away clutter, etc. The first book provided super-practical tips that I cold tailor to my own lifestyle and preferences, and I can honestly say they have helped me find my happiness “triggers.” And so I was thrilled to receive an early review copy of Gretchen’s follow-up, Happier at Home, which released just this week.
While the first book tackled happiness in general, Happier at Home focuses, as you might suspect, on the home: possessions, marriage, time, parenthood, etc. I’ve not yet finished reading Happier at Home but already I’ve resolved to:
- Display more pictures in our home.
- Replace our broken toaster. (Oddly enough, Grethen’s toaster was also broken and she kept putting off replacing it. We’re both what she calls “under-buyers”- not an inherently bad thing of course, but we can make life more complicated and frustrating by delaying simple solutions even when they are affordable and wise.)
- Offer to help Dan more often.
- Embark on more little adventures.
- Start crossing things off my list by NOT DOING THEM!
I like that last one the best.
Sometimes I think Christians especially fall into the trap of thinking of joy in terms of the lofty and abstract, which can keep us from doing those practical, daily things that bring us closer to God—prayer, contemplation, fellowship, gratitude, small acts of kindness and generosity. Happier at Home is a good reminder that big change begins with little steps.
Anyway, I’m sure I’m not the only Gretchen Rubin fan out there, so I’m pleased to offer a giveaway on the blog today. Just leave a comment about something practical that increases your sense of well-being (praying the hours, working out at the Y, baking bread, watching Nick at Nite with your spouse, whatever), and at the end of the day (midnight, EST), I’ll randomly select a commenter to receive a free copy of Happier at Home. (Be sure to log in to DISQUS in such a way that I can find your email address to contact you if you win.)
*** Congrats to Dana Spivey, who was randomly selected (random.org) as our HAPPY winner! ***