The Nine Rooms of Happiness: Loving Yourself, Finding Your Purpose, and Getting Over Life's Little Imperfections (Paperback)

Loving Yourself, Finding Your Purpose, and Getting Over Life's Little Imperfections

By Danziger

Voice, 9781401341565, 289pp.

Publication Date: December 21, 2010



What Room Are You In? Ask any woman how she's feeling. Even when things look pretty darn great from the outside, chances are that at least one thing (and it may seem minor to others) is nagging at her, making her feel less than spectacular, bringing her down: I'm too fat. My husband doesn't help enough around the house. My friend is going to be mad if I don't call her back. Why don't my kids try harder at school? My job is less than inspiring. Whatever happened to that old boyfriend, the one who got away? Whether it's the size of our thighs or our bank accounts, there always seems to be something that isn't measuring up to our high standards--and we let the dissatisfaction spill over into other areas of our lives, distracting us from taking pleasure in everything that's going right. In The Nine Rooms of Happiness, Lucy Danziger, editor in chief of Self magazine, and women's-health psychiatrist Catherine Birndorf use the metaphor of a house to release us from this phenomenon. In this house, the living room is where we deal with friendships and our social life; the bedroom is where we explore intimacy, romance, relationships, and sex; the bathroom is for issues relating to health and body image; the kitchen is for nourishment and the division of chores; and so on. Our "inner house" can have eight beautifully designed, neat and tidy rooms, and one messy one, and still we focus on the mess. The Nine Rooms of Happiness pinpoints common self-destructive patterns of behavior and offers key processes that will help readers clean up their emotional architecture. After each room is "clean," Danziger and Birndorf show us how we can spend time on ourselves figuring out what is most meaningful to us--finding larger passion and purpose that makes returning to the rest of our house a pleasure, no matter what calamity or mess awaits. The result? After reading this book you'll think differently about the things that are bringing you down and be able to live a happier, more joy filled life, in every room of your emotional house. From the outside, you'd think I have it all: beautiful house, wonderful children, devoted husband. But am I happy I think so. There's nothing that has gone terribly wrong. There's no reason for me not to be happy. But I don't feel happy so much as I feel I'm just going through the motions. Sometimes I have the feeling that there's more and I just haven't found it yet. But what . . . and how dare I want more? Isn't all that I have enough?
--from The Nine Rooms of Happiness.

About the Author

Lucy Danziger has been Editor-in-Chief of SELF magazine for six years and has a total readership of 5.4 million. She appears regularly on Good Morning America, Today, and the CBS Early Show. Dr. Catherine Birndorf is a psychiatrist and is Program Director of the Payne Whitney Women's Program. She has appeared on Today, The CBS Evening News, CNN, and MSNBC. She is a contributing columnist for SELF magazine.

Conversation Starters from

  1. What brings you down when everything else is going well? What is the “mess of the day” that can distract you from your happy life, strip your buzz and steal your happiness? (E.g. your unruly To Do list, your child’s report card, a bill unpaid, a long overdue return phone call to a friend, etc.)
  2. When you are in the basement, what is your Screen Memory, meaning the scene from your past you will never forget, which you can conjure up as if it happened yesterday? It defines who you are, even now. (It can be a negative comment from a parent, a mean girl incident back in school, or a teacher who made you feel as if you’d never amount to anything.) How can you stop reacting to this fossilized scene, now that you think about it as an adult?
  3. In the family room, what is the one single relationship that can drive you crazy? Your critical or controlling mother? A grown sibling who still treats you as if you were both teenagers? A tough or judgmental father? When they do push your buttons, can you use the relationship equation to change the dynamic and make the outcome of your interaction better, less stressful?
  4. The living room is a place where friendships and comparison comes to play. How are your relationships? Friendships change over time; consider the quality of your interactions now, not how they once were. Ask yourself: are you fulfilled with your current circle? If an important friendship is in flux it may be you who’s in transition: What does it say about your life that an old friend no longer satisfies your emotional needs? How are you evolving and can you explain to her what you’re feeling these days and share the new you?
  5. The office is the place to ask: How’s it going, in terms of your work or job and your long-term financial outlook. How do you feel about the choices  you have made (perhaps to not work while raising a family)? What are your goals? Are you where you hoped to be by now? If not, why not, and how can you remedy the situation? (Own up to your participation in the situation. OF course there is an economic crisis but there are things you can do to move closer toward your goals, at work and in your off hours.) Ask yourself: what’s keeping me back? And finally: Am I doing something rewarding? Is this work meaningful? Am I finding purpose in my day? If you want to make a change there are ways to do it, as you’ll see in the Readers Feedback section.
  6. In the bathroom, how is your health, your wellbeing, your stress management and overall self care? Are you sleeping enough, trying to eat right? Making time to exercise regularly and concentrating on taking care of your body and being smart about prevention? (It can be hard to do it when you have a family and job but they need you to make time for yourself, even if it’s just an hour a day.) Next, how do you feel about your body, your looks and shape or weight? Body image, what you see in the mirror and what number you read on the scale, are both bathroom issues, as is treating yourself right. You need to take care of yourself, and if you aren’t why not? We say, concentrate on the floss, not the flaws. If you need to take better care of yourself (you’re tired all the time, never get to exercise, don’t feel physically at your best) then what can you do to make the changes that will lead you to feel better and healthier too? It’s not selfish; it’s self-preservation.
  7. How is it going in the bedroom? Are you satisfied with the sex you’re having (or fine with not having), or are there things you want to change and improve? When you think about the sex you wish you were having, what holds you back? Communicating with your significant other? Upset at your him for not helping or supporting you enough? The bedroom can also be a good place to discuss all nature of affection, physical intimacy, flirtation, a wandering eye, lack of loving connection in your relationship. What is it that you feel is lacking in this room and how can you rethink your approach and start to remedy the situation? The Venn Diagram of your lives is an apt place to start. Are you overlapping to your own liking? How can you overcome romantic obstacles in order to enjoy a healthier and more fulfilling love life?
  8. The kitchen, where the table is for discussing the business of the household, is the place to ask: How are you feeling about the chores of your daily life? If and when you get overwhelmed, do you ask for help? Are you engaged in a constructive dialogue with other members of the household? Are you feeling heard? Helped? Supported? If the scripts need to change, are you able to initiate a new conversation in order to come to an understanding with your family/roommates/spouse to find a more satisfying balance? Are you getting your emotional needs met, feeling nourished, emotionally speaking, and feeling accomplished in getting things done? (Not every moment has to be blissful—emptying the dishwasher will never be an inspired act--but you should see the bigger goal in the day-to-day tasks that need doing.) If not, how can you change that and find more joy in daily life?
  9. The kids’ room is less about whether or not you have kids but how you feel about your personal situation. If you don’t have kids, how did you come to this decision and how do you feel about it? If you do have kids, are you enjoying parenting? Chances are not every moment is easy, joyfilled and a scapbook photograph of family harmony. When you have little ones, you may feel exhausted most of the time. Are your standards out of reach? As a parent you may want to ask: how can I be a good enough parent without trying or needing to be a perfect one? Perhaps one problem is your own unrealistic expectations? What are your common frustrations with your kids? How can you shift that dynamic? How can you be a happier parent, feel you are doing well enough, and also have time to be the person you want to be?
  10. In the Attic, are your family expectations weighing you down, pressuring you to be someone you don’t want to be? Are you living the life you want to live? Or are you living the dream that belonged to someone else: the one that a grandparent, or other relative had in mind for you? How can you turn around and explain to family members that you need to be the version of you that you like, not the one that they are imposing on you from above?
  11. Where is your Tenth Room? Where do you go to think and get away from all the other rooms, the messes and the tidy ones as well? Where is your mouse hole?  Where do you find peace? How often do you get there? Don’t wait until every other room is neat and tidy, since they never will be. Instead close some doors and walk away, to your own little space or place to think. Get there often enough (daily is optimal) to do the important work of thinking about what makes you happy? Ask yourself what brings you up and is something you truly love to do. Then figure out how to do it more often. It’s the first step to becoming a happier person, right now and every day.
  12. Finally, if you were to die tomorrow, what would you regret not doing? What would you wish you had made more time for? How can you fit that into your day, right now? This is not a morbid exercise thought but a life affirming one. It’s your responsibility to know what brings you joy, or calm, and how you can pursue it and make it a bigger part of your life? You need to identify your passion, find your purpose, the thing that brings you a sense of meaning and makes you happy, in every room of your emotional house.
    Please see Final Comment for ideas to enhance the discussion of The Nine Rooms of Happiness.