Chemical Experiments. Also, Book Review: The Happiness Project

Good evening, readers. It was a dark and wet summer’s day in London, which is my main reason and best excuse for not having gone out today. Instead, I sat around my house, feeling the prescription drugs kick me right in the synapses, and interestedly observing the effects, as follows.

  • I feel wrecked, or to put it another way, I am fatigued, slothful and dizzy. I don’t mind this too much as it is inconvenient but not excessively unpleasant and I attribute it to the fact that we are only on Day 4 of this drug, so naturally it is hitting me quite hard. I am sure I will soon develop a tolerance for it.
  • I suddenly have a significantly reduced interest in food. Hooray!
  • I suddenly have almost no interest in sex and no physical response. This is startling. I knew it was probably coming, but I didn’t expect it to be this complete and this quick to arrive. My sex drive is quite a big part of who I am. Was quite a big part. I find this an interesting situation. I contemplate the Honcho and it’s as though he’s suddenly diminished in stature and somewhat receded into the distance, because when one takes raw sexual compulsion out of the picture, there’s no way for us to reach or communicate with each other, and nothing to say. My emotional feelings about this are neutral, as are my feelings about a lot of things.

After some deliberation, I decided not to feel guilty for spending the day sitting around. First, I went out for groceries so that I don’t starve. Then I counted myself lucky that sitting around all day is an option, not least because my back pain is receding to a level where I can sit down. I don’t think I’ve taken any painkillers today. Lastly, I realised that there are many ways to score Achievement points, so I diligently ploughed through The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin (2009, Harper Collins), scoring 1 Books point in the process and looking for tips on how to be happier.

The opening of the book finds Gretchen Rubin in a state of not being particularly depressed. In fact, she has a nice life. She lives in a swanky Manhattan apartment with her attractive husband and gifted children and enjoys being a journalist. Despite this, one can always stand to be a little happier, so she invents this project. She does some research into what philosophy and psychology have to say about happiness, shapes it into a year-long plan and then implements it. As you can see this is all well within the territory of first world problems but nonetheless it is interesting to me, so here are what I thought were the relevant parts.

  • January: Boost Energy. Gretchen’s month is organised around goals such as getting enough sleep, exercising, decluttering at home and tackling nagging tasks. I think I am reasonably strong in this area, not that I always succeed, but I know what to do and how to do it and I can take decisive action.
  • March: Work. This was an interesting one to consider. I am lucky to have a lot of autonomy in my job. What I should maybe do is identify which parts of my job are the most enjoyable and develop them. Additionally, Gretchen makes her office into a slightly nicer environment and starts using productivity tools, which I am not going to scoff at.
  • May: Leisure. I tend to agree with Gretchen that having fun is important. My sense of humour is vital to my personality and sense of wellbeing. The book recommends taking time to be silly and I so heartily endorse that idea but I think I forgot how. I could do with thinking about this. More silliness would be a good thing. Maybe I should arrange to do something outrageously tacky. I would go to Disney if I hadn’t already been. I should go to Sanrio Puroland in Japan. Hmm. I’ve just spent the 45 minutes since I wrote that browsing adventure holidays. Look at that – I could take a two-week tour of Benin and Togo that is called ‘Cradle of Voodoo’. It sounds really good. It would be great if I got to next year and I could say ‘Oh man, 2014 was amazing, I spent two weeks in Africa in the Cradle of Voodoo’.
  • June: Make time for your friends, always sound advice. Gretchen additionally sets herself the challenge of making three new friends. I should go to some activities and meet some new people in a context that is not dating. The email account that I mainly reserve for the Honcho also receives regular updates from a London knitting group, I went once and enjoyed it, I should go again. And there’s a debate club that I’ve never been to.
  • September: Pursue a passion. This is usually a big part of what fuels TLYW but it has been in short supply lately and might be even shorter if my newly-deceased libido is anything to go by. Maybe this ties in to what I was thinking the other day about fulfilling life ambitions. It might soon be time for me to start playing the vibraphone or the marimba or something like that. Or I could get back into Chinese and work towards taking a test and getting a certificate for it. Or something.

And that’s basically it, the secret of happiness. Other than that, pay attention to what you are doing, be nice to your spouse if you have one, and don’t forget to record all your achievements.

1 Books point.


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