Book Review: The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

The Book

The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle and Generally Have More Fun. By Gretchen Rubin. First published in 2009.


Over one calendar year, Rubin tries dozens of techniques and tactics to boost her own happiness — everything from starting a collection of bluebirds to cleaning up her apartment each night before bed.

She writes:

“… I grasped two things: I wasn’t as happy as I could be, and my life wasn’t going to change unless I made it change. In that single moment, with that realization, I decided to dedicate a year to trying to be happier.”

What you need to know

If you’re looking for a one-size-fits-all guide to “happy,” this isn’t it. The Happiness Project doesn’t pretend to be a definitive guide. Instead, it is one woman’s series of experiments to boost her own happiness. Some of these seem quite logical; others feel totally random.

Nevertheless, it’s fun to follow along with Rubin’s experiment and as she finds out what works and what doesn’t. The book also has some profound insights into happiness and the human condition. I found a bunch of things I wanted to try like purposefully trying to make new friends.

Key Takeaway

Borrowing from the Four Noble Truths in Buddhism, Rubin comes up with four happiness theories of her own.

  1. To be happy, I need to think about feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right, in an atmosphere of growth.
  2. One of the best ways to make myself happy is to make other people happy. One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy myself.
  3. The days are long, but the years are short.
  4. If I think I’m happier, I am happier.

Personal Impact

I read this book while I was planning to launch My Instruction Manual. As a result, Rubin’s ideas have influenced a few of my posts over the past week. I was also motivated by Rubin’s decision to post almost every day when she launched a new blog. I was originally planning to write a couple times a week, but Rubin inspired me to aim for the everyday habit.

Worth Reading?

Yes! I’m planning to read more of Rubin’s books including Happier at Home and Better Than Before.


  1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this book and your application of it.

    I have been thinking about reading it.

    I wanted to say thank you for visiting and following my blog. I want to wish you good health and your sister too. Hope your health improves..

    You have a great blog and i like your blog title..we all need an instruction manual for life.

    All the best. Speak soon

    Liked by 1 person

    • So glad you like the blog Bella! If you read the book, let me know what you think. I should have also mentioned in the post that Gretchen Rubin and her sister also make a terrific podcast called Happier. It’s worth checking out too.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I saw Rubin speak at a conference on habits (Better than Before) and she was great. In fact, I think her approach to matching personality traits to habit techniques is probably the only way to successfully implement personal change. I found reading her Happiness Project stressful, but mostly because it made me want to clean my closet and add to my to-do list when I was supposed to be drifting off to sleep! I’d recommend it for morning reading rather than before bed. 🙂


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