I’ve been reading The Happiness Project for at least a year now, and it’s definitely one of my favorite daily reads. Gretchen Rubin is the author of the blog, and the book by the same name comes out late next year. Rubin posts regularly, with quotations, lists of tips, links to other websites and books along the same lines, but also includes anecdotes from her own life that are not just her successes, but also her failures or struggles along the road to happiness. Her engaging voice and grounded approach are right up my alley, but since her entries are all rather short, they are easy to absorb in a few stolen minutes during your day. I also think THP is a really effective example of how authors can use blogs to build interest for their books, but that’s not really why I read it.
Sometimes with my college students, I ask them to think about whether the ever-increasing flow of information in the digital age is more beneficial or detrimental. How do we benefit from hearing about the terrible tragedies that happen in this world, like the man in Austria who kept his daughter captive for decades, or the desperate mother in Florida who appears to have killed her three-year-old? What good does this bring to our lives? I bring up “mean world syndrome,” a theory I read first in Abandoned in the Wasteland: Children, Television, & the First Amendment when I was a student myself. Minow got the idea from George Gerbner, who was describing the negative effects of television on its viewers, but I think the idea applies just as easily to those who are heavy consumers of the news in today’s modern world.
From the linked article:
The programming reinforces the worst fears and apprehensions and paranoia of people…. Our surveys tell us that the more television people watch, the more they are likely to be afraid to go out on the street in their own community, especially at night. They are afraid of strangers and meeting other people.
Books, music, poetry, and good friends are pretty fail-safe antidotes to mean-world syndrome, but what about when you just need a small jolt, a dose of positive, constructive thinking in the middle of a tough or discouraging day? That’s when I turn to resources like The Happiness Project, to spend at least a little time each day thinking about how to be a happier person and how to help my children and my family be happier, and not about all the potential obstacles to happiness there are out there in the world. I think it’s an important frame of mind to work towards, and I need all the tools I can get.
My new favorite happiness-related resource, found through the Happiness Project, is the Authentic Happiness site at the University of Pennsylvania. It’s full of psychological questionnaires on all different aspects of personal happiness, and if you register, the site will store all your responses for you. Once you’ve taken a few, interesting patterns start to emerge, which should leave you with much food for thought.