I read two happiness books.
In January, I read The Geography of Bliss. In TGOB, Eric Weiner sets out on a global trip (India, Iceland, Moldova, etc.) to find out what happiness means to different countries, and ultimately what it can mean to him. In this week's book, The Happiness Project’s Gretchen Rubin stays put at home in NYC and makes small resolutions over the course of one year (sing in the morning, try hypnosis, stay organized, do projects) in an attempt to make her day to day life more fulfilling.
These two books are fundamentally the same in many ways - both are anthropological experiment books written over the course of a year or so, about happiness. Both were published in 2008/2009. And they both turned out to be bestsellers! That tells you a lot about the American appetite for books on the subject. Which isn’t surprising, given America’s huge appetite for the self help genre in general, and the recent focus on positive psychology, happiness, fulfillment. Who understands and wants those things more than the millennial generation? ;)
Weiner’s book was a great, quick read - I read it for research as I’m working on some travel writing myself. If you’re interested in cultural differences, distilled, via a funny narrative, this book is for you. But Rubin’s book was more practical, applicable, and the writing style also much simpler and straightforward. Both narrators have unique quirkiness - Weiner’s is more neurotic; Rubin’s more hyper-rational. It’s very interesting to see how these two books on happiness were successfully approached in such different ways, both in terms of content and style.
I wasn’t going to travel all over the world to find happiness, so this past week I tried a few of Rubin’s methods to make my life happier! Here’s what they were. I’ll update on progress later.
“Be serious about play” - A commitment to this blog and reading one book a week is my way of being more serious about something I love - books.
“Be Yourself” - In this case, “Be Juli” - I don’t want to spend my fun time on things that don’t really interest me (though I will remain open to growth, which is different)! For instance, why spend excessive time reading about math and science in my minimal spare time, as I sometimes try to do because of the nature of my job and my friends although I’m not interested in them and probably will never be? I want to spend more free time and energy on literature, or philosophy, or writing, or friends...
“Make time” - For me, this means making time for friends. Having lived in Asia and in various cities in the US, my friends are scattered around and I easily lose touch with them. I sometimes even lose touch with friends who live in the same city! I started a project to reach out to them in a personalized way - snail mail letters and silly cute cards, which I love to write! I also reached out to some friends about going to comedy clubs, and I’m thinking about starting a bowling team.
“Give Proofs of Love” - I can sometimes be a bit testy, and my expectations can be high when it comes to those I love. Why? No need! I’ve decided the best way to show my love - to my family, to my boyfriend, to my friends - is to just show it, generously and consistently.
I’ve had a great time reading about happiness. Though my boyfriend made the remark last week that he’d read that people who read books on happiness are less happy, I actually feel happier. Hopefully I can make my resolutions stick! I asked bf if he felt happier these past few days - and he said yes - so it seems my happiness has rubbed off on him a bit. :)
Let me know if you want a snail mail letter!