• December 2014

Happiness Rules

Are you happy? Not the “great hair day” or “I’m in my skinny jeans” kind of happy. Not “the new shipment of my new book finally arrived” kind of joy, either. We’re interested in the deep, gut-level happiness you feel when you are living the life you dream of.

That’s the kind of happiness that Gretchen Rubin aspired to find when she penned The Happiness Project: Or, why I spent a year trying to sing in the morning, clean my closets, fight right, read Aristotle, and generally have more fun.

“I’d always vaguely expected to outgrow my limitations,” she writes. “One day, I’d stop twisting my hair, and wearing running shoes all the time, and eating exactly the same food every day. I’d remember my friends’ birthdays, I’d learn Photoshop, I wouldn’t let my daughter watch TV during breakfast. I’d read Shakespeare. I’d spend more time laughing and having fun, I’d be more polite, I’d visit museums more often, I wouldn’t be scared to drive.”

Then, one April morning, she had a sudden realization. “I was in danger of wasting my life. As I stared out the rain-spattered window of a city bus, I saw that the years were slipping by. ‘What do I want from life, anyway?’ I asked myself. ‘Well, I want to be happy.’”

At that moment, she grasped two things: “I wasn’t as happy as I could be, and my life wasn’t going to change unless I made it change.”

And so Rubin made a promise to herself. For the next 12 months, she embarked on a project she called “The Happiness Project.” It’s a powerful process. One that Rubin has given us permission to share with our readers over the next year. In January, for instance, you’ll learn to boost your energy. In June, you’ll make time for friends. By making small changes each month in 12 areas, at this time next year, you’ll be happier—and your closets will be cleaner, too.

On Jan. 1, 2015, be on the lookout for your first assignment. For now, scroll down to read our Q&A with Rubin. For even more insights, listen to our podcast interview on Inkandescent Radio.

What makes us happy at The Inkandescent Group? For starters, it’s the new office we opened last month at 1719 W. Main Street in Richmond, VA. We are working with the talented students and faculty in the PR, video, and arts program at Virginia Commonwealth University, and several of those students are our newest Inkandescent Interns. The next time you are in town, stop by and visit our new digs!

Also in this issue:

  • Which countries have the happiest people? Why do people in isolated Bhutan measure Gross National Happiness? And is happiness really good for your health? Don’t miss these interesting research studies. Check out the latest happiness research.
  • If you are a student with a loan, how do you feel about being in debt to the federal government for the foreseeable future? That’s the question college junior Eurah Lee tackles in her first episode of the new Millennials Radio Show.

And that’s just for starters. We hope that this issue inspires you to find what makes you truly happy—and puts you on the path to accomplish your goals.

We leave you with this parting thought from Benjamin Franklin, whose Autobiography inspired Rubin. Franklin insisted: “Happiness depends more on the inward disposition of mind than on outward circumstances.”

Here’s to finding your inner bliss! Happy holidays from the entire Inkandescent team. — Hope Katz Gibbs, publisher, Be Inkandescent magazine

Gretchen Rubin's Happiness Project: Prepare to Smile

COVER STORY: DECEMBER 2014

SING IN THE MORNING. CLEAN YOUR CLOSETS. FIGHT RIGHT. READ ARISTOTLE.

Author Gretchen Rubin Challenges Us to Be Happier in 12 Months

By Hope Katz Gibbs, Publisher
Be Inkandescent

Gretchen Rubin was a young lawyer clerking for Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor when she realized that what she really wanted to be was a writer.

Since then, she has written several books, including the bestselling “Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill,” and her uber-popular “The Happiness Project: Or, why I spent a year trying to sing in the morning, clean my closets, fight right, read Aristotle, and generally have more fun.”

Best-selling author Dan Pink said of the book, “This is a rare book that will make you both smile and think—often on the same page.”

We couldn’t agree more, so it was a pleasure to interview Rubin from her home office in New York City and find out about the project she devised that has made strides and changed lives—her own and others’.

Scroll down for our Q&A. Click here to listen to our podcast interview.


Be Inkandescent: So let’s get down to business! In your book, “The Happiness Project,” you talk about having an epiphany one rainy afternoon on a city bus. Tell us about that moment.

Gretchen Rubin: It was pouring rain, and I was on a city bus that was moving very slowly. I looked out the window and thought, “What do I want in life anyway?” In the rush of life, you rarely take the opportunity to step back and ask yourself big, transcendent questions. And when I did, I thought, “Well, I want to be happy.” I realized I didn’t spend any time thinking about whether I was happy, or if I could be happier.

In a flash I decided I should have a “happier project” —that was the phrase that occurred to me. The next day I went to the library, got a huge stack of books, and started researching happiness. I wanted to know what everybody knows about what can make you happy, or how to make yourself happier, and I wanted to try everything to see if it really works.

At first the project was just going to be for me. I was finishing writing a biography of John F. Kennedy, and happiness research was just something I was doing for fun for myself. But the research is so rich and fascinating that I found myself spending more and more time on it, and finally I thought, “Maybe this should be my next book.” The book asks: Can you make yourself happier? And if so, how can you make yourself happier? It’s really compelling.

Be Inkandescent: In the 12 months that followed, adventures ensued. What inspired your list—from boosting your energy in January, to getting serious about play in May?

Gretchen Rubin: I figured that a year was long enough for real change to happen, and short enough that it felt manageable. Since there are 12 months of the year, I decided to figure out what elements in my life contribute most to my happiness—and focus on some of them each month.

Be Inkandescent: Some of your choices are a little out of the norm.

Gretchen Rubin: That’s right. For example, a lot of people would include adventure in their happiness project. I know that I am not a very adventurous person, so that is not something that would make me happy.

I decided to start my happiness project with energy, because I figured if I had more energy, then everything else that followed would seem easier, which I think is very much the case with all of us. When we are feeling overwhelmed and drained, it is very hard to take the time to do things, even when you know those things are going to make you happier.

I also wanted to focus on different aspects of my life that make me happy—such as my marriage, work, play, and parenthood (I have two daughters). Just figuring out the list was a very helpful intellectual exercise.

Try it. If you were going to pick 12 things in your life that you want to work on, what would they be?

Be Inkandescent: Talk about your desire to be a better parent.

Gretchen Rubin: This was really important to me. I realized that I was losing my temper very quickly; apparently I make a terrifyingly mean face.

I wanted to be more tender, more attentive, and sillier. A lot of the resolutions I made were around that—to try to be different and to make a different atmosphere in our home. I think my resolutions about parenthood really made a big difference, to me and to my family. When I lighten up, they lighten up, too.

Be Inkandescent: Was there any particular month you really found to be happy, and another you didn’t?

Gretchen Rubin: That’s an interesting question. I think all of the months were challenging, because I was picking things I wanted to change, or things I wanted to do differently. But it’s tough to say sometimes whether some things were easy or hard.

For example, going to bed on time. Is that hard or is that easy? After all, what is so hard about going to bed on time? But in practice, it is kind of hard—not that it’s difficult to do; it’s that you have to make up your mind to do it and stick to it.

Some things were easy and very fun, like my choice to kiss my husband every morning and every night. That is very easy, and very nice.

The bottom line is that being happy boils down to the decision to expect more from yourself, figuring out the fine line between the natural limitations of your nature, and the places that you should expect more.

Be Inkandescent: What does it mean to be happy?

Gretchen Rubin: I started my career in law, and I have happy memories of spending an entire semester arguing about the definition of contract. If anything, defining and understanding happiness is even more elusive. There are actually 15 academic definitions of happiness, and you can spend a lot of time arguing about contentment versus bliss. I feel that for most people, it’s not that helpful to worry so much about what happiness is. It’s actually easier to think about being happier.

Does money buy happiness? And what do the brain and body do when you’re happy? Read all about it.

New Year's Resolution: Start Your Own Happiness Project

“Each person’s happiness project will be unique, but it’s the rare person who can’t benefit from starting one,” writes Gretchen Rubin in her book, “The Happiness Project.”

  • Start small: Put your keys away in the same place every night.
  • Think big: Repair relationships with your family.

Most importantly, decide what resolutions to make by answering the following questions:

  • What makes you feel good? What activities do you find fun, satisfying, or energizing?
  • What makes you feel bad? What are the sources of anger, irritation, boredom, frustration, or anxiety in your life?
  • Is there any way in which you don’t feel right about your life? Do you wish you could change your job, city, family situation, or other circumstances? Are you living up to your expectations for yourself? Does your life reflect your values?
  • Do you have sources of an atmosphere of growth? In what elements of your life do you find progress, learning, challenge, improvement, and increased mastery?

Once you’ve made your resolutions, find a strategy to assess your progress and hold yourself accountable.

  • Record and score your resolutions.
  • Keep a one-sentence journal on any topic you like.
  • Identify your personal commandments: Share your happiness hacks, your Secrets of Adulthood, and any kind of list that keeps you on track.
  • Create an inspiration board of your favorite books, quotes, movies, or images.
  • Want to start a group for people also doing happiness projects? Send Rubin an email.


9 Tips to Make Keeping Your Resolutions Easier

  1. Write it down … and be specific. Not “make more friends,” but “start a movie group, “remember birthdays,” “say hello,” “make plans.”
  2. Review your resolution constantly. If your resolution is buzzing through your head, it’s easier to stick to it.
  3. Hold yourself accountable. Tell people about your resolution, join or form a like-minded group, score yourself on a chart.
  4. Think BIG! Maybe you need a big change, a big adventure—a trip, a break-up, a new job.
  5. Think SMALL! Don’t assume that only radical change can make a difference. Cleaning your fridge can give you a real boost.
  6. Break your main resolution into manageable tasks.
  7. Keep your resolution every day. Weirdly, it’s often easier to do something every day (exercise, post to a blog, deal with the mail) than every few days.
  8. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Instead of training for a marathon, aim for a daily 20-minute walk. Instead of cleaning the basement, tackle one closet.
  9. Consider dropping a resolution if you keep breaking it. Don’t let an unfulfilled resolution to lose 20 pounds or give up TV block you.

Learn more about Gretchen Rubin and her happiness project at gretchenrubin.com.

Education is an admirable thing to have, but it is well to remember that nothing worth knowing can be taught.”

– Oscar Wilde

Do one thing every day that scares you.”

– Eleanor Roosevelt

Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow know what you truly want to become.”

– Steve Jobs

Letting go of expectations is a ticket to peace. It allows us to ride over every crisis—small or large—like a beach ball on water.”

– Martha Beck

Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”

– Christopher Robin to Pooh

Do not be afraid of mistakes, providing you do not make the same one twice.”

– Eleanor Roosevelt

The fixity of a habit is generally in direct proportion to its absurdity.”

– Marcel Proust

Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.”

– Groucho Marx

It is only when the mind is free from the old that it meets everything anew, and in that there is joy.”

– J. Kristnhamurti, The First and Last Freedom

Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity.”

– Ray Bradbury

Passion makes perfect.”

– Eugene Biro

Change is a math formula. Change happens when the cost of the status quo is greater than the risk of change.”

– Alan Webber, author, "Rules of Thumb"

Think of yourself as on the threshold of unparalleled success. A whole, clear, glorious life lies before you. Achieve! Achieve!”

– Andrew Carnegie

The goal of Life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe, to match your nature with nature.”

– Joseph Cambell

As each woman realizes her power, she transforms the world.”

– Patrice Wynne, WomanSpirit Sourcebook

Of course there is no formula for success except perhaps an unconditional acceptance of life and what it brings.”

– Arthur Rubinstein

When I was younger I thought success was being a star, driving nice cars, having groupies. But today I think the most important thing is to live your life with integrity.

– Ellen DeGeneres

If you do not tell the truth about yourself
, you cannot tell it about other people.”

– Virginia Woolf

Traveling is one way of lengthening life, at least in appearance.”

– Benjamin Franklin

Destiny is a name often given in retrospect to choices that had dramatic consequences.”

– J.K. Rowling

When we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard or welcomed. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak.”

– Audre Lorde

The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware.”

– Henry Miller

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

– Leonardo da Vinci

If you think you are too small to make a difference, try going to sleep with a mosquito in your room.”

– A wisdomism

I can’t go back to yesterday—because I was a different person then.”

– Lewis Carroll

A truly forgiving person is someone who experiences all the anger merited by injustice and still acts with fairness and compassion.”

– Martha Beck

I was taught at a very young age that you can do whatever you want to, but you have to make it happen — not just talk about it.”

– Kathleen Jo Ryan

If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. 
Now put foundations under them.”

– Henry David Thoreau

‎No one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of another.”

– Charles Dickens

Pretend that every single person you meet has a sign around his or her neck that says, ‘Make Me Feel Important.’ Not only will you succeed in sales, you will succeed in life.”

– Mary Kay Ash

A people who mean to be their Governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”

– James Madison

A warrior cannot complain or regret anything. His life is an endless challenge, and challenges cannot possibly be good or bad. Challenges are simply challenges.”

– Carlos Castaneda

Look at everything as though you were
seeing it either for the first or last time.
Then your time on earth will be filled with glory.”

– Betty Smith

Destiny is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.”

– William Jennings Bryan

A man who strikes first admits that his ideas have given out.”

– Chinese Proverb

You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead, pursue the things you love doing.”

– Maya Angelou

Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love.”

– Jalaluddin Rumi

Anything not worth doing well is not worth doing.”

– Warren Buffett

When a dog runs at you, whistle for him.”

– Henry David Thoreau

If you want to be busy, keep trying to be perfect. If you want to be happy, focus on making a difference.”

– Lisa Earle McLeod

I will pay more for the ability to deal with people than any other ability under the sun.”

– John D. Rockefeller

No matter how difficult and painful it may be, nothing sounds as good to the soul as the truth.”

– Martha Beck, from "Leaving the Saints"

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

– Thomas Edison

Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any one thing.”

– Abraham Lincoln

We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”

– Joseph Campbell

Death is to lose the earth you know, for greater knowing; to lose the life you have, for greater life; to leave the friends you loved, for greater loving; to find a land more kind than home, more large than earth.”

– Thomas Wolfe

Our deepest wishes are whispers of our authentic selves. We must learn to respect them. We must learn to listen.”

– Sarah Ban Breathnach

Happy are those who dream dreams and are ready to pay the price to make them come true.”

– Leon Joseph Suenens

Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.”

– Dalai Lama

Inspiration and genius — one and the same.”

– Victor Hugo

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