Want to be happier? The book The Happiness Project follows the author -- Gretchen Rubin -- as she tests out every (non-medical) prescription for happiness available -- and finds the best tools and strategies among them. Here, she tells us what life has been like since writing The Happiness Project -- and how readers can put her wisdom into practice in their daily lives.
What is The Happiness Project’s main message?
The main message of The Happiness Project is that you can take steps in your everyday life to be happier. You don’t have to quit your job or move away or spend a lot of money or take a lot of time to be happier.
What feedback are you getting from your audience? What has surprised you most?
The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, which is hugely gratifying. One of the things I wasn’t sure about was whether my Happiness Project would resonate with other people. But people who are very, very different from me -- Iraqi war veterans, people who have special needs children, and high school students – have written to me about what they’ve gotten from it.
For women who are unsure of their professional “calling” or passion – what advice would you give?
“Passion” can be intimidating to people – so if it’s overwhelming, don’t think about it in terms of your passion.
There are two things. One, what did you do when you were 10 years old? What I did as a 10 year old is very relevant to what I do now: I made big scrap books – I’d paste in pictures with quotes from books that I liked – which is exactly what it is to have a blog.
And two, do what you do – instead of thinking about what you ought to do. What are you actually doing? On a Saturday afternoon—what are you doing? Because that is a really good indicator of what you like to do. I have a friend – who did my book trailer – she was a stay at home mom, and she would spend hours and hours creating videos for our school – our children were in kindergarten together. She did a 45-minute video of their year in kindergarten. All the parents were like, “Wow, you’re spending so much time on these videos, why are you doing this?” And she began to think that maybe she should do this for her job.
You have a “do good feel good” motto – what good have you done recently?
I sent a present to a newborn baby.
What are you reading right now?
House Thinking, which has gotten me thinking about my house and how my house influences my happiness.
What are you working on right now?
My next book is about happiness as well – it’s an inexhaustible topic – so I’m figuring that out.
What are your favorite summertime activities for feeling happier?
My favorite feel-good activity is to sit in bed and read. I can do it in the winter or the summer – I actually like it better in the winter because I don’t feel guilty that I’m not outside – but it’s so incredibly hot in New York right now that I don’t feel guilty about not frolicking in the park…
How has The Happiness Project changed your life?
It’s made me a lot happier. When I started out – I kept my mind open to the possibility that it wouldn’t work. I went into it with a real sense of inquiry.
Having done it, I’m amazed. I was pretty happy to start with – and my life has not changed – I have the same house, work, husband and kids – everything is basically the same – but I’ve become much happier.
Has your happiness affected those around you?
One of the main things I wanted to work on going into the project was the atmosphere of my house – and I think it has changed.
We talk a lot about emotional contagion in my family. I tell my kids – “I’m catching your crabbiness, etc.” I think this happiness is starting to be catching.
Gretchen Rubin is the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller, The Happiness Project. On her popular blog, The Happiness Project, she reports on her daily adventures in the pursuit of happiness. She is also the author of the bestselling Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill, Forty Ways to Look at JFK, and Power Money Fame Sex: A User’s Guide. A graduate of Yale and Yale Law School, Rubin started her career in law, and she was clerking for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor when she realized she really wanted to be a writer.
Gretchen Rubin will be speaking at The Women's Conference 2010.