I've always been a big fan of Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project and I was thrilled when I first learned she was coming out with a new book (see my review of her last book, The Happiness Project, here). I was even more thrilled when I received an advanced copy for review!
Gretchen's last book was a great overview of her year-long happiness project, but her latest book, Happier at Home, narrows in on a specific topic: home. Gretchen writes, "Because I realized that of the many elements that influnced my happiness, my home -- in all its aspects -- was the most important, I decided to take some time to concentrate my efforts there.
The book is an account of the various strategies Gretchen used to make her home happier. Gretchen devotes a chapter to each of the following elements of home: Possessions, Marriage, Parenthood, Interior Design, Time, Body, Family, Neighborhood, and (my personal favorite) Now. No matter what the word "home"means to you (and I would imagine that it's much different for all of us), Gretchen's book provides insights and ideas that could make any home a more enjoyable place to be.
Though I enjoyed reading each chapter -- and getting a peak into Gretchen's home life, so different from my own! -- I had a few favorite sections. The one I discuss below -- "Make the Positive Argument" -- is the one that really stuck with me. Like many of Gretchen's insights, it provided a new (and positive!) perspective for looking at my life. Her words of wisdom opened my eyes to a new way of seeing things -- and isn't that what every great book should do?
Gretchen's Wisdom : Make the Positive Argument
"When a person takes a position, he or she looks for evidence to support it and then stops, satisfied. This mental process gives the illusion that a position is objective and well justified. However, a person can often make the very opposite argument... If I tell myself 'I'm a shy person,' I marshal examples of my shyness; if I tell myself 'I'm an outgoing person,' I remember the times when I was outgoing."
At first glance, I thought to myself, You can't just make a positive argument for something that's not true. That's just pretending. But then I realized it's not about pretending something is different than what it is; it's about looking at the other side of the argument and see if, perhaps, the opposite, positive side might actually be true. The more I thought about this (and I did think about it quite a bit, this paragraph lingering days after I'd put down the book), the more it made sense -- and the more I realized I needed to put it into practice in my own life. I used Gretchen's own example as a starting point. I always say to myself (and others), "Oh, I'm so antisocial." Or "I'm not a people person." While I did believe those those words when I was saying them, I decided to take a different approach and say to myself, "I'm very social." My first instinct was to think, No I'm not! but when I paused for a moment and tried to make the positive argument, I found that the statement "I'm very social" could be quite true. I spend time with my friends multiple times each week. I engage in social media on a daily basis. I am in constant contact with friends and relatives via email and text. I interact with many people in person on a daily basis. Looking at the positive argument made me realize that I am, in fact, much more social than my typical "I'm antisocial" statement gives me credit for.
While I can also make the argument that I'm antisocial (I don't like to go to social gatherings or parties. I tend to prefer interacting only with one person at a time. I really enjoy time alone.), I see now that it's not so black-and-white. No matter what the argument is (positive or negative), there's often more layers than just a blanket statement -- and Gretchen's "make the positive argument" section really made me see that.
Next time you find yourself labeling something (especially yourself!) in a negative way, consider what Gretchen advised and look for the positive argument. Just as I did, you'll probably discover that your negative statement doesn't hold as much weight as you might have thought.
Bella's reading up on how to be happier at home.
Want more great insights from Gretchen about home, happiness, and creating a more positive life? Pre-order you copy of Happier at Home.
And while you're waiting for your book to arrive, check out Gretchen's The Happiness Project, a site with great tips for living a happier life.