Better Than Before

better than before jacketBetter Than Before: Mastering the Habit of Our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Rubin

The author of The Happiness Project turns her attention to the way we shape our lives with habits, in both positive and negative ways. Rubin’s research shows that one method of creating good habits doesn’t work for everyone. There is a quiz to determine the reader’s tendency or personality type. I don’t seem to fit into her categories of Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel, but many readers may find this helpful. The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg is a more thought-provoking book about habit formation, but Rubin’s book is more practical, full of personal anecdotes about how the author and her extended family found that successfully making new habits can greatly affect their lives. One insight I learned from Better Than Before is that restarting a habit, such as exercise, can be more difficult than starting it in the first place. For more information about habits and happiness, visit the author’s website.

Happier at Home

Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin

Gretchen Rubin takes another look at happiness, after her 2009 book, The Happiness Project. When her younger daughter starts kindergarten, Gretchen decides to take the next nine months to focus on happiness within the home and family. She describes herself quite frankly: how she’s trying to use her “mean face” less often to her family, how a perfect day is one spent at home, that she doesn’t like to make phone calls, and dreads driving (not so surprising as she lives in New York City). Older daughter Eliza and Gretchen go on Wednesday afternoon adventures together, often to museums. Gretchen collaborates on a children’s book project with her sister, finally deals with the backlog of family photos, and asks her family to knock on her office door so she can greet them more pleasantly.

I like her suggestions to keep clearing clutter, focus on your family’s happiness, be yourself, and how spending fifteen minutes a day on something you’d rather put off can actually make you happier. I enjoyed her explorations of good scents, having a miniature landscape created for the family, and how she practiced under-reacting to problems. She decided to celebrate minor holidays with festive breakfasts, and make the family happier by emailing anecdotes and cute pictures of the girls, including young Eleanor’s first loose tooth. I suggest starting with her first book, The Happiness Project, but I enjoyed another visit with Gretchen and more ideas to make home a happy, peaceful place. Read more at the author’s website.