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What's the Happiness Project?

        Science | Emotions

How the Happiness Project Works
Author Leo Tolstoy suggested, "If you want to be happy, be."
Author Leo Tolstoy suggested, "If you want to be happy, be."
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The Happiness Project began as a yearlong experiment to pursue happiness, based on the advice of sages past and present, from Aristotle to Oprah Winfrey [source: The Stimulist]. A quick glance at any quotations database on the Web reveals that throughout the ages, great thinkers and ordinary people alike have offered plenty of opinions about happiness. The author Leo Tolstoy, for example, said, "If you want to be happy, be" [source: Quote Garden]. Mark Twain, on the other hand, suggested, "The best way to make yourself happy is to try to cheer somebody else up" [source: Quote Garden].

It became Rubin's mission to test as many of these ideas as possible within one year. To carry out her project, she quit her job to become a writer, which is how she conveyed her findings. Originally, The Happiness Project was conceived as a social experiment that would result only in a book chronicling Rubin's year. As the blogosphere became more popular and readily accessible, however, Rubin began to keep daily entries on her blog,

Rubin's daily interaction with readers created what she considers a "movement" [source: Rubin]. It would certainly appear that way; she's regularly interviewed by other bloggers and her posts appear on major Web sites like the Huffington Post, Slate and Psychology Today. The Happiness Project has also developed a wide following. The site has 3,000 members as of July 2009 and physical support groups are forming in cities around the United States [source: Facebook].

Through her experimentation with dispensing advice on happiness, Rubin managed to sort through that worked and what didn't, which has made her something of a lay expert on the subject. Put together, her experiences have culminated in bite-sized revelations like her Twelve Happiness Commandments (number one: "Be Gretchen," number six: "Enjoy the process") and her Splendid Truths (Splendid Truth Number Three: "The days are long, but the years are short") [source: Rubin, Rubin].

Rubin's Happiness Project isn't merely about following her own bliss, however. She observes the previously mentioned quote from Mark Twain and regularly pays her own happiness forward. She uses her blog to disseminate information from her own experiences, as well as a place for her readers and followers to exchange their own ideas.

The Happiness Project has indeed become a movement of people learning to be happy by following Gretchen Rubin's example. However, isn't there something missing? What about unhappiness?