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The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want Paperback – Illustrated, December 30, 2008
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"A guide to sustaining your newfound contentment." —Psychology Today
"Lyubomirsky's central point is clear: a significant portion of what is called happiness . . . is up for grabs. Taking some pages out of the positive psychology playbook, she coaches readers on how to snag it." —The New York Review of Books
"Is lasting happiness attainable or a pipe dream? For the last eighteen years, University of California-Riverside professor of psychology Sonja Lyubomirsky has studied this question, and what she reports might even sway pessimists." —U.S. News & World Report
"The right place to look for science-based advice on how to become happier." —Martin Seligman, author of Learned Optimism
About the Author
- Publisher : Penguin Books; Illustrated edition (December 30, 2008)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 384 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0143114956
- ISBN-13 : 978-0143114956
- Item Weight : 12 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.43 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #9,597 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from the United States
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A 100 page version of this book would have made it far more poignant. It goes, rather into every little detail with caveats and reservations for everything, without really any strong quantitative info on efficacy of the supposed real scientific basis for all this advice that I for one just found myself plowing ahead and seeking to reach the last page.
Would be great to think someone could help steer you to being more lastingly happy despite circumstance but I found this book to be very thin soup in the end.
Was OK but not as good as the hyped reviews suggested.
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.
Top reviews from other countries
Dr. Lyubomirsky dispels the notion that most of our happiness is the product of our good fortune, that lottery winners live happily ever after or that people who buy their dream car or their dream home get a life-long smile to come with it. As she points out, the happiness that accompanies these things are fleeting. According to her research and that of others, we have control over 40% of our happiness (no spoiler, it's on the cover of the book.) She makes the case that each of us has a "happiness set point" which is genetically set that accounts for another 50% or our happiness (which can still be adjusted, much like our weight) and that our circumstances only account for the remaining 10% of our happiness.
In the second part of the book, the author lists 12 activities that have been proven through studies to boost our happiness. But before explaining each of these in some detail, she asks the reader to embark on a self-diagnostic questionnaire, the results of which are designed to show which of the 12 strategies are most effective for each individual. She then describes each of the 12 "happiness activities" in some detail, citing the studies that have supported their effectiveness, and then sets out a number of ways in which each of these strategies can be employed. As the author notes, many of these do line up with what is preached in self-help books (though not always), but she makes the case that these specific strategies have been shown to boost one's happiness according to the results of specific studies, many of which have been conducted through the research of herself and her colleagues.
The third section of the book describes strategies or "hows" to sustain happiness. An optional afterward chapter is directed specifically to anyone who may be suffering from depression. It looks at the most effective treatments for depression, including cognitive behavioural therapy, anti-depressant medications and other therapies. I found this chapter to be especially helpful in providing me with a better understanding of those friends and others who suffer from depression, as well as offering insight into the early warning signs of depression.
If you're curious about what the 12 strategies for cultivating happiness are, you could go to the "look inside" section of the Amazon sample of the book and just read the table of contents, but I'll save you that step. They are:
1. Expressing gratitude
2. Cultivating optimism
3. Avoiding overthinking and social comparison
4. Practicing acts of kindness
5. Nurturing social relationships
6. Developing strategies for coping
7. Learning to forgive
8. Increasing flow experiences (i.e. mindfulness or living in the present)
9. Savoring life's joy
10. Committing to your goals
11. Practicing religion or spirituality
12. Taking care of your body
These aren't spoilers, they're things we've all probably known. It is in the "how" to do these things that this book offers more than just pie-in-the-sky philosophy. The author is very good at anticipating questions about each of these, offering specific advice and suggestions, and writing in a practical solution-oriented manner as opposed to simply offering vague theories. It is apparent from reading this book that the study of happiness has been a labor of love for the author and one that she is happy to share with her readers.
As a family physician, this is the book I recommend to those patients who are looking to finds ways to improve their mood but who may not require medication. In fact, I recommend it to everyone, as who wouldn't want to feel happier and learn about the specific proven ways to help in that regard? Rather than a focus on feeling less miserable, this book helps teach ways to feel happier. I really enjoyed it and think it is useful and enjoyable read and resource.