It is safe to say that 2020 has not been our year. It seems as though blow after blow comes at us; we have been down since January, yet we just keep getting kicked. Murphy’s Law is certainly unforgiving.
However, in light of the frustratingly terrible start to the decade, I think it is very important to focus on your well-being. It is incredibly easy to succumb to the pervasive negative energy flowing through society – when everything seems to be going wrong, how could I possibly be happy? I was asking myself that question at the beginning of quarantine, completely at a loss for what to do and where to go next. As the weeks went by, I grew increasingly annoyed with my reality. I was sick of being bored and sad and scared to open Instagram or Twitter or turn on the news (I am sure we have all felt that way at least once). I just wanted to be happy, and I found a solution.
The week of exams, a month and a half after the start of quarantine, I stumbled upon a book: “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin. I would not dare to be cliché and say it changed my life, but I can say that it certainly has influenced the way I live.
The “Happiness Project” is essentially a self-imposed social experiment. Rubin decided to take a year of her life, dedicate each month to goals set to improve every aspect of her life and ultimately determine if she felt happier at the end of that year. For Rubin, it worked. Not perfectly, of course. A year is a long time and there will always be ups and downs, but she was certainly a happier person at the end of that year.
I began reading the book at the beginning of May and finished by the end of the month. The story had a powerful impact on me – such simple epiphanies that led to infinite change. For example, in the month of May, Rubin tackled the idea of having more fun. She came to the realization that there were many events or hobbies she participated in simply because she felt she should enjoy those things, not because she genuinely did enjoy them. Through her experiences, she recognized that “just because something was fun for someone else, didn’t mean it was fun for [her] – and vice versa,” so she went and found her “fun.” Such a simple, obvious idea, yet it is one I feel a lot of people overlook – I certainly had.
With the recognition of certain habits – like doing things that do not actually make one happy – one is granted the ability to grow, to transition toward greater satisfaction and happiness in life. Rubin outlines the book in a way that breaks down life into small boxes that can be influenced individually and stacked back together in a greater, better formation.
When I first saw the book, I thought it was a bit dubious. How could you turn an intangible emotion into an experiment? What I learned was that happiness, in essence, is not simply an intangible emotion, it can be a way of life. Happiness, rather than a feeling, is an art that can be crafted into a state of being.
I urge everyone to check out Gretchen Rubin and her “happiness project.” While a happiness project may not automatically create a sunshine-and-rainbows reality, it can certainly lead people to greater life satisfaction and more positivity. You can find all of her information on her blog: gretchenrubin.com/blog.