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The Happiness Project

Gretchen Rubin

What if you could change your life — without changing your life? Gretchen Rubin spent a year trying a variety of things, both scientific and non-scientific, to be happier.


The Bottom Line

Learn from one person’s yearlong experiment test-driving what makes us happy, drawing on age-old theories, the latest scientific research and lessons from popular culture.

I. Introduction

Gretchen Rubin had an epiphany while riding a city bus in a rainstorm: She was merely getting through the day, not really enjoying it. She didn’t feel depressed and wasn’t going through a midlife crisis, she writes, but she noticed that she was suffering from a general sense of malaise. The author, wife and mother found plenty to rejoice about in her life, yet got bogged down with the small things and derailed by bouts of insecurity, listlessness and guilt. Feeling that she’d lost her ability to feel happy in the normal course of her day, Rubin embarked on what she calls “The Happiness Project,” carefully crafting a yearlong plan that would focus on one area a month that might help improve her quality of life.

The book documents Rubin’s personal journey toward happiness — but it’s also intended to serve as inspiration for others who want to do the same. It’s not meant to be a precise guide — after all, no two people’s “happiness projects” will look the same. Rather, she hopes to provide an example of how living a more examined life can lead to a greater sense of satisfaction.

Rubin selected her own monthly categories to focus on and, using a combination of research and personal reflection, delved deep into each one. What resulted are actionable steps that improved how she felt about each category — and the contentment she experienced in her life as a whole. From marriage to mindfulness, and parenthood to money and work, she identified steps she could take in each area that didn’t require much time or energy but significantly increased her happiness.

II. Boost Your Energy

III. Bring Your Best Self to Your Marriage

IV. Aim Higher at Work

V. Invest in Your Friendships

VI. Buy a Bit of Happiness

VII. Look for Deeper Meaning

The Takeaway


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