Happiness and Bliss

fraternal twins

fraternal twins (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“…happiness need not shout its presence…” ~ Mimi from Waiting for the Karma Truck (mimijk)

Happiness is the  twin sister of bliss, but not identical. Fraternal if you will. As I continue my bliss project in its many guises– happiness, that seemingly elusive state of bliss, is within our reach. William Morris said that: “The true secret of happiness lies in the taking (of) a genuine interest in all the details of daily life.” Gretchen Rubin, author of the “Happiness Project”, and more recently the book “Happier at Home” took a “genuine interest in all the details of daily life” in both of her books.

Her first book on happiness spent more than 60 weeks on The Globe and Mail bestseller list, so obviously the topic resonates with the general public. Five years later, while her happiness project did not really change her life, she says that it “did heighten my happiness”.  In the introduction to her latest book she said, “I was able to change my life without changing my life”. This meant not taking her circumstances for granted, or allowing herself to become vexed by petty annoyances or fleeting worries. She wanted “to appreciate… life more and live up to it better.”

Why did Gretchen want to expand her happiness project, or more accurately, focus it on home? In her own words, she says, “Behind our unremarkable front door waits the little world of our making, a place of safety, exploration, comfort, and love.”

The “Happier at Home” book is broken down into monthly chapters. January is the month she decides to “Cram My Day with What I Love.” The first month of the New Year gives her a “fresh burst of resolution-keeping zeal.” She decided her theme for the year would be: ‘Bigger’. Contrary to the ever popular “urge to simplify, keep things small and manageable”, ‘Bigger’ challenged her to “think big” and “tolerate complications and failure”.

I think this is a breakthrough. We are so often counselled to simplify our lives, to unclutter, declutter and sometimes almost live in a sterile environment that is then supposed to breed comfort, bliss, success, and simplicity.

Gretchen says that she violates the standard happiness advice in these ways: she and her husband got a bigger TV in their bedroom; she never has dates nights with her husband; whenever possible she reads when she eats; she refuses to try meditation; and she listens to all-news radio all night long. We are often told not to have a TV in our bedrooms and if we do, it should be small; we are chastised for not finding specific “couple time”; we are told to eat our meals deliberately with no outside influences; meditation is the be-all and end-all for relaxation; and news is supposed to steal our bliss.

I too like to read when I eat (when I am alone); watch the news; and I find meditation stressful. I like Gretchen’s honesty, and that she breaks the rules to create her own kind of happiness.

Do you break the standard happiness rules to find your bliss?