Independent Suspension

Last week I started reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.  I wasn’t impressed at first—I thought she made a “project” out of life changes that seemed like common sense.  But, I respected all the research she did, gathering information from all sorts of sources from philosophers to cutting-edge science.  So, I kept reading, and now I’m enjoying the book a lot.

One bit of data she revealed seemed huge to me.  Researchers found that happiness and sadness are not two ends of a spectrum.  They are independent feeling states that rise and fall in no relation to each other.  So, increasing one’s happiness doesn’t guarantee less sadness, and battling sadness will not generate more happiness.

I think this is an especially important differentiation for those of us with bipolar disorder.  We can’t just focus on getting happy or eliminating our suffering.  We have to do both.

Rubin crafted a personal formula for happiness based on this research.  She said, “To be happy, I need to think about feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right in an atmosphere of growth.”  For her this meant increasing the amount of joy, pleasure, enthusiasm, gratitude, intimacy and friendship while also decreasing the occurences of guilt, remorse, shame, anger, envy, boredom, and irritation.

The formula includes “feeling right,” which addresses the sense of living one’s authentic life and also doing what needs to be done.  And all this activity takes place in “an atmosphere of growth”—stretching, striving, learning and expanding.

I like it.  If it’s not quite Bipolar Badass Training, it’s another way to take charge of our lives instead of living as victims of our mental illness.  I intend to finish this book, and then look at how to craft my own Happiness Project.  I’ll keep you posted.

For more information on the project, the book and Rubin’s other work, visit her blog.  Or to read excerpts of The Happiness Projectclick here.


8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. JAPLM
    Oct 03, 2011 @ 15:31:05

    Thanks for sharing! This seems like something I need to read and is coming at just the right time as I have recently made up my mind to stop feeling like a victim of the bipolar monster and really learn how to live my life fully while still managing the illness : )


  2. Siobhan
    Oct 03, 2011 @ 15:37:43

    I liked this book, though I thought she could be a tad whiny in parts. I liked the way there was a different focus each month. It’s an interesting book to read, you don’t have to go start to finish but can pick chapters at random, which I quite liked.


  3. strugglingwithbipolar
    Oct 03, 2011 @ 16:40:42

    This book sounds interesting. I’m going to request it from my library.


  4. Kathryn McCullough
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 08:35:52

    I started to read this, but didn’t stick with it for some of the very reasons you mention. However, I find it fascinating that happiness and sadness are unrelated emotional states. That’s hugely important information! I look forward to hearing about any project you put together.


  5. ManicMuses
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 09:27:52

    I guess a balanced life really is a mixed state! 🙂 Sounds like an interesting read…I’m going to check out her blog. Thanks for sharing!


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