The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want by Sonja Lyubomirsky

I’ve read several positive psychology and other books related to the science and economics of happiness:

Continuing my study of this topic, I’ve been reading Sonja Lyubomirsky‘s The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want. And then I’ll still have three other books on this subject to read:

(I may read The Paradox of Choice in May 2008 and put off reading the other two for a few months.)

Lyubomirsky is a professor of Psychology at the University of California, Riverside and has been working on groundbreaking scientific research in the study of happiness.

As evident on the cover, Lyubomirsky‘s research shows that 40% of happiness is within our control. Of the remaining 60%, 50% is determined by “set points” (genetics) and 10% by circumstances.

Further, this book also discusses concepts of positive psychology learned in other books, such as :

  • External circumstances (wealth, beauty, etc) does not create to lasting happiness.
  • The secret of happiness is that it lies within ourselves.
  • Happiness can boost energy, creativity, the immune system, productivity, and longevity.
  • Happy people tend to be committed to lifelong goals and ambitions, have enduring and deep social networks, live in the present moment, are comfortable expressing gratitude, are likely to be spiritual or religious.
  • Even happy people face stress, crises and even tragedies.

Out of the books I’ve read related to positive psychology and the study of happiness, The How of Happiness is the most comprehensive guide to happiness. I’m sure you’ll agree after reading just the Table of Contents:

Foreward 1

Part One: How to Attain Real and Lasting Happiness

1. Is It Possible to Become Happier? 13
A Program for Lasting Happiness 14
Do You Know What Makes You Happy? 16
Discovering the Real Keys to Happiness 19
The Most Rewarding “Work” You’ll Ever Do 24
Why Be Happy? 24

2. How Happy Are You and Why? 27
Where Do You Fit In? 30
Happiness Myths 38
The Limits of Life Circumstances 41
The Happiness Set Point 52
The Promise of Intentional Activity 63
Conclusion 67

3. How to Find Happiness Activities That Fit Your Interests, Your Values, and Your Needs 69
Three Ways That Strategies Can Fit 70
Corniness, Again 72
Person-Activity Fit Diagnostic 73
P.S. More Options 78
Final Words 79

Part Two: Happiness Activities

Foreword to Part Two: Before You Begin 83

4. Practicing Gratitude and Positive Thinking 88
Happiness Activity No. 1: Expressing Gratitude 89
Happiness Activity No. 2: Cultivating Optimism 101
Happiness Activity No. 3: Avoiding Overthinking and Social Comparison 112

5. Investing in Social Connections 125
Happiness Activity No. 4: Practicing Acts of Kindness 125
Happiness Activity No. 5: Nurturing Social Relationships 138

6. Managing Stress, Hardship, and Trauma 150
Happiness Activity No. 6: Developing Strategies for Coping 151
Happiness Activity No. 7: Learning to Forgive 169

7. Living in the Present 180
Happiness Activity No. 8: Increasing Flow Experiences 181
Happiness Activity No. 9: Savoring Life’s Joys 190
Final Words 204

8. Happiness Activity No.10: Committing to Your Goals 205
Six Benefits of Committed Goal Pursuit 206
What Kind of Goals Should You Pursue? 208
Recommendations for Committed Goal Pursuit 214

9. Taking Care of Your Body and Your Soul 227
Happiness Activity No. 11: Practicing Religion and Spirituality 228
Happiness Activity No. 12: Taking Care of Your Body (Meditation) 240
Happiness Activity No. 12: Taking Care of Your Body (Physical Activity) 244
Happiness Activity No. 12: Taking Care of Your Body (Acting Like a Happy Person) 250

Part Three: Secrets to Abiding Happiness

10. The Five Hows Behind Sustainable Happiness 257
The First How: Positive Emotion 258
The Second How: Optimal Timing and Variety 266
The Third How: Social Support 270
The Fourth How: Motivation, Effort, and Commitment 273
The Fifth How: Habit 277
Conclusion 280

The Promise of Abiding Happiness: An Afterword 282

Postscript: If You Are Depressed 285
What Is Depression? 285
The Causes of Depression 289
The Most Effective Treatments for Depression 293
The Cure for Unhappiness Is Happiness 302
Surmounting Setbacks 304

Appendix: Additional Happiness Activities That May Fit 305
Acknowledgments 309
Notes 3113
Index 359

Click here to read an excerpt of The How of Happiness from the author’s website. Lyubomirsky‘s website also includes a sample syllabus for those interested in learning more about positive psychology and a reading group guide to aid discussion of her book; I think I’ll save a copy of that on my hard drive just in case I want to learn even more about this topic.

It seems like way too many books have recently been published about happiness; not just the ones I’ve read but also:

I am hopeful that the findings of positive psychology will endure, though I wonder if all the buzz about happiness is really just hype.


3 responses to “The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want by Sonja Lyubomirsky

  1. Pingback: The How of Happiness: Chapter by Chapter « Adventures in Reading

  2. Pingback: Excerpt from The How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky « Reflections

  3. Pingback: “The How of Happiness” by Sonja Lyubomirsky

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