Author: Gretchen Rubin


Overview: studying what makes us happy and then trying to apply it to our own lives.

Theme: memoir of one year in which the author test-drives every principle, tip, theory, and research-study result she can find, from Aristotle to St. Therese to Benjamin Franklin to Martin Seligman to Oprah.  What advice actually works?

Four Splendid Truths:

To be happier you have to think about feeling good, feeling bad, feeling right, in an atmosphere of growth.

One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy; One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.

The days are long but the years are short.   HYPERLINK “”

You’re not happy unless you think you’re happy.

There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy.  Robert Louis Stevenson

What do I want from life, anyway?  I asked myself.  Well…I want to be happy.  But I had never thought about what made me happy or how I might be happier.

“What a wonderful life I’ve had!  I only wish I’d realized it sooner.”  I didn’t want to look back, at the end of my life or after some great catastrophe, and think, “How happy I used to be then, if only I’d realized it.”

How could I discipline myself to feel grateful for my ordinary day?

Contemporary research shows that happy people are more altruistic, more productive, more helpful, more likeable, more creative, more resilient, more interested in others, friendlier, and healthier.  Happy people make better friends, colleagues, and citizens.  I wanted to be one of those people.

People who exercise are healthier, think more clearly, sleep better, and have delayed onset of dementia.  Regular exercise boosts energy levels.

De-clutter: one study suggested that eliminating clutter would cut down the amount of housework in the average home by 40 percent.

Do it now.  I started to apply the “one minute rule”; I didn’t postpone any task that could be done in less than one minute.

Although we presume that we act because of the way we feel, in fact we often feel because of the way we act.  For example, studies show that even an artificially induced smile brings about happier emotions.

The atmosphere of my marriage sets the weather for my whole life.

Like everyone, he’s a combination of good and not-so-good qualities, and the worst of my bad habits was to focus on his faults while taking his virtues for granted.

I was certainly guilty of “unconscious overclaiming” the phenomenon in which we unconsciously overestimate our contributions or skills relative to other people.

There is no love; there are only proofs of love.  Whatever love I might feel in my heart, others will see only my actions.

Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing nor that, but simply growth.  We are happy when we are growing.  William Butler Yeats

It isn’t goal attainment but the process of striving after goals—that is, growth—that brings happiness.

In one of those life isn’t fair results, it turns out that the happy outperform the less happy.

Enthusiasm is more important to mastery than innate ability; it turns out, because the single most important element in developing expertise is your willingness to practice.  Therefore, career experts argue, you’re better off pursuing a profession that comes easily and that you love, because that’s where you’ll be more eager to practice and thereby earn a competitive advantage.

“Fun” falls into three categories: challenging fun, accommodating fun, and relaxing fun.  Challenging fun is the most rewarding but also the most demanding.

Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

The “fundamental attribution error” is a psychological phenomenon in which we tend to view other people’s actions as a reflection of their characters and to overlook the power of the situation to influence their actions, whereas with ourselves, we recognize the pressures of circumstance.  When other people’s cell phones ring during a movie, it’s because they’re inconsiderate boors; if my cell phone rings during a movie; it’s because I need to be able to take a call from the babysitter.

“It is by spending oneself, that one becomes rich” Sarah Bernhardt, what’s more, one intriguing study showed that Sarah’s pronouncement is literally true: people who give money to charity end up wealthier than those who don’t give to charity.  After doing complex number crunching to control different variables, a researcher concluded that charitable giving isn’t just correlated with higher income; it actually causes higher income.

Gratitude is important to happiness.  Studies show that consistently grateful people are happier and more satisfied with their lives; they even feel more physically healthy and spend more time exercising.

The belief that unhappiness is selfless and happiness is selfish is misguided.  It’s more selfless to act happy.  It takes energy, generosity, and discipline to be unfailingly lighthearted, yet everyone takes the happy person for granted.

No man is happy who does not think himself so.  Publilius Syrus

The things that go wrong often make the best memories.

Nothing can make our life, or the lives of other people, more beautiful than perpetual kindness.  Tolstoy

I’d realized that the most helpful aspect of my happiness project hadn’t been these resolutions, or the Four Splendid Truths I’d identified, or the science I’d learned, or all the high-minded books I’d read.  The single most effective step for me had been to keep my Resolutions Chart.

The feeling of control is an essential element of happiness—a better predictor of happiness than, say, income.  Having a feeling of autonomy, of being able to choose what happens in your life or how you spend your time, is crucial.