In the opening passages of Happier at Home, author Gretchin Rubin indicates that she doesn’t need to go to Paris for a year to find happiness. [This made me laugh since I’ve been reading about people who have gone to Paris for a year on a self-discovery trip.] Rather, home can be that rich, rewarding place that we carry with us wherever we go. If we invest in our home life, we are happier people.
When I look back at pictures of the kids, my favorite ones are not the ones where we are on some faraway trip. My favorites are the ones where the kids are in their PJs, standing side by side. Or when they are holding critters they dug up in the yard, their faces full of glee. Or when they are dressed up in ridiculous costumes they put together in the basement, but are having the time of their life. These are average, everyday photos. They trigger many other memories of similar times. They are happy memories I carry with me, because of a happy home life. Rubin’s book was a great reminder to continue developing happiness at home.
Rubin delves into various facets of home life, particularly dealing with possessions and relationships. She challenges the assumption that less is always better. For certain people, having the least amount possible isn’t always the road to happiness and she backs this up with research. Since minimalism is so “in” right now, I thought this was interesting to think about.
She explored ways to be positive and encourage your spouse and ways to connect and spend more quality time with your children. I liked the fun after-school activities and experiences that Rubin was able to make time for, with her daughter. Sometimes if you don’t put it on the calendar, it will never happen! So true.
She addressed the issue of negative people. Sometimes you can’t avoid them but she suggests some ways to insulate yourself from being drawn down by their negativity.
Happiness is contagious but negativity is even more contagious.
I have been thinking about this a lot and have been trying to make better effort to develop friendships with people who are positive and lift me up, and to distance myself from people who are negative and pull me down. When I am with happy people, I am happier. Life is hard enough without having to deal with drama and negativity. Life is too short for that.
This book made me think about what makes me feel good/hopeful/happy and what makes me feel bad/discouraged. The author posits that, to be happier, we must think about feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right, in a spirit of growth.
So, for a few short weeks, I decided to keep track of some things that make me feel happy and some things that make me feel discouraged, just to get an idea. Whenever either of those feelings crept in, I took time to jot down some notes.
Some of it was unsurprising and other things were eye opening. Like, being outside really makes me happy, apparently!
I will start with the negative things, so I can end on a positive note. Thankfully there are a lot less on that list.
Anti-happiness—things that suck away my joy:
– Dawdling children. Especially when homework drags on, and on, and on …
– When I feel like I didn’t get “anything” done that day. Some days, with little kids, it’s just about surviving, and keeping my head above water. Those days are hard.
– Whiny children.
– People with negative/depressed attitudes.
Things that infused me with happiness:
– Tea drank slowly in a quiet house, with a loyal, longtime friend. I think the happiness was due partly to the friend and partly to the luxury of a quiet house.
– A child with a sense of humor and larger-than-life view of the world, telling me about her day at school.
– Bright spring green colors, with a backdrop of dark storm clouds—such great contrast!—and a brisk walk among all that glorious nature, with Kevin. 13 years together, and I still enjoy his conversation the best.
– A hug and a smile from a toddler who really loves me.
– Riding bikes to Kite Day and lying in the grass to watch the colorful, soaring kites, bright blue sky, and white puffy clouds. Soaking up the sunshine and not being in a hurry to go anyplace or do anything.
– Being outside in nature, with the sun shining.
– Watching Carson overcome his fear at the park and finally go down the tallest slide.
– Discovering baby ducklings at a nearby wetlands, with the kids. We watched them for a long time.
– Selecting colorful, sweet-smelling doughnuts from a brightly lit bakery case, for the slumber-party-girls at home. A multi-sensory experience and celebration after the last day of school! Plus, getting to shop sans kids is a treat, by itself!
– A house concert with some loud, off-key singing and mosquitoes. But, yes, I was happy because it was funny and we laughed. A lot. And the kids were so cute clapping to the music and enjoying themselves and the people there were great.
– Being with two particular girlfriends who always make me smile and reach out to me, and other people around them. (Positive people!) I need to get together with these gals more often.
– Watching the kids run wild in the common area behind our house, teasing and chasing each other, with big smiles plastered on their faces. Often the neighbors join them out there. Now that our toddler is older, the four kids are like one cohesive pack.
– Our neighborhood pool, because it’s so peaceful there and I’m an extravert so there’s always someone to talk to. I love the lazy hours that we spend there. Summer is here!
Rubin addresses the issue of whether the pursuit of happiness is selfish. When a person is happy, those around them are happier. Happy people contribute more to their families and to society. So, the pursuit of happiness benefits others, aside from the individual pursing happiness. I think the whole topic of the pursuit of happiness is interesting. I have enjoyed Rubin’s books, stories, and happiness research.