Tag Archives: eat pray love

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

1 Mar

Note: this post was first published at In Limbo.

Photo thanks to Christine Whelan

Today, I’d love to share a book review of a book that recently inspired me: The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.

I’ll be quick to emphasize up front: the author doesn’t present this book as an all-encompassing guide to happiness. It’s not a solution that postures to work for everyone, but merely an account of one woman’s guide to become happier in her everyday life. The everyday life bit is the most interesting – she works on small, positive resolutions, and seeks to be happier where she is. She doesn’t pack up and move to Hawaii or quit her job, she simply resolves to increase her positive experiences and diminish her negative ones. In this way, the book becomes a lot more accessible and helpful than one like Eat, Pray, Love (which I also liked!) in that it’s more doable.

The premise of the book is, Rubin realizes that she’s living her life away, one day at a time, without much thought to happiness. She decides to devote a year to promoting her happiness, focusing on an area such as “energy”, “mindfulness”, “money”, etc, for each month of the year. She tracks her progress with small, measurable resolutions on a chart that she fills out each day. Along the way she learns several truths about happiness and adulthood, among other things.

The book is very well researched – it cites several studies and research findings, as well as countless quotes on happiness. In my reading, I found myself scribbling down quotes, ideas for resolutions, and thoughts on happiness. In fact, much of the book hit home for me, in unexpected ways. Of course, the author and I lead very different lives (for one thing, I’m not a married mother-of-two), but I could do well to remember the majority of her resolutions in my day to day life.

One thing I like about the book is that it emphasizes that each person’s happiness project will be utterly different, since we all derive happiness in different ways. In fact, one of Rubin’s “Secrets of Adulthood” is that “what’s fun for others may not be fun for you, and vice versa”. There are lots of these juicy tidbits of wisdom to snack on throughout the book, and I found myself gobbling them up as fast as they came. I felt a sort of “Aha moment” (a la Oprah) at several points in the book, and these statements are already pervading my everyday interactions just a few days later.

“Act without expectation” turns out to be my #1 commandment – I am a person with high expectations, which tends to interfere with my happiness. One crucial thing Rubin hits on in her writing is that certain of our actions can make us feel unhappy, such as nagging, criticizing, getting upset, saying rude comments, losing our temper. If we can work to diminish these reactions, we can increase our happiness. After all, the only person we can change is our self. With this revelation, I already feel a great deal more at peace. I am the type of person who doesn’t leave things unsaid, who loses her temper, who has high expectations (and gets upset when they are not met). Even in just a few days, practicing restraint on these behaviours (biting my tongue, letting it go, not worrying about it) has made me feel more uplifted and happy about myself.

Another important truth she toucheson is feeling good in your body. Keeping myself well-rested, well-fed, well-dressed and well-groomed is so important, and yet I tend to let it fall by the wayside quite frequently. If I don’t feel good in my clothes, I don’t feel positively about myself; if I’m hungry, I’m grumpy and irritable. The simple task of taking care of myself has the power to influence all my daily interactions, and it should be taken more seriously.

Possibly my favourite tip from the book: if something takes one minute or less, do it now. It’s hard to think of examples, but in my day there are so many things that bum me out when I think about doing them, but that only take one minute. I’ve found that just doing them makes me feel more productive, and therefore: happier!

It’s much too hard to condense the whole book into a single blog post. She presents countless revelations and nuggets of wisdom throughout, and really inspires you to think more deeply about your own happiness. I encourage you to check out Rubin’s website for the Secrets of Adulthood, the Commandments, and lots of other interesting articles on happiness.

I’ll end with a few of my favourites from the book:

You can choose what you do, but you can’t choose what you like to do.

It’s okay to ask for help.

It’s easy to be heavy, hard to be light.

Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Act the way you want to feel.

The days are long, but the years are short.

I’d love to know – have you read The Happiness Project? If so, what did you think? Were you inspired to start your own happiness project, as I am?

And if you haven’t read it – does this post make you think about your own happiness? What makes you happy?

As always, I’d love to know what you’re thinking.

xoxo,

You can purchase the Happiness Project online here, and for your Kindle here.

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Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

12 Jun

Eat, Pray, Love

Photo thanks to detrie

I just finished this wonderful memoir last night. I have always been a travel junkie, and this book was definitely not helpful in quenching that thirst. I am consumed with a desire to GO GO GO. I need to get up and discover! I want my own saga, my own journey, my own experience. I want freedom and pure, unadulterated joy, and I want to relinquish the hold that the so-called ‘real world’ of cynics and joy-repressors have on me. I urge you to read this marvellous article on one of my favourite websites: The Art of Non-Conformity. This is a particularly useful article for people who really resent the world constantly telling them

a) there’s only one way to do things; b) grow up; c) face reality.

Please read it, then come back and read this. I’ll wait patiently.

Ah, you returned! Did you like the article? I know, so did I. I believe it’s important to cultivate more of that spirit into people’s lives. We currently live in so much fear of doing things differently, and it leads to great unhappiness for some people.

I feel that so many times, negative people like to try and hold others back because they’re too scared to live outside the box themselves. That’s what I loved most about Eat, Pray, Love: she pushed back against that group of naysayers. She abandoned her so-called ‘perfect life’: a great career, a great apartment, an ‘ideal’ husband because guess what? She just wasn’t happy. She had followed the ‘normal’ path and it led her straight into a terrible depression, a messy divorce, and a love affair that crippled her emotionally.

Throughout her life, she had been passionately in love with travelling and men, never with herself. Battling depression, anxiety and discontent, she had never learned what it means to be your own friend, how to keep yourself strong, or how to be happy on your own.  At 32, she leaves her husband and perfectly-put-together life for something more.

She decides to do the suburban unthinkable. She decides to travel. For a year.

A year! Oh mon dieu! NO! say the suburban naysayers. She says: I need this, and I am taking it. I say: dudes, it’s a year. It’s not going to disrupt your entire life, you probably have enough money for it, and you won’t be able to do it later. LIVE A LITTLE.

She splits the year in three: eating, praying, loving. Eating in Rome. Praying at an Ashram in India. Loving in Bali, Indonesia. Each part of her journey is special in its own way.

Photo thanks to mccun934

In Italy, she learns how to relax and feel pleasure. And no, not that kind of pleasure. Just the pleasure of eating beautiful food, learning a language, making new friends, rebuilding her strength and confidence, releasing the horrors of her depression and rejuvenating. She spends her months there nourishing her mind and body. She gains back all the weight she’d lost during her depression, she breaks off (for good) the love affair that had been draining her, she spends her days not looking at churches or art, but reading, conversing and eating. She lets go of the pressures of her life and simply does exactly what she wants. Which ends up being: learning Italian and eating. She learns from new Italian friends that in Italy, pleasure isn’t something you have to earn, like it is in America/Canada. It’s simply something you deserve, and should have whenever possible. I love this idea of living the way you want, not the way that is dictated to you.

Photo thanks to Meanest Indian

She leaves Italy replenished physically and mentally. Good thing, too, because her next leg is not quite as luxurious. She travels to an Ashram (yoga center) in India. Not yoga as in simply exercise, she explains, yoga as in the lifestyle. Every day they wake at 3AM, mediate for an hour, sing a chant which has 182 verses, spend the day doing some sort of work to give back to the community (in her case, scrubbing the temple floor) and various other activities. It is not easy. She explains in detail about her spirituality, using the word ‘God’ to refer simply to the presence of an ‘all-inclusive and unspeakable entity’. She does not look down on any religions, and believes that any paths that a human can take religion-wise will always lead to the same greater power. She makes a few especially wonderful friends, including a very wonderful voice of reason in the form of Richard from Texas. She experiences great success in mediation practices, learning how to channel such great energy and peace. And most importantly she begins to have a wonderful sense of inner peace and finally relinquishes the pain of her divorce. She becomes more spiritual and harmonious and strong.

Photo thanks to riza

When she finally arrives in Bali, she is rested and at peace. She’d visited two years previous and met a wise old medicine man. She returned for the last leg of her journey: to achieve balance and harmony. She quickly does so: splitting her days between visiting the medicine man, spending time with a divorced Balinese mother, making new friends and actually allowing herself to cultivate a strong romance. Along the way, she tells us much about Balinese culture, which is wonderful and rich. It’s a great conclusion to the story, she finally allows her heart to re-open, while preserving her strength and sense of self.

To me, this book is a love song written to the various cultures of the world. It celebrates individuality, community, the unique, the traditional and the innovative. It says: go out there and carve your own path! Be open to the wisdom of others! Learn as much as you can! Experience different cultures, experience different people, experience yourself. Be exactly who you want to be, especially if it terrifies you.

For me, this was an incredibly interesting and detailed book with a very simple message: live. Just live.

Read this book!