“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!
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.