Living a happy life seems to be allusive. Plus, “Everyone has an opinion about happiness,” Harvard University professor of psychology Daniel Gilbert wrote, “and unfortunately, many of them write books.”
There’s no shortage of literature willing to help us wrestle for our happiness. All of culture is doing its best to help us achieve a more positive life. Cliches dilute our days. Walk into any craft store, and you’ll find an assortment of throw pillows offering their sage advice.
Some of the most common messages include, “Happiness is not a destination. It is a way of life,” “Just think happy thoughts,” and “Choose happiness.”
Is happiness a choice? Is it something we create for ourselves, something we can reach down inside and grab? If happiness is another cliche, then many of us would rather avoid it altogether. The empty platitudes plunge us further into depression.
Enter “The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want,” by writer, psychologist and University of California professor Sonja Lyubomirsky—an account of what happiness is, what it isn’t, and how it can be achieved.
Her book is a comprehensive guide compiled of years of research and study. How to attain real and lasting happiness and practical activities to make happiness a possibility. Quizzes at the beginning of the book gauge your happiness levels, and retaken overtime, helps joy-seekers calculate and monitor progress.
Lyubomirsky’s account works alongside those who do want more from themselves. She sugar-coats nothing. She is upfront. Happiness is hard work. It is prey to cliche, though. Even on this point, she explains why.
She writes, “… It may be that when we translate into a universal maxim something so personal, so close to the bone as how we wish to be or how we behave toward loved ones, the outcome sounds watered down, hackneyed, and cliched.”
Lyubomirksy begins by walking readers through a diagnostic test that alerts readers to a few practical happiness-increasing activities, of which there are twelve in total, that might best serve them.
Unlike so many self-help books, Lyubomirksy offers choices based on facts. She guides but without bias. She champions religion and spirituality for those whom may benefit from those activities without advocating for one particular belief system.
In this way, even though these activities may seem like common sense, one better understands themselves and can work toward improving their happiness. Her’s is an a la carte approach. A method of learning and growing. A way to try and test.
Despite being filled with scientific research, Lyubomirksy makes the reading flow. Her style is engaging and informative. I found her anecdotes relatable and accurate. By reading her work, I was able to understand better the factors that make up our happiness.
Our genetics sets half our happiness. Our circumstances delegate ten percent. A whopping forty percent is left up to us: our activities. We have leverage. Lyubomirksy draws on decades of research to tell us that we have enough leeway to move the scales a bit.
We can find what makes us happy and do it. Today, we may feel down, but tomorrow is our own. What we create with our slice of the happiness pie is entirely our own. More than mere opinion, The How of Happiness equips us to lead the lives we desire.