Happier at Home.

Happier at Home chronicles Gretchen Rubin's second personal happiness project (Her first happiness book is called "The Happiness Project"). Both books are about how to change your life, without changing your life - no trips to Bali, India, or Italy, no divorce etc.

In Happier at Home, Rubin embarks on a 9 month, school year length happiness project with a different theme each month. All the themes are related to home e.g., possessions, marriage, parenthood, neighborhood.

I quite often recommend Rubin's The Happiness Project book to therapy clients who I want to encourage to take a "behavioral experiments" approach to happiness. I usually recommend it at the end of the symptom reduction phase of treatment when clients are asking "What's next?" - when their symptoms are diminished but they're still missing some positive emotions (People often miss out on developing their interests and self-knowledge about their likes and preferences because they've spent so much time and energy managing their disorder).

In both of Rubin's happiness books, there is a huge amount that is compatible with Cognitive-Behavioral Therapies e.g., "Act the Way I Want to Feel" is Rubin's third personal happiness commandment. This is a central tenet of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. She gives lots of examples of how she applies this in her everyday life, that will be very useful to clients (or anyone).

Happier at Home feels to me like a braver book than the The Happiness Project. Rubin writes "I can build a happy life only on the foundation of my own nature. In my own case, I’ve found that the more my life reflects my real interests, values, and temperament, the happier I become."

In her case, her nature includes being loving, sensitive, and high in the conscientiousness personality trait, but also having some elements of being disagreeable, and irritable, a picky eater, anxious about driving, not liking to travel where there isn't access to diet soda, sometimes talking in a mean voice, taking criticism hard, and the having urge to "to keep things small" (such as her involvement in causes) to avoid feeling overwhelmed. With all the pressure on people to be self-presentational, Rubin is conscientious about keeping it real, and I loved that.

Like The Happiness Project, the major strengths of Happier at Home are that it will leave readers feeling warm, hopeful, self-accepting, curious about exploring their own nature, and like making small changes is achievable. It should help people who tend to think in all-or-nothing terms to see what it's like to commit to enacting a value but deal with conflicting wants, real life, happiness paradoxes, and imperfect performance. The book does a lovely job of showing how being self-accepting doesn't mean lowering your standards for your own behavior.

Rubin's husband and daughters are far more fleshed out characters in Happier at Home. This was rich territory for showing how to balance family involvement in a personal happiness project. 

Overall, Rubin does a great job of interpreting the science (she uses tips from happiness science but also tips from ancient wisdom, friends etc). There are quite a few topics she writes about where I know the studies she is referring to very well, and she's great at lasering in on the most important parts without distorting the research. She also sneaks in psychological models without necessarily refering to the models (e.g., temperament models), but psychologists who read will pick up on the care that has gone into the background research.  

If you already read Rubin's blog or have already read The Happiness Project and are wondering if there is anything new here that warrants purchasing the book, I think you'll be very pleased you did buy Happier at Home (I far prefer Rubin's books to her blog, without meaning to sound like I'm saying anything negative about her blog). 

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