I didn’t enjoy reading this book; it is very strange to have my first book review on this blog to be a book I didn’t actually enjoy, but the reason behind this is that I absolutely loved the idea and some of the content of the book. In fact, I actually learnt things from it, but I didn’t enjoy the way it was written.
In short, the premise of the book is the writer’s one year project to try and make herself happier. She was not particularly unhappy at the beginning; she is a happily married woman with two children, who gets along with her parents and in laws, does a job she loves and is relatively well off. She has a revelation on the bus one day that although she is happy, she could be happier (which I think is something that everyone can relate to), so she sets out on a mission to become happier without drastically changing her life. It is basically an experiment to see if she can “change her life without actually changing her life”.
She splits her life down into eleven areas, one to ‘work’ on for each month (I’ll get to December in a second): vitality, marriage, work, parenthood, leisure, friendship, money, eternity, books, mindfulness and attitude. For each of these areas she sets herself resolutions which she tries to stick to, each month adding more resolutions, until December where the attempt was to keep all of these. The aim of all of these resolutions was to make her happier.
I think the idea of concentrating on your happiness is fantastic, and being a type A personality, multiple resolutions, lists and goals seems ideal. However, the slightly condescending and patronising tone of the book meant that I took a dislike to it. Perhaps this is because I am at such a different stage of my life to the author – I’m a single student, living with my parents, and have no children, or because, actually I suffer from chronic depression, so being already ‘happy’ then working on my happiness is very far from where I am right now. Also, the book talked a lot about happy people being more successful in nearly every aspect of their life, and more than anything this scared me, because of my chronic depression.
Anyway, I battled through it, reading a month (the chapters are months of the year) or two a day (or every other day), and what felt like forever, but in reality was only a week and a half, finished it. I have to say, I am really glad I read it. To explain why, being a list maker, here are three lists about this book.
Ten things I learnt:
- People don’t notice your mistakes as much as you think.
- There are hundreds of books and studies about happiness.
- Shouting doesn’t help, staying calm makes you are more likely to get your point across (okay, so maybe I already knew this, but…)
- You cannot choose what you like to do.
- You can make time for the things you want to do, you just have to commit to it.
- “One of the best ways to make myself happy is to make other people happy. One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy myself.”
- Money, spent wisely, can buy happiness.
- “Act the way you want to feel,” actually works.
- You cannot change other people, only the way you interact and act towards them.
- What a koan was – a question or statement that cannot be understood logically.
Ten things I’m going to try doing:
- When it doubt, be yourself. In fact, always be yourself.
- Spend time thinking about my happiness and small changes I could make to alter my happiness. Implement these with a resolution chart. I suppose in some ways this is actually “Start my own happiness project.”
- Identify the problem before coming up with a solution.
- Try not to keep score, i.e. I did that last so it’s your turn.
- Laugh more.
- Say negative things in a positive way, e.g. rather than “That’s a stupid way to do that!”, say “It might be easier if you tried this instead.”
- Tackle a nagging task.
- Declutter your house (for me this is going to be parts of my bedroom, but the thought is there!)
- EXERCISE MORE. So – I have tried this so many times, but something always seems to get in the way, but this book reminded me that exercise gives you more energy, so I need to try again.
- Enjoy the moment.
Ten things I agreed with that the author said:
- Everyone could benefit from a happiness project.
- Depression is not the opposite of being happy.
- What is fun for other people may not be fun for you, and vice versa.
- ‘True Rules’ (rules that you automatically and instinctively think, e.g. “My children are my most important priority”, “Always try your best”) can be helpful and unhelpful, and it is very mindful to know what your own are.
- Not everything is going to work.
- Not complaining is hard but it will boost your own happiness and that of those around you.
- “If you can’t find something, clean up.”
- “The days are long, but the years are short.”
- You are not going to change anything without making a change in yourself.
- You’re happy if you think you are happy.
What I suppose I am saying in this review is:
- Even if you don’t enjoy something it can still be good (or as the author puts it “happiness does not always make you feel happy”).
- Everyone can benefit from a happiness project.
Thanks for reading, keep smiling. Until next time, bye!