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Showing 1-10 of 186 reviews(5 star). Show all reviews
on February 6, 2008
About: Science-based ways of how to increase happiness

Review: Right off the bat, Lyubomirsky points out that we can only control 40% of our happiness (with half being genetic and 10% being environmental) but she suggest a bunch of techniques that have the backing of studies (which she cites) that have been shown to increase happiness. She notes that all techniques aren't for everyone so she encourages readers to choose the ones that fit their lifestyles. These techniques include practicing gratitude, forgiveness, goal setting, spirituality, exercise and living in the present (among other things). Ideas of of how to put these things to use are clearly spelled out. I really enjoyed this book, sources cited, great topic, well written, engaging, actually applicable to life.

Some random things I learned:

Marriage increases happiness for 2 years, then it returns to normal levels

Happiness also tends to eventually return to set point levels after both catastrophes and successes

People get happier with age

No one thing brings happiness

Overthinking (i.e. in times of anxiety, stress or insecurity) isn't good for you and just makes things worse

Helping others makes people happy

Hugging is good for happiness

The happier the person, the less he or she pays attention to what others around are doing
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on January 13, 2008
As a psychologist for twenty years, it has been drilled into my head that as psychologists we are both scientists and practitioners. Having been a clinician for the majority of my career as well as a book-a-holic, I have been anxiously awaiting Lyubomirsky's book. As Gilbert accomplished in Stumbling on Happiness, Lyubomirsky accomplished in this fine piece of work, a wonderful marriage of both the "science" of psychology as well as the "practical" aspects of psychology. A dream for scholars and clinicians...what a fine contribution this book is to our field.

Lyubomirsky has created a work which will be interesting, challenging, and useful to researchers, practitioners, and the general reader as well. Her book answers the questions about happiness by backing up her assertions with a fine review of the empircial literature. "Harumph", no more touchy-feely stuff for the "soft science of psychology"...Lyubomirsky has created a book that will appeal to both my neighbors as well as my colleagues. This book would be appropriate in a psychology graduate course or a local reading group....

Her tone is deliciously real and edgy, her presentation delightful and well-thought out, and her suggestions concrete, specific, realistic and engaging.

There is something for everyone in this book.

I hate goals, I rebel against goals, tell me I "should" and I certainly won't. Well, after reading this book, taking the tests, I have actually done some goal setting that I might find I can complete without gritting my teeth and gutting it out.

Thanks, Sonja, I will be thinking of you tomorrow at 6am as I head out to the gym.

Beth Waddel, PhD.
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on January 26, 2008
I have read almost every non-technical book written on the psychology of happiness and positive psychology. While they are all good, The How of Happiness is by far the best.

This is no generic self-help book with off-the-cuff suggestions stemming from the authors' own life or anecdotal evidence. Every single claim Dr. Lyubomirsky makes is backed by scientific evidence. Moreover, the book's content is supported by peer-reviewed journal articles. While I am an economist, and not a psychologist, I do know which journals are the most prestigious, and the bulk of this book is based on publications from the most prestigious psychological journals.

To illustrate how highly I recommend this book, consider this. I personally spent over $100 buying multiple copies of the book and giving them to several of my students, in hopes they will read it. If they do read it, they are certain to live happier lives.

I am naturally a very happy person, and can say without reservation that this book has made me happier. My friends have found it surprising that someone as happy as me would be reading a book on happiness. After hearing my profound respect for this book, they too purchased it and found it a life-changing experience.

Of the many reasons we do science, one is to improve the lot of humans, to become a happier society. We are fortunate to live in an age when science has uncovered the science of happiness, and fortunate to have Dr. Lyubomirsky to communicate this science to a non-technical audience so clearly. In my opinion, this book is the pinnacle of science.
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on February 10, 2008
A very intersting research on the topic of "Happiness" , Lyubomirsky submit insights of 18 years studying happy people.
The results of her research parked into 12 key strategies for increasing happiness. More interestingly, she takes you into a quick reflective test to examine your "top 4" priorities among the 12 happiness strategies. I received my results with a sense of Awe ! it dawned on me where do i need to invest more to become happier , this was among the best insights i had.
Next, she reviews comprehensively mindsets & actions suggestions to put your top 4 into life.

I also recommend the book "Happier" by Tal Ben Shahar , who is the owner of a popular happiness course at Harvard. Ben Shahar's central theme for happiness is to search for actions that are rich in both meaning & pleasure. Although Lyubomirsky's work is more comprehensive , more structured & more scientifically tuned, still, Ben Shahar's work appears more friendly, shorter & able to derive subjective individualized happiness strategies from within based on reader's reflections where you end up having a practical plan of action that is , really uplifting.

Ben Shahar's work didn't address critically important topics like smiling, religious rituals , the negative effects of social comparisons & the happy sense of re-living past nostalgic moments, where Lyubomirsky's work didn't address the need to act "ritually" on happiness activities & didn't equally address the need to simplify actions & life.

By the end, i do recommend both books, both are based on scientific findings & they are complementary.
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on May 30, 2015
Sonja's dedication to the field of happiness shows in this work recommended to me by my therapist. Since reading the "9 Choices of Happiness: How We Choose to be Happy," awhile ago, I've wanted to know more about what I can do to ensure my own happiness. Sonja provides that with "The How of Happiness".

I seem to have a low (and high) set point due to genetics. In other words, I have a mood disorder. I've sought for methods to smooth that out and have a more normal and even happy life. Sonja is dedicated to helping all people, not just those with mood disorders. I saw from her work, which I devoured in just a few days, that I could potentially achieve increasing levels of happiness beyond what I had ever had before.

I transcribed her twelve areas of activity into Goalscape, a tool I use to set and achieve goals. Goalscape uses concentric circles to display goals and sub goals. Twelve areas fit around the circle like numbers on the face of a clock. At the center is my central goal, "A Happy You". I realized perhaps for the first time, that happiness was more dependent on what I did than a chemical from a bottle. Certainly good medication or supplements can be important, but there is only so much they can do.

So much of happiness depends on what we do with our lives. Sonja gives suggestions that can guide goal setting and help me get (and stay) happy that much faster and inexpensively. She does not advocate a particular faith, but she explains the role of religion and spirituality in increasing happiness. She talks about how we become inured to good things around us and need to overcome that through gratitude and savouring joys. If we don't take time to slow down and be mindful, we can miss joys in our lives. Over the past year I've started practising meditation, and she explained how this practice can promote happiness, which gives me incentive to continue and make it more regular. I've also started a daily practice of Bible reading.

She explains that many of her suggestions sound like common sense and have been around for millennia but have only recently been supported through scientific experiments. She herself is involved in happiness research which gives her voice that much more credibility. I have yet to experience the full benefit of her work because many of the practices she advocates work over a period of time. In our current world, it is sometimes difficult to be optimistic, but she fully explains the benefits of predicting a favourable outcome. I have decided to make happiness my number one value.

Material things can bring short term benefits, but we quickly become inured to improvements in our circumstances. However, a change in our daily activities can produce a great and quick change in our level of happiness. Sonja explains how building relationships and social interaction can help promote happiness. Being a loner, I've struggled with this. A new romance started early this year has budded into a relationship that has the potential to be lasting.

For the past year I've programmed an app that analyses daily activities from check lists. I have noticed that when I score and analyse my daily check lists, it promotes my happiness. I was not sure why. After reading Sonja's book, I discovered that many of the items on my check lists were activities she suggested from the scientific literature that promote happiness. When I do more of them in a day, a greater level of happiness is achieved. So I am dedicating myself to continue with my check lists, even on days I don't feel like doing them. For awhile this past year, actually several times, I let my check lists slide. Upon encouragement from a friend who has seen how much of a difference my check lists make, resuming them has almost instantly restored me to happiness and my former activity level. Committing to goals itself is one area Sonja mentions in her book.

Sonja leaves it up to the reader to select specific activities and choose which areas of the twelve to work on. Some attention to each of the twelve areas is beneficial, but of course it works to prioritize what gets focused on first. Action is the key. With my check lists I can keep more things in scope and can work on most of the twelve areas simultaneously. I may sound too analytical about being happy, but I have discovered that happiness is best not merely left to chance. I want to consistently produce happy feelings and am willing to implement what science has discovered about the human potential for producing those feelings.

You may wonder if I have become happy. I am discovering tools that help me produce happiness more consistently, more often, and more deeply. I am discovering tools that bring me back when I dip into depression. Have I fully beat depression? No. I would love to say that I have. I still have a mood disorder. But I am optimistic about my ability to deal with it. The fear of being overcome by it is much less. I think my optimism will increase as I continue to apply the principles I've learned in Sonja's book. More and more, I tell myself, "I am happy!" Thank you, Sonja, for your dedicated efforts to help as many people as you can.
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VINE VOICEon October 5, 2008
I bought this book not to become happy but because it was written by my colleague Sonja Lyubomirsky; I knew her from work, found her research interesting, and wanted to find out more. The book actually did make me happier. I knew most of the material from the professional journals, but Dr. Lyubomirsky puts it together for you much better than the scattered and hard-to-read research papers do!
The interesting thing here is not so much what works as that science has found SOME classic ways of being happy do work--being grateful, forgiving, having goals, and more. Others do NOT work: notably, making money. No one misses the point that Americans are much richer than they were 60 years ago but are also considerably unhappier. Another notably unsuccessful strategy for happiness is running down other people. Many friends of mine seem to depend on this to keep themselves feeling adequate. It doesn't work. Dr. Lyubomirsky points out that emphasizing the positive is the way to go.
Working in China and with Chinese data, I ran into a delightful Chinese proverb. My favorite form goes like this: "If you would be happy for three hours, get drunk. If you would be happy for three days, roast a pig. If you would be happy for three months, get married. If you would be happy for a lifetime, plant a garden." There are other possibilities in other forms of this proverb, but the idea is clear: we habituate fast to many kinds of happiness, and they don't work for long, but others give true lifetime satisfaction.
A point made by Dr. Lyubomirsky, but maybe a bit buried in the data, is worth bringing out more strongly from my own case: All the real satisfaction and long-term pleasure in my life has come from things that were highly challenging, and thus not always fun or happy at the time. "Climbing higher mountains" is hard work and you often get rained or snowed on. I took freshman chemistry from Dr. Gary Nash, who was a legendary teacher--if you ever had him, you haven't forgotten it. I worked harder than ever before or since, hated the work, and almost flunked, but the class was a Great Experience anyway. Dr. Nash (who died tragically young--said to have literally worked himself to death) was like that. Since then I've worked terribly hard at a lot of things, and some were frustrating, but all were satisfying.
By contrast, getting drunk and eating a pig (and taking easy college courses) are fine in their place, but they provide strictly time-limited happiness.
One other scientific finding mentioned but not highlighted here: People who get along well with people--who are socially skilled and socially sensitive--do better and are much happier than others, on average. (There are many conspicuous exceptions, however.) This is a two-way street: being happy makes you nicer, other things being equal, but being socially skilled most certainly leads to a lot of good times, while being socially inept leads to a lot of major trouble and grief. The reason for not highlighting it is good, though: people can adjust and learn to be happy anyway. It may take more work.
One last matter of interest is optimism. The most robust finding in the happiness literature is that optimistic people are happier than pessimistic ones. Yes, but there is a Tao of optimism. If you are optimistic about YOURSELF, your real goals, your work, and your ability to cope with problems, you are in fine space--it helps a lot. However, if you are optimistic about the world in general, and especially about people, you may be in for a very great deal of major unhappiness. You wind up assuming you can avoid traffic tickets when speeding, or answering those emails from Nigeria, or expecting the best of American politicians, or trusting non-licensed businessmen and medical practitioners. A healthy caution in dealing with people is necessary in this world. Go with demonstrated performance. Good luck.
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on January 5, 2008
THE HOW OF HAPPINESS presents an intelligent and original approach to maximizing happiness that is exceedingly useful for psychologists, mental health professionals and laymen alike. The fact the Dr. Lyubomirsky is able to quantify, through her research, that 40% of our capacity for happiness is within our power to change, is illuminating and has the capacity to transform lives. As a clinical psychologist and Director of Psychology responsible for training doctoral level psychology interns, I have incorporated her research, principles and activities in my clinical practice as well as my teaching interns and staff. Dr. Lyubomirsky's secrets to abiding happiness provide important insights and her happiness activities and recommendations are both practical and highly effective. THE HOW OF HAPPINESS is an important contribution to the field of positive psychology. I highly recommend this gem of a book to every reader.
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on February 27, 2008
I was recently given this book from a friend as I have suffered from moderate depression off and on for 30 years. I found it very compelling regards to the thoughts on happiness in regards to genetics, life circumstances and ones ability to influence happiness through working on it in a cognitive way. I did not really get hung up here as a previous poster on if 50% is genetics, 10% circumstances and the remaining 40% is knowledge and work ethic. It it not important if those are the actual percentages to me, what is important is I think the author has hit on what is really going on, that we are genitically predisposed in a way to being a certain way on the happiness scale, probably a pretty significant percentage. Added to that the life circumstances, a much smaller percentage to make up that total percentage that we can not control but now at least recognize. As someone who has suffered depression, it is very plain to me to see that part of the problem has been my genetic makeup added with the slings and arrows I have suffered like anyone else that make me react somewhat more emotionally and negatively than most. It's that reaction from the genetics and my circumstances that lead to the spiral down into depression that is like a funnel with the ruminative thinking. I found in this last part of working on what one can control, the 40% is where the secret is overcoming depression as well as becoming happier. There are excellent strategies for becoming happier that although take work and self discipline do actually work for me. I put this book right along The Mindful Way through Depression by Jon Kabat-Zinn and the work by Marsha Linnehan with DBT cognitive therapy which has helped me greatly to stop the negative thoughts as well as live more mindfully in the present. Many of the strategies in this book mirror living mindfully in the present, eliminating the social comparisons, radically accepting life circumstances and moving on with problem solving strategies instead of ruminating in the negative thoughts that keep us stuck. The message for me was by eliminating the rumination of why I am the way I am gentically and not spending too much time focusing on circumstances like the new plasma TV happiness is slight and short lived as well as the loss of my retriever will eventually be short lived and slight as well if I just focus on the 40% I can actively make me feel more alive and connected to my friends, family and goals that really matter to me!
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on February 13, 2008
Read several happiness and self help books so far. This is the most comprehensive! and it's evidence-based to boot! Originally didn't want to complete 'another' happiness quiz. But I really enjoyed the main quiz called 'Person-Activity Fit Diagnostic'. There are 12 happiness activities and my filling it out, you figure out which 4 of the 12 happiness activities make you the most happy. Then the second part of the book describes each of the 12 happiness activities. You find the 4 that suit you the best and read up on the specifics. It's like a personalized, customized 'How to become more happy'. Other books are good but are generalized. I felt like this book was specifically just for me. An excellent read for everyone! Worth every penny. Thank you Sonja Kyubomirsky for compiling all the info and writing this book!
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on March 16, 2016
 “All of us want to be happy, even if we don’t admit it openly or choose to cloak our desire in different words. Whether our dreams are about professional success, spiritual fulfillment, a sense of connection, a purpose in life, or love and sex, we covet those things because ultimately we believe that they will make us happier. Yet few of us truly appreciate just how much we can improve our happiness or know precisely how to go about doing it. To step back and consider your deep-seated assumptions about how to become a happier person and whether it’s even possible for you—what I hope this book will spur you to do—is to understand that becoming happier is realizable, that it’s in your power, and that it’s one of the most vital and momentous things that you can do for yourself and for those around you.”

~ Sonja Lyubomirsky from The How of Happiness

People often ask me what ONE book I would recommend they read that I think best captures how to create an ideal life. I’ve never given an answer as nothing’s ever really met that standard. Now I can: The How of Happiness.

This is the 87th Note I’ve worked on and it’s been fascinating to see the same Big Ideas repeated by philosophers, mystics and modern-day self-help gurus. It’s even more exciting, in fact, EXHILARATING (!!!), to see so many of these Ideas SCIENTIFICALLY TESTED and *PROVEN* to be effective.

(Pardon the yelling. This book gets me a little excited. :)

And that’s what this book is all about. As a research psychologist and University of California professor of psychology, for the last 18+ years Sonja Lyubomirsky has been testing various ways we can increase our level of happiness as she’s played a leading role in the nascent positive psychology movement that’s creating a science of optimal living.


I HIGHLY HIGHLY HIGHLY recommend you get the book. It’s packed with happiness assessments and scientifically proven strategies for boosting your level of happiness that I think you’ll really dig.

Let’s explore some of the Big Ideas:

1. Why Be Happy? - Compelling reasons.
2. The 40% Solution - Focus here!
3. The Work of Happiness - It takes consistent effort.
4. 12 Happiness Activities - What’s your favorite?
5. Happiness Activity #1: - Expressing gratitude.

So bust out your journal and imagine your ideal self as we move to embody the hows of happiness, will ya?!? :)

More goodness— including PhilosophersNotes on 300+ books in our ​*OPTIMIZE*​ membership program. Find out more at brianjohnson . me.
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