Take Small Steps to #Happiness
February 11, 2012
— Happiness Project, Rubin, Small Steps
From Gulf News, Carolina D’Souza, Staff Reporter
Gretchen Rubin, author of the Happiness Project, is just another typical person who did not have any reason to be unhappy. As she puts it: “One day, I was travelling in a city bus when I had a sudden realisation — I was in danger of wasting my life.”
By her own admission, she lacked nothing: “I wasn’t depressed… wasn’t having a midlife crisis… wasn’t divorced. I didn’t have to forgive any terrible wrongs. [In fact] I was pretty happy.”
And here is the rub: most people who are chasing happiness are in a similar predicament, sort of. Despite being fortunate enough to have failed the audition for a crushingly sad life-script, they still go about with a woebegone look, looking for missing links. Rubin caught herself doing the same. “In that single moment, with that realisation, I decided to dedicate a year to trying to be happier. ‘I’ll start a happiness project,’ I vowed. I did.”
Rubin’s year-long experiment with this warm and fuzzy feeling helped her arrive at some interesting conclusions. The biggest obstacle to happiness, she realised, was… herself. “[It was about recognising] my failings, my limitations. It was time to expect more from myself.”
This is not as scary as it sounds. What she means by expecting more from herself is to do the things that we all can but don’t. Like appreciating the beautiful things we have in our lives already; the key word is ‘already’. The other important key to happiness is to stop complaining. “I wanted to behave better,” says Rubin.
At the end of a year, Rubin was happier. There was no thunderbolt heralding electric and happy times, just a quiet inner shift. “It mostly happens inside,” she says.
Small but important
So what’s the distillate? Rubin says she dislikes being reductive to the point of just offering a list — it’s too simplistic — but she swears by the power of making small but important changes in everyday life; exercise, a proper diet, keeping a distance from the things that annoy you, connecting deeply with those you love, appreciating nature… Rubin’s conclusions are comfortingly familiar.
Which brings us to the most baffling question of all: If all it takes to feel happier is to do things which we are capable of, why don’t we do them? “It’s like dieting,” explains Rubin. “We all know the secret to it: eat better, eat less, exercise more. It’s the application of it that’s the challenge.” The same goes for happiness.
The trick to understanding and processing ideas for Rubin, and many like her, is to understand the fundamental truth about life as stated by Alfred North Whitehead, English mathematician and philosopher: “Everything important has been said before.” The oldest truths are the newest realities. It all depends on whether you want to see it that way or not. You could blow beautiful soap bubbles and weep when they burst or you sit back and enjoy their spectacular beauty while it lasts.
10 sure-fire ways to unhappiness
You get the headline, right? It’s like that saying – you need to know the risks so you can avoid them. Dave Crane wasn’t too happy contributing to this apparent negative piece on happiness. “I spend too much time on the positive,” he told Gulf News. Still, the life coach, motivational trainer and keynote speaker, agreed. He listed the sure-fire ways to unhappiness with the caveat, “Do the opposite of everything below.”
- Waste time doing things of little or no value that make you uneasy, feel unwanted and land you in debt.
- Constantly blame everyone else for your rotten situation — the authorities, your friends, your parents, Justin Bieber, etc, basically everyone but yourself.
- Expect to fail at everything and say, “I told you so”, after everything goes as badly as you predicted.
- Waste time regretting past mistakes and lousy decisions as though that could magically change them.
- Close your mind to new ideas that might make a real difference to your life and continue doing whatever didn’t work before.
- Make sure that all your friends have the same pessimistic outlook in life as you do, and listen to their advice.
- Think badly of yourself and say so into the mirror whenever you get a chance.
- Think of your life as worthless and get people to tell you what they think is wrong about you as well.
- Waste time trying to change other people, who don’t want to change.
- Do nothing about changing anything in your life except complaining to everyone you meet.
By Carolina D’Souza, Staff Reporter