Book Review: The How of Happiness

Posted by 29 January, 2009


“Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.” -Aristotle

The How of Happiness was written by Sonja Lyubomirsky. This book took me a while to get though, but not for the wrong reasons. One of the major appeals for me to this book is that it’s chock full of references and data. I’m not normally an avid note-taker while reading a book, but I took 14 pages of notes due to the volume of useful information.

Sonja begins by clearly demonstrating that you have a lot to do with how happy you are in life, 40% to be exact. This number is of course backed up by references and data so you don’t have to take her word for it. I particularly enjoyed the happiness myths that she detailed in her book. In fact, I think one of the most significant things I learned from this is that happiness can’t be found. I knew that, but it didn’t really click with me until I read her book. For example, my wife and I have often fantasized that moving out of the country or to Austin, TX would make us happier, but that is certainly not the case. She then lays out a number of happiness activities that you can employ in your life to become happier. Some of the happiness activities were common sense for me, but others were not, such as developing strategies for coping, learning to forgive, meditation, and increasing flow. I actually didn’t know what flow was prior to reading this book, but it is “the complete absorption in what one does”. She gives examples like painting, reading, fishing, and other activities people tend to lose track of time while doing. To ensure that you are efficiently applying your time wisely towards becoming happier, Sonja provides a person activity fit diagnostic test. I really like this diagnostic test. In a world where people are running around 24/7, we need efficiency and Sonja realizes that. Based on this score from the diagnostic test, you will be able to prioritize which happiness activities best suit you in your pursuit of happiness. I have to say my happiness activities were spot on, but that is for a future post!

Happiness Activities:

1. Expressing Gratitude

2. Cultivating Optimism

3. Avoiding Overthinking

4. Practicing Acts of Kindness

5. Nurturing Social Relationships

6. Developing Strategies for Coping

7. Learning to Forgive

8. Increasing Flow Experiences

9. Savoring Life’s Joys

10. Committing to Your Goals

11. Practicing Religion and Spirituality

12. Taking Care of Your Body (Meditation)

12a. Taking Care of Your Body (Physical Activity)

12b. Taking Care of Your Body (Acting Like a Happy Person)

Before beginning your happiness journey, you need a starting point. In other words, you need to know how happy you are right now. There’s actually a way to give this a value and one method is by taking the Oxford Happiness Questionaire. The scores range from a 1 to a 6. The average is a 4.30. I actually scored a 4.10. That makes me unhappy (just kidding).

Once you have found out the happiness activities that best suit you and your happiness score, it’s time to begin your journey to a happier you. I like that she goes into each of the happiness activities in detail, but not too much as to bore the reader. There is a wide variety of activities within each happiness activity so there is bound to be something that suits you best.

One of the more interesting references in the book was that religious or spiritual people tend to be happier. Sonja addresses that there is no definite conclusion as to why this is the case, but I found it interesting nevertheless.

From my perspective, the book is laid out in a logical and useful manner. It’s probably one of the more useful books I’ve read in terms of being a good reference guide. It was not a quick read for me, but not taking notes would have helped speed that along. If you want to learn how to be happier, this is the book for you. It gives you a step by step plan on how to increase your happiness level. A lot of books give you a few tips, but I haven’t seen a guide like this. It’s comprehensive and gives many references with great data, should you want to explore a topic further. In fact, there are over 40 pages full of references in the back of the book.

For other reviews of this book, be sure to check out: Positive Psychology News Daily or Reflections by Gurmeet Singh Manku

Other Posts:

The 3 Myths of Happiness
Is Happiness Viral?
What Determines Happiness?
10 Simple Ways to Overcome Disappointment
What Would Happen if More People Were Financially Independent?


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January 29, 2009

Thanks for this review. I like the concept of happiness activities – acts we can do to help ourselves feel better. Very practical and useful, thanks!

Daphne’s last blog post..The Gift of Community

Posted by Daphne
January 29, 2009

Thank you for bringing this book to my attention! It looks like a great read. I think that there is a lot to be said for starting out with contentment when it comes to happiness.

Miranda’s last blog post..House Passes Economic Stimulus Bill: I Am Not Amused

Posted by Miranda
January 29, 2009

I have not read this book, so I appreciate having reviews on it. It sounds like a useful book to have in my resource library. Thanks for the recommendation!!

Evelyn Lim’s last blog post..101 Negative Money Beliefs

Posted by Evelyn Lim
February 4, 2009

nice you share most of good activities!!!

February 4, 2009

@ Daphne – Thank you very much for the comment!

@ Miranda – I completely agree with contentment. It’s something I work on everyday.

@ Evelyn – I know this book is definitely a keeper for me. Thanks for the comment!

@ Mats – Thanks for the comment!

admin’s last blog post..Carnival of Personal Development – February 2, 2009

Posted by admin
July 22, 2009

I like the concept of happiness activities – acts we can do to help ourselves feel better. Very practical and useful, thanks!

Posted by Deeper Voice
August 18, 2009

I have a copy, it’s a great book.

September 2, 2009

Thanks for the recommendation, I will see if I can get this book somewhere.

September 18, 2009

Great book, I also recommend it to all of my friends.

February 21, 2010

that is a bad book!

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