The Happiness Project

In January 2010, when I was still driving a minivan, I stumbled upon Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project. At the time, I was in a life writing rut, and decided that I would blog my own journey following Rubin’s year-long project. For those of you unfamiliar with the book, in each chapter (divided into months) she concentrates on a different theme, or facet, of her life to improve.  I figured it would both give me some material to blog about, and perhaps inspire an evolution in my habits, relationships and routine. Imagine a cross between a virtual book club and online self-improvement project.

I stuck with it for about 6 weeks. Then February 14, 2010 happened. Literally overnight, “happiness” was no longer the goal. Survival was the name of the game.

my copy from 2010, only highlighted through February. In English class we call this “foreshadowing”.

Ironically, Rubin writes in the initial “Getting Started” chapter that, “One of my goals for the happiness project was to prepare for adversity – to develop the self-discipline and the mental habits to deal with a bad thing when it happened…I didn’t want to wait for a crisis to remake my life” (15).

Too little, too late, Rubin. Thanks for nothing. Perhaps if my ex-husband had decided to wait until Labor Day, or even July 4th, instead of Valentine’s Day, to end our marriage, I would have had better coping skills and handled the events of 2010 more gracefully.


Seven years later, one of my goals for 2017 is to write more.  I remember my abandoned happiness project, the book unfinished (barely started), and think about the pervasive malaise of my friends and family coming out of 2016. The wary skepticism for 2017. The general dissatisfaction and frustration of so many, after the national, international and (for some) personal life events of the past year.

What about a happiness project redux?

Don’t get me wrong – I’m actually pretty happy. Truth be told, I relate far more to Rubin in her introduction now than I did in 2010. She shares the skeptical, surprised and bemused reactions of her husband, sister and colleagues as she explains that she wants to increase her happiness level. She writes,”just because I wasn’t depressed didn’t mean that I couldn’t benefit from trying to be happier” (7).

If I had to create a bar graph of my general happiness level over the past 42 years, I would rank my day-to-day emotional barometer over the past couple years towards the top. I’ve had dysthymia more often than not throughout my life (in layman’s terms, that means I trend towards an Eeyore outlook), so my sense of wellbeing most days still disconcerts me.

But still. There’s some life hurdles coming down the pike. Why not work on strengthening my emotional resiliency and wellbeing along with the physical? I ran my first half marathon 4 years ago but I’m still getting faster and stronger; why not work on the same with my psychological health?

Want to join me? Grab a copy of the book (now that it’s 7 years post-publication, I bet you can find it at Half Price Books or a similarly discounted price), and create your own version. I will be blogging about it at least once a month (shooting for two), in addition to my running and triathlon updates.

May we all find even more happiness in 2017.


12 responses to “The Happiness Project

  1. Cool idea. I’m in!

  2. I’ve got a partially read copy on my bookshelf. It was a trying time for me too (no comparison to you of course… damn girl, you take the cake). I remember giving it up because being *happy* seemed so frivolous. But after 7 years (!!) of time passing and the sky not falling, perhaps I could give it a shot again.

    • Hey, it can’t *hurt*, right? And I figure this also motivates me to get in some more reading (in addition to the writing). I used to be such a voracious reader, but never seem to find the time for recreational reading anymore. The great irony of being an English teacher. I’m going to have the January post up by early next week, so maybe just re-read that chapter and see how it goes?

  3. I’m in! I actually read it back then when you originally suggested it. However, having gone through quite a whirlwind of life changes in the past 4 years, I love the idea of revisiting it along with you!

  4. Pingback: The Happiness Project – January | I Used to Drive a Minivan

  5. Pingback: The Happiness Project – February | I Used to Drive a Minivan

  6. Pingback: The Happiness Project – March | I Used to Drive a Minivan

  7. Pingback: The Happiness Project: April | I Used to Drive a Minivan

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