Monday, February 1, 2010

My own Happiness Project

I've been reading Gretchen Rubin's new book, The Happiness Project. I'm only on chapter 2 (which is all about remembering love) and I can already tell its my kind of book. I have a bent for books that inspire me to stretch beyond the status quo and strive for something just a bit better. It always is worth the read. And I especially like books about happiness. I have total respect for any author that tries to tackle a topic as nebulous and epic as happiness. Its like trying to get rid of the common cold. There are a million remedies for how to make you suffer less, shorten the duration, and cover the symptoms, but there still isn't a real cure.

There are some other great books I've read on happiness. One favorite is Flow, The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi. This is not an easy read, very scientific, but fascinating none-the-less. "The hallmark of flow is a feeling of spontaneous joy, even rapture, while performing a task."

Another great book on happiness was What Happy People Know, by Dan Baker, Ph.D. This one was an easy, enjoyable read. One of the points I remember the most was that happy people tend to have positive spins on their past, even if their lives were full of trauma and challenge. Happy people also tend to believe they are lucky.

Happiness, by Mattieu Ricard was another book I read during my happiness bender but I only got half-way through and never finished. Not sure why. It was certainly well-written and well-researched but I think it just never spoke to my heart. If I am in search of knowledge or information, I'll stick it out with a book that doesn't inspire me, just to get at the core of the insight. But if I want motivation or inspiration, you gotta make me FEEL something. Matthieu Ricard was a Buddhist monk so that alone should make me want to finish it, but something must have distracted me. Chocolate cake often does that.

What earnest quest for happiness would be complete without The Art of Happiness by His Holiness The Dalai Lama? I love this geeky leader of Tibet. He came to Denver about 3 years ago and we dragged all the kids to hear him speak. Of course they had the attention spans of gnats but I think you get something out of just being in the presence of enlightenment like that (kinda like fresh air, sunshine, or a big glass of milk). I read this a long time ago and can't even remember what he wrote but I'm sure it was poignant and left some inner animated happiness knight deep in my psyche who still battles my inner pessimism at night with a big Excaliber-like sword while I sleep. Maybe that's why I wake up with headaches.

Why is it that we can read the same advice over and over and still not get it? Don't get me wrong, I'm pretty damn happy. In fact, my nickname growing up was Jolly Holly. Not as classy or cool as some nicknames but evidence I was born with a good, solid dose of contentment. Its just that a lot of these books draw the same conclusions. Happiness is not about money, fame, power, sex, or beauty. Its about things that are deeper, simpler, and so much more within our grasp. In fact, its there for the taking. So why do we make it so hard? I think that is for each person to answer on their own.

I know that I will forget many of the insights I will read about in Gretchen Rubin's book. But I like being in the presence of words about happiness. And when I forget, I'll find the next best-selling book about happiness and read that one. And the next one. And maybe, one day, some of it will start to sink in. And that thought makes me happy :)

4 comments:

Missy said...

I read it too and loved it! I'm devoting Mondays on my blog to it this year, how it goes, the ups and downs, etc. Maybe I should create a community on blogfrog??? :)

http://gifts2love.blogspot.com

Rudy Rukus said...

I did a post on this and even started a blogfrog discussion on it. It didn't get a lot of play but still I love this topic. I think that like making our own happiness we also make our own misery (sometimes) not always but I agree I came with a large dose of contentment too thank goodness!!

Mandy said...

Haven't read any of these books but I do believe some people are just intrinsically happier than others. I'm usually an optimistic person and I know I tend to keep my distance from overly-negative thinkers. One of my nicknames was "Smiley" :)

Gretchen said...

Holly,
I saw the nice mention of my book, The Happiness Project, here. I very much appreciate those kind words and you shinning a spotlight on my work. Thanks and best wishes,
Gretchen

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