Rumusan Buku: The Happiness Project!

What you do everyday matters more than what you do once in a while.

Gretchen Rubin, The Happiness Project.

I started and finished reading this book within a week of RMO.

Gretchen talks about how to be happier by making small changes in your everyday life, which squashes the idea that you need to do something extravagant or change your life in a 180 way to experience joy (wink wink Eat Pray Love). As someone who was relatively happy and comfortable, she wanted to intentionally curate this feeling because she didn’t want to wait for a crisis to remake herself to be better, which I wholly resonated with!

As I am stuck in a home for weeks indefinitely, I thought now would be apt to read up on Gretchen’s research on happiness + how she changed her habits for the better in small ways – habits which I could immediately apply in my real daily life during RMO.

January – Boost your energy!

Gretchen focused on building up her vitality and energy in the beginning – as being energetic enables you to initiate and partake in activities that make you happy. She did this by:

  • Going to sleep earlier
  • Exercising in a format that works for her
  • Organizing and decluttering
  • Tackling a nagging task
  • Acting more energetic, ie act the way you want to feel

February – Cultivate love!

Gretchen wanted to work a bit more on her marriage (which was doing alright btw) as the relationship she had with her husband was the biggest priority and influencer in shaping her daily existence with her kids, work, etc. She did this by:

  • Quitting nagging
  • Not expecting praise/appreciation
  • Fighting right
  • Not dumping all your insecurities on your spouse
  • Giving proofs of love

March – Aim higher!

Gretchen wanted to build better habits around her work – professional and personal. She wanted to be more enthusiastic as after all, work takes up such a large chunk of our lives. She did this by:

  • Launching a blog (this is how became a thing btw)
  • Embracing the fun of failure
  • Asking for help
  • Working smart- better time management + pleasant office space
  • Enjoying the ‘now’ ie. the process, and not just the end project

April – Lighten up as parents!

Gretchen finds her children to be a strong source of happiness in her life, and she wanted to be more tender and playful with her two young daughters while they were still in childhood. She did this by:

  • Singing in the morning – or reframing a chore by believing you enjoy it!
  • Acknowledging the reality of other people’s feelings, ie the child.
  • Being a treasure house of happy memories – via photos, traditions, etc
  • Making time for family projects, eg. making a family photo album

May – Serious about play!

Gretchen realized that having fun through playing (something that is satisfying, has no economic gain nor invite social praise) makes you more likely to be happy. She did this by:

  • Finding what is fun to you
  • Taking time to be silly
  • Going off the usual path – reading a new article, listening to a new playlist that you typically wouldn’t
  • Starting a collection of things that make you happy

June – Make time for friends!

Gretchen understood that having a community around with strong social bonds was necessary to give us a sense of belonging and acceptance. So, she did this by:

  • Remembering birthdays – the bare minimum
  • Being generous – by helping others think bigger or by hyping em up
  • Making three new friends
  • Showing up for your friend’s important life moments & catch-ups
  • Not gossiping

July – Buy some happiness!

Gretchen noticed the complicated relationship that existed between money and happiness and landed on the idea that, while money on its own cannot buy happiness, it most definitely helps. She wanted to spend money in a way that could boost her happiness intentionally. She did this by:

  • Indulging in a modest splurge for things that are important to you
  • Buying needful things – not over/under buying
  • ‘Spending out’ ie. not hoarding, not keeping score, giving to charity
  • Giving something up (she gave up sugar)

August – Contemplate the heavens!

Gretchen, who is non-religious, wanted to become a more contented self by exploring the spiritual states of ‘awe, gratitude, mindfulness & contemplation of death.’ She did this by:

  • Reading memoirs of catastrophe
  • Keeping a gratitude notebook
  • Imitating a spiritual master

September -Pursue a passion!

Gretchen was clear in what her passion was (it was writing), and she wanted to make time for it. She did this by:

  • Writing a novel in 30 days
  • Scheduling in time for it (she scheduled in reading time)
  • Forgetting about the results, just enjoying the process
  • Mastering a new technology (that is relevant to you)

October – Pay attention!

Gretchen became interested in mindfulness upon reading up Buddhism but knew that sitting down in silence was not for her, so she sought out other ways to help her cultivate mindfulness. She did this by:

  • Meditating on koans (statements that can’t be understood logically)
  • Examining True Rules or assumptions you typically hold true
  • Stimulating your mind with new things (she took up yoga, drawing and even tried hypnosis)
  • Keeping a food diary

November – Contented heart!

Gretchen wanted to use her final month to focus on cultivating a more lighthearted, loving and kind spirit. She did this by:

  • Laughing out loud
  • Using good manners to be more agreeable and kind
  • Giving positive reviews to others
  • Finding an area of refuge – a mind space to go to when you feel anxious/sad/angry/negative

December – Bootcamp!

Gretchen ended the year with a Bootcamp approach to her year-long change of habits. For one month, she strived to do all the habits listed above, every day. She admitted that though she failed to do it perfectly, she still kept trying. Because she had built and practiced these habits consistently, she had created a clear structure for herself that she can rely on, even on a bad day.

My reflection and implementation

I personally was hooked throughout because I personally believe in this philosophy of cultivating joy in our everyday life, instead of waiting for some indefinite time in the future to allow myself to be joyous.

I leaned in heavily to two quotes she often brought up throughout the book, ‘Act the way you want to feel’ and ‘You are not happy unless you think you are happy’. It reminded me again about how I already have everything I need to be happy, now.

More often than not, our perception of happiness is tied to an accomplishment or life milestone, eg. I will be happy when I graduate, when I move out, when I get promoted, when I earn RMx amount of money, when I find a partner. More often than not, we are in a constant state of pursuit of happiness.

Putting this in the context of being in RMO lockdown, I was initially thinking, ‘Okay yeah, this is inconvenient, I will be happy again when I get to go out /when things return to normal’. When the lockdown was extended, it challenged this misconception I had in my mind that my life was suspended due to RMO. The truth is that this is my normal now, this is my everyday life, and I have no reason to not be happy now.

The few habits that I have really taken to heart are the ones about showing my partner proofs of love, being generous by cutting him so slack and by hyping my friends, checking in with my community, continuing my gratitude journal, and launching a passion project, ie. this website!

If interested, I also wrote more about how I ‘decided’ to remain cheerful + productive during RMO in my previous blogpost.

Not listed here, are the 12 Commandments that Gretchen had drafted for herself – the first one being ‘1. Be Gretchen’. It implies that she should be accepting of the way she is, as is. I am bringing this up because the habits listed above were curated with Gretchen’s needs and wants in mind, therefore they might not apply to you!

Just like how Gretchen knew she is not the person who could meditate in silence (though it was research-proven to increase happiness), some of these might not sit well with you. For example, I definitely am not a person who wants to start a collection nor write a novel in 30 days. Take them merely as suggestions, instead of a set-in-stone template of your own Happiness Project.

I hope this rumusan was interesting to read, and good luck in applying any of the habits listed above! If you have any related books that have helped you, do let me know!

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