I’ve heard rave reviews of Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project (a New York Times #1 Bestseller) but the idea sounded a bit too lofty to me. Happier at Home, however, focuses more on everyday life and, since finding contentment in the everyday is a constant struggle of mine, I decided to hear her out. I truly enjoyed reading this book and walked away feeling encouraged and inspired. It also worked out to be a perfect book for kicking off the new year!
Throughout the book, Rubin chronicles her journey to discover happiness in key areas of her daily life, focusing on one area for each of 9 months – possessions, marriage, parenthood, interior design, time, body, family, neighborhood, and now. My favorite chapters – marriage, parenthood, and time – especially encouraged me to be intentional in my relationships and in how I spend my energy.
While reading this book, I appreciated Rubin’s personal and informed writing style – she intertwines personal experience and relevant data as she explains both her successes and failures of pursuing intentional living and happiness each month. (I really appreciated the times when she admitted to certain resolutions not working out like she’d hoped!)
Rubin had a few resolutions that I wouldn’t be as eager to adopt for myself (or just aren’t applicable – as a city dweller, one of her resolutions was to overcome her fear of driving, which isn’t something I struggle with). But she admits that what makes one person happy doesn’t necessarily make another person happy. And, any reservations I had about a happiness project simply being an excuse to pursue fleeting, gushy feelings were relieved as she said repeatedly – “happiness doesn’t always make me feel happy” and aimed to do hard things like have a conversation about living wills with her parents and overcome her fear of driving.
All in all, I genuinely benefited from this book and I walked away from the book with both theoretical, heart-change inspiration and concrete ideas for better loving my family and enjoying life. And, in the couple weeks since I’ve read the book, I can honestly say this book has made me a better wife and mom. As I’ve “chosen the positive argument” to focus my thoughts on all the wonderful things my husband does do rather than the couple things he doesn’t do and as I’ve focused more on doing what I value — rather than specifically doing less or doing more — I’ve found myself truly feeling more content.
And, as I’ve planned little surprises for my family and practiced nonrandom acts of kindness for others, I’ve found myself thinking less about myself – a constant struggle of mine. While, as a Christian, I don’t believe I’ll ever find true happiness here on Earth, this book has encouraged me to focus my heart on what I truly value and to seek to live life more intentionally.
I will warn you — At a certain point, reading this book felt a little like browsing Pinterest for too long; as I read through her year-long journey over the course of a week, I began to feel overwhelmed by ideas and a sense of inadequacy. But, shortly after that, she confessed her own struggles with keeping her resolutions… and I realized it took her a year to do what I was reading about in only a week.
If you’re looking for inspiration and some concrete ideas about how to pursue happiness and intentional living in your home this year, this book would make a great read.
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