Saturday, February 09, 2013

Book commentary: The second time around with The Happiness Project

I'm calling this a commentary, because I think I already reviewed The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun somewhere on this blog, though my attempts to find it aren't yielding much.  Besides, I think when a book has been on the New York Times Bestseller list for almost 100 weeks, most people who are interested in it already know about it.

 I am listening to this book for the second time around, because I realize it speaks to a lot of the things rattling around inside my head -- my twinges of disappointment in what I hoped would be my dream job, my frustrations with my inability to keep my house neat. Gretchen Rubin has a personality that is a little similar to mine, in that she she does her best to be an optimistic person, but deep down, she has a natural tendency to have low moods and feel disappointed in herself when not making the effort.

What impresses me about this book is that Gretchen realized that she was not going to have some magical epiphany that changed her view of her life, or some major change in circumstances that was going to make her happy from the outside. She wasn't going to be able to change her loved ones in the hopes of making herself happier either. What she had to do was change her outlook, and she takes a very systematic approach.

I listened to her book today while driving to and from the gym, and while I did some household chores like laundry and cleaning up the kitchen.  I realized that her resolutions are a lot like my checklists. I think a Happiness Project approach to weight management (which Gretchen herself doesn't seem to have any issues with) would be similarly based in resolutions. What I was trying to get at yesterday was that at some level, I thought that once I reached my goal weight, I would be a different person somehow, one who didn't struggle with food. I thought it would become easier.  I think a lot of people share that belief, illogical as it is. I also see a lot of people searching for magic, something that makes weight loss happen without struggle.

What does work is giving up the struggle. It isn't going to be any easier if I think it's too hard. I can either do or not do, from moment to moment, the things that I know will work.

Speaking of that, listening to The Happiness Project again reminded me that I'd really like to know about her strength training program, the one that takes 20 minutes a session. I don't like strength training because every time I have tried to get suggestions from a trainer, she gives me a program that requires three or four sets of each exercise, which means I'm stuck lifting for an hour. I don't find it fun in the same way that I can enjoy Spin class or running. I need to either find a quick but effective method like Gretchen's, or a class that I enjoy like my Pilates Circuit. I do well with a class because I can just turn my brain off and let the instructor tell me what to do. What I don't like is walking around the gym with my little notebook and trying to do it on my own. Gretchen would say, "Identify the problem" -- the problem is that I feel like I'm spending a lot of time on something that isn't fun for no results.

I think The Happiness Project holds up well to a second read. It is prompting me to look at my own contribution to the unhappiness I feel about work right now and see if there are things I can do to feel better about it. Today I "tackled a nagging task," by grading one section of my students' papers.  I was so tempted to spend today noodling around my house and working halfheartedly on three or four cleaning projects, but I did my schoolwork instead. And it did make me feel better.

4 comments:

  1. P.S. before anyone asks, I do have "Happier at Home" too but I didn't like it as much, mostly because the audiobook was read by someone who is not Gretchen, and without her goofy enthusiasm, the second book fell flat for me.

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  2. If you have an i-something, you might like the Home Routines app to help keep the house cleaner. I started using it a few weeks ago and really, really like it. I am not at all related to the app, just a happy customer.

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    1. Thanks for the recommendation -- I downloaded it and just spent some time customizing my routines. My husband and I are going to try doing it together.

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    2. I do wish I could customize some things to monthly, but I just put each task in the "zone" I felt it fit best in. I have six zones, so some things will happen every six weeks instead of monthly. Examples: dropping things off to charity or rotating our futon. Considering they're happening now very haphazardly, I figure that still works out in my favor!

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"Count your calories, work out when you can, and try to be good to yourself. All the rest is bulls**t." -- Jillian Michaels at BlogHer '07