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The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, Review by the Divorced Breadwinner Mom

Title: 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

Author: Gretchen Rubin

Synopsis: As described on the author’s website, “one rainy afternoon, while riding a city bus, Gretchen Rubin asked herself, ‘What do I want from life, anyway?’ She answered, ‘I want to be happy’—yet she spent no time thinking about her happiness. In a flash, she decided to dedicate a year to a happiness project.”

The result is this book, a month-by-month account of Ms. Rubin’s focus on happiness. The book combines research, time-tested advice, and examples from the author’s own attempts to put this information to practice as a wife and mother of two young children. There is one chapter for each month; each chapter begins with that month’s focus or goals and weaves in happiness research, concrete actions the author plans to take, and stories about how it worked (both successes and things that didn’t work out so well).

As part of the year’s experiment, Ms. Rubin launched the happiness project blog, and the book includes advice and stories from readers of the blog. In the end, she concludes that it is possible to be happier with some focus and attention, and readers of the book might find some good ideas to try out themselves.

Who Would Benefit? For divorced moms who sense they could be happier, this book might be a help. There are loads of ideas and suggestions, backed by research and firsthand tests in a family with young children. It’s easy to skim the chapters if you’re looking for something specific, and there are more tips and pointers to get you started on the author’s website.

Why I Picked it Up: A divorce coach I know recommended the book as a good read and something she suggests to her clients. I was curious to learn more, so I got the book and found it worth reading through.

What I Liked: Ms. Rubin’s honesty and openness about her circumstances and the results of her efforts made this more than just a story about how great she is at being happy. I related to her serious approach and attempts to structure and organize her life for more happiness; I tend to approach things that way myself (or did in the past, maybe less so these days). The examples were concrete, and most were easy for moms to appreciate and relate to as they pertained to family life, career, and everyday activities.

What I Didn’t Like: I don’t think I could sustain 12 months of goals such as those described in the book, and it might be easy to become overwhelmed or discouraged thinking you have to try them all. If you’re one of those people, this book might not be the one for you. Also, Ms. Rubin shares a number of examples about being happy and increasing her happiness in her relationship with her husband and talks about sharing parenting responsibilities. For some divorced moms, this may trigger resentment or jealousy instead of happiness, and if you are fresh from divorce, it might be helpful to wait until a few of those feelings have cooled a bit before tackling this book, though a focus on happiness may be just the thing to help you through, so decide for yourself. You can download a free chapter of the book on the author’s website.

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