The XX Factor

Happiness: Tried, Tested, Now Let’s Move On

Hot off the heels of Elizabeth Weil’s ode to ever-striving, entirely self-conscious happiness in marriage, Mark Frauenfelder at BoingBoing reports on Gretchen Rubin’s forthcoming memoir , The Happiness Project , which details the year Rubin spent consuming all the scientific research on happiness she could get her hands on and incorporating the takeaways into her life to see whether she could become happier. ( Disclosure: Rubin hosted her blog last year on our parent site Slate -ed . ) Admittedly, Rubin was starting from a good place-she had a happy marriage, two kids, a successful writing career, and an apartment in New York. But ultimately she wanted to see whether she could learn to appreciate life more, quit her habitual nagging and whining, and stop getting easily annoyed with the smaller setbacks. Her chosen means of incorporating the fruits of her research? A monthly chart (inspired by Benjamin Franklin’s 13-point chart for virtuous living) that broke down her resolutions into small steps and helped her learn to value the larger picture on a daily basis. The BoingBoing post has a Word document link to Rubin’s chart.

Happiness has been abound lately, though not necessarily as a state of being for anyone. Last year, an NBER study was kind enough to point out how women are quite unhappy these days compared with the happiness heydays of the 1970s (a study, as you probably remember, that was used point-blank to tear down feminism, disregarding a whole bunch of factors, including the obvious point that it was much more taboo for a woman in the 1970s to say she was unhappy). Now we seem to find resonance with the stories of perfectly happy women like Rubin and Weil second-guessing their happiness. Which serves what point, exactly? That we’re willing to become unraveled and binge on self-help tokens because some outside force says we couldn’t possibly satisfied with our lot? Or just that the very concept of happiness is somewhat unobtainable?