Review: Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin



Happier at Home: Kiss More, Jump More, Abandon a Project, Read Samuel Johnson, and My Other Experiments in the Practice of Everyday Life

by Gretchen Rubin

Publication date: 2012 Date read: January 2013

Source: Personal library
My rating (out of 5): ★ ★ ★

I would recommend borrowing it or watching for a cheap second-hand copy (it’s still new, so that’s unlikely).

Summary

Gretchen Rubin tries her hand at a second Happiness Project, this time focusing on resolutions targeted at her home and her family relationships.

Review

Although the premise and the insights are very similar to those in The Happiness Project, reading her personal story and journey is still engaging. It is often not new knowledge we need, but encouragement that happiness – or whatever our goal – is at least worth pursuing, and that the journey itself is valuable, regardless of if we reach the goal.

I thought The Happiness Project was better told, but I enjoyed more riffs off the same themes and more tidbits from her extensive and broad reading. Her style is prosaic and straight-forward, and her life very average, but she shows by her own example how we can all benefit from taking stock, making changes, and doing what we know we should do.

Really, a lot of her insights could be boiled down not to “be happy,” but to “grow up.” It is a personal growing up story, told with sprinklings of studies, quotes, and anecdotes rather than strict narrative.

I particularly liked her resolutions relating to creating a more lighthearted home:

  1. underreact to a problem
  2. enter into the interests of others
  3. go on Wednesday adventures
  4. give warm greetings and farewells

As she develops her resolutions, she explains why she picked them, develops some of the related research or philosophy, and then also tells how it actually went in real life. Interesting, amusing, and sympathetic.

Another fascinating point she made was to “Make the positive argument”: If you assert something, even to yourself, your mind immediately races to back yourself up.

“When a person takes a position, he or she looks for evidence to support it and then stops, satisfied. This mental process gives the illusion that a position is objective and well justified. However – and this is the useful point – a person can often make the *very opposite* argument, just as easily.”

Your self-talk and assertions matter tremendously.

In addition to these, her idea to “Read the manual” has already helped me at least 3 times this year! Who knew how much frustration I could avoid simply by reading the manuals instead of trying to figure it out on my own? And, thankfully, most manuals are now available online, easy to find with a quick Google search.

Favorite Quote

Although we think we act because of the way we feel, we often feel because of the way we act. Accordingly, one of my personal commandments was to “Act the way I want to feel,” and I’d found this “fake it until you feel it” strategy to be almost eerily effective.

knowing that I should do something wasn’t the same thing as actually doing it.

I’m not sure if making a joke was more effective than getting angry, but it wasn’t less effective. Underreacting to a problem was a much nicer response than yelling, for them and for me. […] levity is a highly effective tool for helping people to work better; humor helps people pay attention, eases tensions, and enhances a feeling of connection. When I first read this argument, I thought, Well, I can’t use levity, because even when I try to joke around, I rarely manage actually to be funny. But apparently that doesn’t matter. Showing levity is less about being funny and more about being able to have fun and see the humorous side of everyday situations – especially difficult situations.

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2 Responses

  1. Missy
    |

    I am excited you are reading Kuyper’s lectures. Honestly, I think it would be a good book club book. I would love to hear what you think about the way he breaks down history. I often wonder if it is worthy to use as a framework to teach history.

    I really like her four resolutions. I think that I may need to try something similar. I need to learn little steps and to celebrate them for me and my family. It really is a different way of approaching life for me. Thanks for all the encouragement along the way.

  2. Mystie Winckler
    |

    Embarrassing though it is, I have to admit that I started and read most of Kuyper in 2011. I didn’t pick it up over the holidays, then I couldn’t really read it while pregnant, and now I am trying to remember the first 2/3 as I pick it up again. I think it would make a great book club book! We should keep hounding Brandy about it. :) Though I don’t mind hosting.

    Happier at Home was a fun, interesting read. :)