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Littler Books cover of The Happiness Project Summary

The Happiness Project Book Summary, Notes, and Quotes

Gretchen Rubin

3.7 minutes to read
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What it's about in a one sentence summary:

An exploration of the author's year-long journey to find happiness and offers practical tips and insights on how to live a more fulfilling life.

Bullet Point Summary, Notes, and Quotes

  1. Aristotle declared happiness as the “chief good” in life. The author delved into research and personal experience to explore the many facets of happiness and ways to enhance it.
  2. The author launched her own happiness project, dedicating each month of the year to different areas of life. She found that social relationships, time management, perspective, money, and vitality were key factors in boosting happiness.
  3. Through small, constructive steps such as exercise, better time management, and a more balanced life, the author was able to reduce negative feelings and improve her overall happiness. She learned that it is often our own actions (complaining, hoarding, gossiping, etc.) that make us unhappy, and by changing certain habits, one can be happier.
  4. Concrete goals are more effective than abstract ideas like “be happy”.
  5. Repeat general guidelines and instructions to yourself for motivation. Some examples are:
    1. “Do it now!”
    2. “People notice your mistakes less than you think.”
    3. “You don't have to be good at everything.”
  6. “Change your life without changing your life.” Small steps and moments of happiness are more important than radical changes. Aim to become a little happier and more satisfied with your life rather than drastically altering it.
  7. Energy is the main source of happiness. When we have energy, we feel good and we want to do more things that will make us even happier.
  8. Sleep, diet, and activity are crucial to maintain healthy energy levels. Lack of sleep hurts our metabolism and immune system. Light and activity boost the production of happiness chemicals (serotonin and dopamine).
  9. The author kept a food diary to become more mindful of her diet, which helped her change her habits and eliminate bad feelings.
  10. Remove physical and mental clutter. Getting rid of items you don't need and crossing tasks off from your to-do list will feel satisfying and energize you.
  11. Happy people have lasting relationships, and vice versa, lasting relationships make people happy.
  12. There are two fundamental rules to relationships:
    1. You can't change your partner. You can only improve yourself.
    2. What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while.
  13. The author felt happier and improved her relationship with her husband when she reduced her complaints, stopped imposing her negative feelings onto her partner, and acted more agreeable in general.
  14. French author Pierre Reverdy said that there's no such thing as love, there are only proofs of love. Showing kind gestures frequently without expecting anything in return will make both parties happier.
  15. Negative actions impact us more deeply than positive actions. Studies show that it takes five positive actions to offset a negative action.
  16. Don't focus on the little mistakes others make, constantly examine the way you treat your partner, and avoid taking each other for granted.
  17. Many people say their children are their greatest source of happiness.
  18. The author knows that children bring happiness in the long term and decided to be more tender and playful with her two daughters. She resolved to control her emotional outbursts directed at her children and to refrain from scolding them. Her strategy was to find humor in everyday challenges and to act happily to infect herself with a good mood.
  19. When you act happy, you are happy.
  20. She acknowledged her children's feelings (e.g., using phrases like “I know this is tough…”) and took time to engage in time-consuming arts and crafts projects or long games with them. Spending leisure time with her children was conducive to happiness and helped her drop a lot of stress in her everyday life. Getting along better with her children also made her happier in general and rid her of the feeling that she was an uncaring mother.
  21. Friendship is a crucial aspect of a happy life. It's common to feel guilty and disappointed about not having enough time for our friends, but we need to dedicate time for our social life.
  22. Generosity is a significant source of happiness. The author found that small gestures, like helping friends clean out their closets, can bring joy to both parties.
  23. The best way to be happy is to make others happy. The best way to make others happy is to be happy yourself.
  24. Work and happiness are interconnected as work provides social ties, value, growth, self-confidence, and recognition.
  25. Pursuing your passion, meeting goals, and taking on new challenges at work can stimulate and excite you, and thus bring happiness.
  26. It is the small moments of successes, rather than achieving the ultimate goal, that make us happiest in our work.
  27. Having free time for leisure activities is an important factor in happiness. It's important to engage in activities that you truly enjoy, even if they may not be considered "cultivated" or "creative."
  28. Seeking out new hobbies and keeping a diary of what you enjoy can help you discover new things to do. The author found happiness in taking up collage making, starting a children's literature reading group, and collecting bluebird figures. Having a collection can bring happiness through the process of finding and acquiring items, and the memories they evoke.
  29. Similar to health, money alone doesn't bring happiness, but not having to worry about it makes life much easier.
  30. Research shows that buying things only brings us happiness temporarily, as we get used to the purchases, our happiness quickly regresses to previous levels.
  31. The author believes it's okay to indulge in modest splurges occasionally as long as they provide added value or generate a feeling of growth. However, buying too many unnecessary things can lead to clutter and burden you. It's important to consciously choose purchases that make our lives more pleasant.
  32. Studies show that spiritual people are happier, healthier, and can handle stress better.
  33. The author found inspiration in contemplating eternity and death, which led her to become more aware of both her existence and transience. She kept a "one-sentence" diary, updated her last will and testament, and integrated small meditation sessions into her daily routine (e.g., while waiting for the bus).
  34. Gratitude makes us happy. The author keeps a gratitude notebook to appreciate the happiest moments of each day.
  35. The awareness of having only one finite life enables us to appreciate the happiness of every moment more intensely.
  36. The author was inspired to be more mindful by the Dalai Lama's book, The Art of Happiness. Mindfulness involves paying attention to the present moment instead of dwelling on the past or future. It helped her become more aware of her thoughts and actions, and prevented emotional outbursts.
  37. The author experimented with other techniques to expand her consciousness, such as listening to hypnosis tapes and attending a laughter yoga course, which helped her become more aware of happiness-boosting activities.

The Happiness Project: Resources