The Happiness Project

Click "here" to link to this book on Amazon.

This was a great book to start off the New Year but seriously, pick it up at any time and improve your life in at least one small way.

On a scale of 1 - 5

Sex: 0

Religion: .5

Gruesome: 0

Suspense: 1

Morality: 5

Sex - No references at all.

Religion - While Ms. Rubin does not associate herself with a particular religion, she dedicates a whole chapter to the topic of religion. So if 1/12th of the book deals with the topic, I did the math, came up with .4 and rounded to .5 for the scale.

Gruesome - Well, there is a bit about a child vomiting and the chaos that follows, but hardly gruesome.

Suspense - I did find myself wondering often if all her efforts paid off in the end. In that regard it was mildly suspenseful. Thankfully, even the author wondered the same thing and she addresses it in the last chapter so the reader is not left hanging.

Morality - You can't have a book about living a better life and not rate strong on the Morality scale. Cutting people some slack, holding back negative comments, and trying to be a more positive and sunny person are the marks of high morals in my book.

I only wish I had the energy and time and resources to throw myself into such a happiness project. But even if you are stretched to the max, any reader of this book will certainly glean something small they can implement. As a result of reading this book I did start a happiness one-line journal and I'm trying to laugh more at my child's jokes so he feels happy by making me feel happy.

The author takes a year of her life and in a highly organized fashion sets resolutions for each month tied together with a general theme of the month. She lets you inside her world in a very intimate way by even sharing her husband and children with you. We see her very humanness as she struggles to keep the resolutions and learns from her mistakes. The overall tone is light, never preachy. She frequently incorporates feedback from the general public that she received via her happiness blog.

The author comes across as a warm and caring person - somebody I would like to be friends with, if I had the time. But that's the part that bothered me about the book. How did she have time to do all this. Parts of me wondered how self-centered she was and how much she was neglecting to do all these things that she wanted to do to make her happy. Sure, a large part of her being happy resulted in her husband and kids being happy too. But seriously, in the whole year covered by the book it appears as if she never cooked a meal, or scrubbed a toilet, or did a load of laundry, or even dropped off or picked up a kid at school.

Discussion Questions

What changes have you made since reading the book?

Were there any aspects of the concept that bothered you?

Were the reprinted blog comments helpful or distracting?

How do you define happiness?

How did reading this book change your understanding of happiness?

Did the book inspire you to do any additional reading? Who or what topic?

DISCUSS: William Butler Yeats said, "Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing nor that, but simply growth. We are happy when we are growing." (p. 66)

DISCUSS: "Gratitude brings freedom from envy, because when you're grateful for what you have, you're not consumed with wanting something different or something more. ... Gratitude fosters forbearance - it's harder to feel disappointed with someone when you're feeling grateful toward him or her. Gratitude also connects you to the natural world because one of the easiest things to feel grateful for is the beauty of nature." (p. 202)

DISCUSS: Hermann Hesse said, "Happiness is a how; not a what. A talent, not an object." (p. 209 blog post)

DISCUSS: "The belief that unhappiness is selfless and happiness is selfish is misguided. It's more selfless to act happy. It takes energy, generosity and discipline to be unfailingly lighthearted, yet everyone takes the lighthearted person for granted. No one is careful of his feelings or tries to keep his spirits high. ... And because happiness seems unforced that person usually gets no credit." (p. 217)

DISCUSS: "I've always thought that the best reading is rereading." (p. 228)

DISCUSS: "An atmosphere of growth brings great happiness, but at the same time, happiness sometimes also comes when you're free from the pressure to see much growth. That's not surprising; often, the opposite of a great truth is also true." (p. 231)

DISCUSS: John Stuart Mill said, "Ask yourself whether you are happy, and you will cease to be so." (p. 233)

Describe the best nap you ever had.

Are you an overbuyer or an underbuyer?

Are you a maximizer or a satisficer?

What is the best April Fools joke you've done or received?

Do you have any collections?

Do you have any koans that you like to think about?

Do you have any "True Rules"?

Share with the group a situation in which it is hard for you to be happy. Brainstorm happiness strategies.

Theme Ideas

This book really didn't lend itself to a particular theme. The author participates in a book group that themes its meetings but that is a lot easier with children's literature than with a self-improvement chronicle. Definitely don't serve any fake food - the kind that comes in snack size bags that Ms. Rubin gave up as one of her resolutions. And she appears to like Diet Coke so I might have a bottle on hand in her honor. (She also gave up alcohol - but I know that won't happen in my group!)

The hostess might want to buy some inexpensive journals and give everyone a start on their own Gratitude journal.