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?

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47 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I always try to follow the rules but I like Gretchen’s way of thinking! I also like to eat and read, eat and watch TV in my bedroom, and eat and have date nights with my husband who is also eating! LOL
    Thanks LouAnn for posting this…

  2. yes I break many rules too. To each OUR own right? TV Laptop and phone– in my bed ha ha. No date night either– we spend enough time together. (smile) I like to be left alone.. and quiet.. no talking

  3. I’m a rule breaker. We each know what brings comfort and calm to our own life. It’s one thing for other people to offer suggestions, it’s quite another to imply that if you don’t do x,y, and z then there’s something wrong with you. I think our society is full of sources that “should” on us. We need to just do what feels right. When that stops working, try something else. There are no rules for what make each of us individually happy, but isn’t it funny how many people are vulnerable to these sorts of outside pressures. Simplify or go bigger, it’s up to you, and that freedom to decide is what ultimately makes me happy.
    PS – Like Ruth, I enjoy eating in my room and watching TV 🙂

    • I agree- we have choices and the “shoulds” should not make them for us – to each our own

  4. Break the rules for happiness/bliss. What rules? 🙂 I am happiest when I have no worries but as you have written there are moments within 24 hours that something is bound to be blissful. I don’t have a TV in my bedroom simply because I stopped watching TV about last May. I don’t miss it all. There is no one to eat a meal with so I generally eat while working or reading from the computer or maybe work a crossword puzzle. Gotta try to keep this old brain alive and well. I don’t meditate either- its like the woman you wrote about. It is stressful. I think some people have brains geared for meditation and some people simply can not do it. We probably have too many distractions and I can not do anything about that part of my life. 🙂

    • I think keeping our brain alive and well is a lifelong thing–and some of us are just not meant to meditate

  5. I guess I too am a rule breaker, I found I not only didn’t sleep well with a tv in the room (I would get sucked into something that went well beyond the time I should have been sleeping) but found I didn’t like TV at all. So while the trend is to get large TVs I have none. I also read while eating and do both in my bed when I feel like it.

    • we all have our druthers and have found out what works well for us–reading and eating go well together particularly when you are alone–I generally don’t read when I have company (lol)

      • No I don’t read when I have company either, how rude that would be.

      • I was just kidding 🙂

  6. That picture on your post made me happy, Lou Ann. I think happiness and bliss is different for everyone. One of my best descriptions: On the couch in pjs with hubby and my pups eating popcorn and watching good movies….best thing in the world. I’m going to check that book out — sounds right up my alley.

  7. Loved the photo of twins and loved Gretchen’s book. Happiness should be doing the things that make you happy, not the things that others say will make you happy. Would rather nurse a glass of wine than do yoga any day!

    On Saturday night my husband, son and I got out of our comfort zone and ate at a vegetarian Indian restaurant, a big stretch for people who always end up eating Italian or Mexican. We went in there with a sense of adventure and left feeling very blissful. Just opening our mental floodgates to new experiences allows bliss to break through!

    • I prefer the wine too–
      What a lovely adventure you had–and to come away from it feeling blissful had to be a wonderful thing–sometimes it is the unexpected that gives us bliss

  8. Each one of us is so different, it’s not surprising what I find relaxing or blissful might not be to someone else. I love to meditate. My husband has tried it many times in the past, but it’s just not his cup of tea. He’d prefer to go for long jogs, get outside, keep moving. It’s his form of meditation in a way.

    • I think we all have ways of meditating even if they are not the traditional–I will bet that you gain a lot from being able to meditate–I kind of lose track when I meditate

  9. what a great post…
    I will read again it made me smile
    starting with the photo
    and I loved the last paragraph
    Take Care

  10. I don’t think you can have happiness if you follow rules – I mean, where is all the freedom? 🙂

    Choc Chip Uru

  11. I don’t know if I break any rules – there shouldn’t be any rules for happiness and bliss. Just do what feels right for you and gives you that wonderful complete feeling!! That’s what I think anyway :).

  12. We try to be good and not watch tv while eating…..not eat in bed……meditate because it is supposed to relieve stress. This is dictated to us by experts who want us to lead a full and enriched life. I like watching tv with a tray of food on my lap, I like to munch on potato chips in bed, and I find it, as you said, stressful to meditate, and yet I feel I have a perfectly full and rich life. Take from the experts what works for you and leave the rest.

    • that is exactly how one should do it–especially if it results in a full and rich life

  13. I totally break the rules, all the time. Don’t blame myself, though, because we are all different. You probably wouldn’t enjoy sleeping in my hammock with my doggie on my feet near as much as I do!

    • true but I probably do things you would not want to do either–actually it sounds kind of nice

  14. We will break the rules and instead of having that quality family dinner conversation during the family dinner which often is hard to come by with competing parent work and teen activity schedules, will sometimes all haul our dinner plates into the t.v. room and find a fun movie or show to watch together while we eat. We ended up enjoying all the episodes of “Lost” as a family that way, and actually that series did promote some interesting conversations, as well. I think I will bring up the happiness book on my nook as I downloaded it sometime ago and hadn’t decided what to read yet! Thanks LouAnn ~ Kat

    • we have enjoyed many a dinner in front of the tv as a family and had fun
      hope you like the book

  15. I like to eat and read (alone) too, I watched Downton Abbey in my bed last night and meditating would just make me feel silly – I’d rather have a glass of wine. 🙂

  16. I think you’ve hit upon the key point here: finding our bliss doesn’t mean we can only follow standard ‘rules’ of finding it. I’m also a big fan of reading while eating (or watching something while eating) and meditation makes me squirm. As long as we know how we find our bliss, who cares if our methods don’t go by the book? 😉

    • exactly – you are right–so many rules to follow, so many more to break!

  17. I like her way of thinking… I don’t fret if forget to make my bed, or if my husband and I eat our dinner watching t.v. instead of sitting at the kitchen table….I wear what’s comfortable and if I’m having a very lazy day…I may not even get dressed..Oh my …now everyone is going to know all my secrets…Well not all…Diane

  18. Happiness and bliss as fraternal twins is brilliant. As far as your question, breaking the rules may depend on the day and the feeling it brings.

    • I agree–it all depends on the day–and thanks for the compliment–I like when people catch something I have thrown out there

  19. I would love to have a tv in the bedroom, but I don’t know where to put it. the bedroom is so narrow and any shelf would be too high or on the side of the bed. I think that would give me a wicked neck cramp. Maybe I should just start sleeping on the couch.

    • My hubby bought a 50″ TV for the bedroom, so I had to give up my mirror above my dresser so he could put it on the wall right opposite the bed. It’s like laying in a bed at the movie theatre! LOL

    • my husband does that–works for him

  20. I think I break rules. I remember I was in this stress management seminar and we were asked to picture a place that made us feel peaceful. When she asked us to share what we imagined, everyone said things like a babbling brook, a forest, a field of wild flowers. I said “Times Square.” They all looked at me like I was insane. But for me, there is nothing more peaceful than sitting on a chair in the middle of Times Square (they block the street off to cars on certain days, just in case someone out there thinks I am REALLY insane), watching the people go by. They all just shook their heads at me and politely went on to the next person. Oh well. Bliss really is subjective.

    • I love that answer–so unexpected — you are right bliss is subjective but in your case–so interesting

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