Gretchen Rubin: The Happiness Project

The author of the "New York Times" bestseller discusses how to be a happier person every day.

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I always found it amazing that we’re the person who we spend the most time with and yet we can be such a mystery to ourselves.

One of my favorite things is to try to figure out indirect ways of getting insight into myself, because you can’t see yourself directly. For example, when you lie, you’re indicating that there’s something important enough to you that you’re not going to tell the truth about it. A friend of mine said that she realized she had to get control of her children’s television habits when someone asked her, ‘How much television do your children watch?’ She lied about it. She said, ‘I realized when I lied about it that I knew that I wasn’t comfortable with it. Because if I really was comfortable with it, I would have just said. Other people would have.’ Or like envy. When you think about who you envy, that’s a clue what you really want. When you think what you envy in other people, it can be an indirect glimpse of what’s going on. Sometimes we don’t want to admit to ourselves what we really think.

You’ve spoken to many people since this book came out on happiness and people share with you how the book has affected them. What have you found is the biggest, yet the most simple truth about happiness that people miss?

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That’s a very good question. I don’t know if people are missing this, but I think that in the end, the most important thing is your relationships with other people. You should always think of your life in terms of, ‘Is this going to strengthen my relationships or not?’ If you think about how to spend your time, energy or money, how will this affect your relationships? I think people know that. I think they need to be reminded of that.

What people don’t know is that a lot of people are troubled by the feeling that it’s selfish to want to be happy. They worry that if they have the elements of a happy life and they want to be happier, that they’re spoiled and preoccupied with themselves in a way that’s not laudable. Or they think that in a world that’s so full of suffering, it’s not morally appropriate to be happy. But the thing is, if you look at the research and think of your experiences with other people, it seems very clear that happy people make people happy. Happy people are more likely to volunteer; they give away money; they’re better leaders; they have better relationships with their friends and family; they’re healthier; they’re more connected to other people and people are more attracted to them. I don’t think it’s selfish to be happier, because it’s by being happier that you give yourself the emotional wherewithal to turn outward.

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