Monday, 19 January 2015

Can a book make you happy?

I can't remember now what made me choose to read The Happiness Project but I'm glad I did, as it was indirectly responsible for prompting me to start this reading challenge.  I found the writing style a little irritating to start with, and I wasn't sure I would stick with it at all, but once I was used to the way Gretchen writes I really enjoyed the rest of the book.

In particular several of the observations really struck a chord with me.  One of them was the idea that people are happier once they stop trying to like things that they think they should like and embrace the activities that they do enjoy.  I used to feel guilty about reading 'chick lit' or YA fiction as I felt that I should enjoy reading classical literature and 'worthy' books.   I always felt the need to justify my choices of reading material, and felt a nagging sense of unease that I haven't ever managed to finish Lord of the Rings, or Catch 22.   However I've read both the Hunger Games trilogy and the Twilight Saga twice, and enjoyed all the books enormously.  Reading blogs like this one by Matt Haig went a long way to convincing me that I should feel free to read what I want and not feel ashamed of any of my choices, but the final nudge I needed was to reframe my reading habit as my way of relaxing.  I would never criticise anyone else's choice of book, so why was I criticising my own?

Another of the ideas in the book I really liked was that of keeping a journal which was only 1 sentence a day.  I'll admit that this mainly appealed because I had already started that very thing.  One of my Christmas presents this year was a One Line a Day Diary which I thought was a genius idea.  I have never managed to sustain a proper diary for longer than a few months, but I think I really can commit to the idea of writing one line a day. It's only been 18 days so far, but I haven't missed one yet, so I have a good feeling about it this time.

I have also started decluttering, but that process really began when I turned 40 a few months ago.  It's going very slowly so far, but I have managed to take several bags of stuff to charity and recycle a whole load of paper.  Following the impetus of this book I now also have 3 'clear areas' in the house (they are very small, just my bedside table, a dresser and a small cabinet) and my aim is to keep them clear for at least 2 weeks and then gradually start on the rest of the clutter.

I would like to try and write this blog more regularly, as I have been thinking about it more and more over the last few months, but it is difficult to find the time.  In particular, I'm not going to set myself any goals (such as 1 post a week, or 3 posts a month) - I am just going to write my ideas down as I go along and see how it goes.

If you're intrigued and want to read more about the Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin maintains a blog, which is here.

As to whether the book made me happy - actually, so far it has.  After starting to read it I stumbled upon Tara Anderson's blog about her challenge to read 52 books in a year and for the last 10 days I have been very happily reading at every available opportunity.

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