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The Happiness Project, For Introverts (Courtesy of Gretchen Rubin)

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Today I want to share some of my favorite insights from my friend Gretchen Rubin’s inspiring blog and book, The Happiness Project. (The occasion of this post is today’s release of the paperback; the hardcover was a #1 New York Times bestseller and is being translated into 31 languages. Very proud of her!)

The Happiness Project is an account of the year Gretchen spent test-driving studies and theories about how to be happier. The book isn’t geared specifically to introverts, but I’ve been struck by how many useful pearls of wisdom it offers for all temperaments. (Gretchen writes that she scored “medium-low” on a personality test for extroversion, which is basically like being a moderate introvert. If I had to guess, I would say she’s an “ambivert” – in many ways combining the best of both types.)

Here are three of my favorite insights from Gretchen’s work that should be helpful for many introverts, plus an extra one that she wrote specifically for this post:

1. Be yourself.

“What’s fun for other people may not be fun for you-and vice versa,” says Gretchen.

“I don’t know why this bit of wisdom is so hard to keep in mind, but it is… The problem for me comes when I wish that I did enjoy things that I don’t really enjoy, or that I have interests that I don’t really have. I have an idea of who I wish I were, and that obscures my understanding of who I actually am ..

For example, an extremely athletic, well-rounded friend of mine said to me, with great enthusiasm,’ My idea of a great weekend is when I get outside with my kids for at least two hours before lunch and two hours after lunch.’

Now, that’s great. Healthy, active, family time. Right? Doesn’t that sound terrific?

Well, not really. Actually, I admitted to myself, my idea of a great weekend is when we all lie around reading in our pajamas until mid-afternoon.

Now, maybe that’s not the best way to spend a weekend. Maybe it wouldn’t even make me happy to do that two days in a row…But that’s the kind of thing I like.”

2. Get rid of your clutter!

“Outer order contributes to inner calm,” says Gretchen.

3. Faking it helps you make it.

“Although we presume that we act because of the way we feel, in fact, we often feel because of the way we act. More than a century ago, philosopher and psychologist William James described this phenomenon: “Action seems to follow feeling, but really action and feeling go together; and by regulating the action, which is under the more direct control of the will, we can indirectly regulate the feeling, which is not.” By acting as if you feel a certain way, you induce that emotion in yourself.

I use this strategy on myself. If I feel shy, I act friendly. If I feel irritated, I act lovingly. This is much harder to do than it sounds, but it’s uncannily effective.

…It really works. When I can make myself do it.”

4. I also asked Gretchen to comment specifically on introversion for this post, and here’s what she said:

“In my study of happiness, two things have stood out to me: first, that a key aspect to happiness is strong bonds with other people, and second, that we can build a happy life only on the foundation of our own temperament, interests, and values. So while strong bonds seem to be important to everyone, the fact that a lot of people seem to like going to cocktail parties, or enjoy working closely with other people, doesn’t mean that those circumstances will make you happy. You may get a lift from connection in very different situations. I have to remind myself all the time, ‘Just because something is fun for someone else doesn’t mean it’s fun for me.’ The more we know ourselves, the better we can shape our lives to support our happiness.”

Do Gretchen’s ideas resonate for you? What are your tried-and-true happiness boosters? Please share!


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6 Comments

  1. Maureen McCabe on 01.03.2011 at 12:20 (Reply)

    I found your site through her site.

  2. Susan on 01.03.2011 at 15:18 (Reply)

    Glad you are here!

  3. Regina on 01.03.2011 at 21:52 (Reply)

    I’m in my early 30′s and I wish your blog existed in my 20s. Everything you say resonates very true and I’m only recently finding people like myself. It’s been nice extending myself — and making sure what I like and don’t like- but it’s been great being true to me. A happy day for me is a day of cooking, exercise and writing. That’s my secret recipe- productive time alone. My 2yo toddler is on my leg the rest of the day! Thank you for empowering the introverts, even those who don’t “seem” to be.

  4. Luna on 02.03.2011 at 14:24 (Reply)

    Regina that sounds like a happy day for me too! Except my toddler did this weird growing up into a teenager thing (the nerve of him) though thank goodness he tends to be a well rounded introvert as does my husband. House guests…now that is a challenge all that talking, crowding, entertaining.

  5. Danielle Gauthier on 09.05.2011 at 19:50 (Reply)

    Happiness is cuddling a loving dog, or leafing through a book about baby animals. Happiness is watching funny animal videos. Some really crack me up while others just warm my heart. It is also watching old biblical movies all night long while munching on popcorn in warm, fluffy oversized jammies. It’s falling asleep listening to native flute music. Happiness is watching back-to-back documentaries about sharks, whales, dolphins and all things with flippers. It is also watching volcano documentaries as well as archealogical searches around the world. But most of all, Happiness is sinking my toes in Hawaiian sand and getting to know the people there. I miss that so much I’d settle for the beach around Champlain Lake in Plattsburgh and a plate full of their yummy seafood. Hope a moment of happiness finds each and everyone of you real soon.

  6. Should We Ever See Worship as an Option? | Journey of Worship on 23.08.2011 at 09:13

    [...] “Although we presume that we act because of the way we feel, in fact, we often feel because of the way we act. More than a century ago, philosopher and psychologist William James described this phenomenon: “Action seems to follow feeling, but really action and feeling go together; and by regulating the action, which is under the more direct control of the will, we can indirectly regulate the feeling, which is not.” By acting as if you feel a certain way, you induce that emotion in yourself.” (from The Happines Project by Gretchen Rubin quoted on the blog Quiet: The Power of Introverts) [...]

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