The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

Month 4: Lighten Up

While the fourth chapter focuses on Gretchen’s relationship with her kids, you don’t need to be a parent to be able to relate.

Goals for the month:

The Happiness Project: Chapter 4 Goals

Favorite Quotes

The Happiness Project Chapter 4 Quote

The Happiness Project Chapter 4 Quote

The Happiness Project Chapter 4 Quote


There were two main points I took away from this chapter.

acknowledge bad feelings.

Gretchen demonstrated how simply repeating back what her daughter was saying soothed over a tense situation– “Wow, that hurts your feelings. You feel ignored.” By acknowledging the feelings it made her daughter feel as though she was being heard and understood. Gretchen didn’t have to fix the problem…merely acknowledge it.

I thought about it and realized that’s all I need some times.

There are days where work is stressful or my day off leaves me with an overwhelming to-do list. I’ll vent to Z and spill out all my thoughts. In those moments I realized I’m not looking for him to fix the situation…all I need is acknowledgement. A simple response such as “it sounds like work was really stressful today” or “you’ve got quite a to-do list, but I’m sure you’ll get it done” is all I really need.

This was eye opening. Just repeat back to me and I’ll be ok. Who knew it was as simple as that?!

The Importance of Traditions.

Gretchen writes about the importance of family traditions as a way of making occasions feel special and exciting. The serve to provide “a sense of anticipation, security and continuity.”

With my job being what it is, working weekends and major holidays, not to mention a 4.5hr drive between here and my NY home, many family traditions have fallen by the wayside over the years.

My family is certainly supportive and flexible and has learned to adapt.

Growing up our family tradition was heading to Long Beach Island, NJ every summer. We rented the same oceanfront house year after year, just as my Dad had done growing up.

K and Kevin on pier in Long Beach Island New Jersey

Family at Long Beach Island New Jersey

Summers at the shore have since fallen by the wayside. We started skewing our visits to fall when tourists were gone and the island had a more peaceful way about it.

Beach front long Beach Island New Jersey

Most recently my parents mixed things up even more and moved their fall beach visit to the Eastern Shore here in Maryland.

House on Deal Island Maryland

Tradition: changed.

K on pier at Deal Island Maryland

Also, it was tradition to go to the same tree farm and cut down our own Christmas tree on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

Cut your own Christmas Tree New York

This past year, Z and I got our first tree together and hosted both of our families for Christmas. My parents may/may not even get a tree anymore if they’ll be visiting my brother or me for the holiday.

K and Z cut Christmas Tree

So as you can see, traditions can change over time as families grow and evolve, however it’s not necessarily a bad thing. While it can be difficult for some people to accept (“but we’re always done it that way”) it can be exciting too. Change brings about the opportunity for new traditions to emerge!

As Gretchen points out, you don’t have to sit and wait for these new traditions to just spontaneously happen…make it happen yourself!

Z and I have discussed how fun it would be to start a Christmas tradition of forgetting gifts altogether and taking a family trip somewhere instead. It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant…just spending time together and exploring somewhere new. This would take the stress off of having to find the perfect gift and create new family memories year after year.

I want to know…

What is one family tradition you have that NEVER changes?

What is one family tradition that HAS changed?

Have you started any new traditions of your own?