Want to Make 2016 a Happier Year? Here’s How I Did It, Month by Month.

If you’re looking for ways to make 2016 a happier, healthier, more productive year, may I self-promotingly suggest my book, The Happiness Project?

The first day of the new year always feels so fresh and full of promise to me — but at the same time, it’s very discouraging to look back over the year that’s just ended, and realize that I’d never accomplished an important, happiness-boosting change that I’d hoped to make.

This feeling is one of the major reasons that I undertook my happiness project.

I remember so clearly the moment when I had the idea to do it. I was on the 79th Street cross-town bus, and I looked out the window and thought, “What do I want from life anyway? I want to be happy.” I realized, though, that I didn’t spend any time thinking about whether I was happy, or how I could be happier. “I should have a happiness project!” I decided.

I ran to the library the next day to get a big stack of books about happiness—and I had no notion of how much that single moment’s thought was going to shape my life, and bring me so much happiness.

I divided the year into twelve categories — each month, I worked on a different area of my life where I wanted to make myself happier.  Areas such as energy, marriage, play, mindfulness, money, parenthood, work, and friendship. I identified a handful of specific, manageable resolutions to try, to see if I could boost my happiness. And I often found that I really could.

What I found out about myself, and I think this is true for a lot of people, is that there was a lot of low-hanging fruit — steps that didn’t take much time, energy, or money yet could significantly boost my happiness. And why not be as happy as we can be?

And I can’t resist adding: The Happiness Project was on the New York Times‘s bestseller list for more than two years, including at #1, has sold more than two million copies, and been publishing in more than thirty languages. Yowza! As a writer, it’s thrilling to be able to connect with so many people. Thanks, readers, for all your enthusiasm and support.

You may think, “Why should I read about your happiness project? Gretchen and I may be nothing alike.” Very true. But it seems to be the case that reading about someone else’s very specific experience is often the best way to get ourselves thinking about what would work for us. Somehow, we identify and learn more from a personal story than from the most high-minded philosophical treatise or major study covering large populations.

For ideas about how to start your own happiness project, look here. It’s never too late to start — it’s always the right time to begin.

Intrigued? You can…


I also can’t resist mentioning a crazy highlight — “The Happiness Project ” was an answer on the game show Jeopardy! How nuts is that.

How about you? Have you done a “happiness project” of your own, and if so, what form did it take? HAPPY 2016!


  • I have to say that reading The Happiness Project back in the spring of 2010 was a life-changer for me, leading to my writing my own book and starting my own blog. Great stuff!

  • I read The Happiness Project last summer and I started my own project this morning. Already I’m more aware of the habits and things I want to change and do this year to make it my best year yet! I love your books!

    • gretchenrubin

      Great to hear that!

  • Katie

    I’m finishing this book right now. It’s a book I purchased years ago but never finished for whatever reason.

  • Jenny

    I’m committing to completing a Happiness Project this year (2016). If anyone else is starting out, I’d love to find an accountability partner. I hope that my own determination is enough to keep me at it but sometimes you just need that extra support from someone else going through a similar journey. Email me writtenjenny at yahoo.com and let me know!

    • Sofia

      Best of luck Jenny! I just finished the Happiness Project
      today and intend to put together my own for 2016. As a Questioner, I need to
      make sure that each topic/challenge and the layout is relevant to me. I would love to hear about the changes and
      adaptations that anyone made/are making to tailor the Happiness Project.

  • david e howell

    You know, Gretchen, that Breaking Bad Habits book belies an attempt at self-discipline that many psychiatrists would associate with sociopaths/psychopaths. Also, your positive feelings in the first days of new years should probably be interpreted as a manic reaction. I really think that you are a potential threat to the public: who knows what you will do next? I certainly hope that you don’t drink your coffee black, or we’ll REALLY need to take out psychiatric evaluation order on you before you endanger yourself or others. By the way, have you ever worn a toolbelt or held a sledgehammer before or after that book cover? Did you really break those bricks out of the wall, or is that a delusion of grandeur… because I’ve broken a lot of brick walls in construction work over the years, and it’s difficult. You aren’t exhibiting delusions of grandeur in that, are you? You are very charming Gretchen, you have a great deal of social influence. this is a real red flag according to the sociopath/psychopath list, as you well know. It must be nice to be help perpetuate a system of thought that sees people detained through the courts and locked-away or out-patient drugged, while you yourself can exhibit many of the same traits on the sacred sociopath “list” and remain above question.

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  • Caitlyn Terra

    I’m not one for responding to anything on the internet, but as one of your readers, I kinda must. The book crossed my path in the first week of january I think. I’ve felt something was off about my life and I strongly believe that when you are ready for change it will find you. I immediately was drawn to the book and started reading it when I walked out of the store. I’m not finished with it yet, but I am so glad you wrote it. It made me realize it is okay to choose your own happiness, and not being afraid to say that you are working on being happier and appreciating everything more. I needed that.
    – a 22-year-old journalist from Holland.