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The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living: A Guide to ACT

4.02  ·  Rating Details ·  2,421 Ratings  ·  210 Reviews
Are you, like milllions of Americans, caught in the happiness trap? Russ Harris explains that the way most of us go about trying to find happiness ends up making us miserable, driving the epidemics of stress, anxiety, and depression. This empowering book presents the insights and techniques of ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) a revolutionary new psychotherapy based ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published June 3rd 2008 by Trumpeter (first published January 1st 2007)
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Aug 08, 2009 Alice rated it liked it
I want to hate this book. It's so patronising and at times seriously flawed, logic-wise. It explains things with lots of exclamation marks! And drawn-out metaphors! And basically it's just the author going on, without drawing on any examples from the real world!

Despite all this, I'm persisting because, in amongst all the guff, there are some strategies in here that bloody well work. And they work fast. This pains me because I, like the people Harris loves to patronise in the book, am one of thos
May 15, 2012 Matt rated it really liked it
It’s worth it in the end. - That is my first thought that describes this book. When I began this book I did not enjoy it. Honestly, it annoyed me.

By the time I finished it I realized ways I could make substantial improvements in my life.

First: The annoying part.

The author (Dr. Harris) seems to assume that all his readers have the same thought processes, make the same mistakes, and can be fixed the same way.

He begins by telling us we likely believe four myths.

Myth 1: Happiness Is the Natural S
Philip Glennie
Dec 31, 2013 Philip Glennie rated it it was amazing
I'm a little at a loss about this one. But I'd like to start by saying that this book has made a significant impact on my motivation and overall quality of life. It's been months since I read it, but its message is still paying dividends. I've always been skeptical of the self-help genre, but this book came at the recommendation of a trusted friend, and I can honestly say that it's one of the most important things I've ever read. My approach to my own mind has always come from a psychoanalytic p ...more
Daniel Taylor
May 04, 2011 Daniel Taylor rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People struggling with negative emotions
Recommended to Daniel by: Adrian Booth
When I got into self-help books, I had two problems I wanted to solve: how to become likable and how to solve an addiction I'd had since I was 13-years-old. The books were able to help with the first, but nothing I tried worked with the addiction. That was until I started seeing a psychologist trained in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).

After our first session, I got instant results. Over the weekend that followed I had many changes to indulge my addiction and I had the desire, but I was
Apr 28, 2013 Josh rated it really liked it
It must reveal something if I feel cagy about advertising that I've read a book subtitled "How to Stop Struggling and Start Living." Who doesn't imagine people are paying way more attention to your insecurities than they really are? "Gracious, I didn't know Josh was struggling! The poor dear. Let's make him some soup."

Well, okay, I'm not actually struggling. Life's mostly all peach these days, but I'm (almost) always interested in self-improvement. We get one go on this globe and studying ways o
Apr 04, 2012 Bronwyn rated it it was amazing
(Dr) Harris uses a great story of 2 kids in the car with mum on their way to the zoo. Both have been looking forward to the visit for weeks. Johnny is looking out the window playing "I spy" with mum, looking at the cars passing by, waving at the trains and the truck drivers. Counting cows and sheep along the road side. Billy is slumped in the back, anxious and irritated "when are we going to get there" he keeps asking. A few kilometers from the zoo the car breaks down and has to be towed back to ...more
Sep 13, 2013 Karate1kid rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
If you are willing to read just one self-help book - this is the one. Especially if you prefer advice on how to find out what you like and why you are better off behaving in a certain way, to 'just so' statements about beliefs you must adopt and the way you should think-feel-behave to achieve a specific goal / way of life some guru says is best.

The advice is based on a third wave CBT approach (more behavioral than cognitive) called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). If you are looking for
Hayley Waterhouse
Jan 24, 2013 Hayley Waterhouse rated it really liked it
I don't really know how to summarise this book. When I first started reading it I thought I would read the whole thing through, just to see what it is like, without doing the exercises. If I thought it had some merit I would read it a second time doing all the exercises and taking my time with it. As it happens some of the exercises really got stuck in my head and I found myself doing them anyway! This book felt like it was written just for me. I think I have so much to learn from it and that it ...more
Kelly Smith
Jan 09, 2016 Kelly Smith rated it liked it
Shelves: 100-self-help
I didn't think I was going to like it going into the first couple chapters. It talked a lot about how things like positive thinking don't work (something I've found very helpful for myself) but within a couple chapters kinda changed it's tune to more of a "You need to do more than just ignore negative thoughts" which is more what I agree.
Seemed like the author just needed to get out all the pent up frustration of the "positive thinking movement"

The thing I really liked about this book was it f
Ryan Norbauer
Aug 01, 2010 Ryan Norbauer rated it it was amazing
I read this because it's based on the research I was involved in at university. Turns out to be an amazingly science-oriented form of practical existentialism. Much more thoughtful than its pop self-help cover and title would suggest.
Dec 13, 2014 K rated it really liked it
I had been hearing about ACT here and there and was mildly curious, but decided to pick up this inexpensive book at the encouragement of one of my students. I'm happy I did.

ACT takes a refreshing approach to negative feelings. Stop struggling against them, says the theory. They're part of life. The more you fight them, the worse it is. After using a lot of CBT with mixed results, I appreciated an alternative to arguing with negative cognitions.

ACT is based on six principles: Defusion, or the imp
Apr 15, 2012 Brad rated it really liked it
I found this book extremely helpful--I had previously read about Acceptance and Commitment Therapy on the website Apparently it is a successful and empirically proven therapy, so I was very much intrigued. I ended up going pretty slowly through the book, which allowed me to think about the principles it contains on a daily basis for a couple of weeks.

From what I understand, ACT takes a lot from Buddhist philosophy, and I can totally dig it. Some of the important things ACT t
Feb 12, 2013 Michelle rated it really liked it
One of the best self-help books I've read for anxiety and depression. It was a refreshing change from CBT approaches that encourage you to engage with your negative thoughts by arguing around them with logic - while I think that approach can be useful, it is also very exhausting, and it never actually cured my problem in the long term. This approach gives you tools to distance yourself a bit from unhelpful thoughts, and to sit with and learn to accept uncomfortable feelings, while still taking a ...more
Sep 22, 2014 Sara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Happiness Trap is one of the best self help books I've read. Definitely recommend it if you want to learn more about ACT.
Jun 08, 2015 Shelley rated it liked it
Shelves: misc, 2015
3.5? There was more in here that wasn't useful, but the useful bits were very useful. It ties into the feelings are not facts mantra I return to, giving suggestions on distancing yourself from repetitive negative thoughts, and I like that it acknowledges that you can't really control your thoughts and they can't be drowned out even by deliberately positive thoughts. They're there, so what are you going to do with them, acknowledge and defuse or dwell and believe? He points out that a lot of our ...more
Jul 15, 2015 Katja rated it really liked it
When my supervisor recommended this book to me, I was skeptical. As a rule, I tend to be skeptical of self-help books in general. I expected a vague, watered-down version of psychology that would leave my eyes rolling. But heck, I really liked it. This book is very practical and accurate in the way it describes how (at least in the Western world) rationality is the ideal and emotions are downplayed, and how this mindset can create problems for us. I’m concerned about the description of ACT on Go ...more
Sep 04, 2012 Rubina rated it really liked it
"ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) is not a religious, mystical, or spiritual path, although it may have some parallels. ACT is a scientifically based program for creating a meaningful life through accepting our internal experience, staying present, and acting on our values."

The 6 core principles of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy are Defusion, Expansion, Connection, The Observing Self, Values and Commited Action. It teaches that purely trying to replace negative thoughts with positive
Wandoo Ityavyar
Aug 12, 2013 Wandoo Ityavyar rated it it was amazing
Happiness Trap was one of the first books I read on my quest for personal enlightenment. One of the most profound things I read in Happiness Trap which I can exclusively look back and say I read it there first was that everyone feels that everybody except them has mastered the art of being happy all the time. This was fascinating to me because when I turned 20 I thought the universe was horribly off it's rocker because I suddenly wasn't happy all the time as per usual. I also was able to tempora ...more
Robin Gillmore
Nov 17, 2013 Robin Gillmore rated it it was amazing
I have read a lot of self-help books over the years, but this one is different and has made a significant difference to my quality of life. Acceptance Commitment Therapy is very different to traditional approaches to anxiety and depression because it teaches tools of acceptance rather than control, using three principal mechanisms:

1. Diffusion - decoupling ourselves from our thoughts

2. Expansion - accepting and making room for uncomfortable thoughts, feelings, urges and sensations

3. Connection -
Paul Daniels
The author comes across fairly quickly as a self-serving "I wrote this book to glorify myself" type. There are several good techniques in there but you find yourself wishing to tell the author to come down from their high position a bit.

Personally I much preferred the style of Charles Linden's guide over this book and would actually recommend the Linden method for those who are trying to break out of anxiety disorder as opposed to general depression.
Chase Parsley
Jul 07, 2013 Chase Parsley rated it really liked it
I started this book with skepticism but by the end was really into it. Harris combats cognitive strategies for being happy with more behaviorist methods, and some of his arguments are quite persuasive. He also does a good job talking about the importance of values in your life. A very good and easy to read book.
Sep 11, 2013 Kelly rated it really liked it
I'm actually really amazed how different this book was almost precisely one year after I read it the first time. I got so much more out of it. I took my time, I took pages and pages of notes and I feel like I really got some of the concepts better. I can see why this was our "Bible" on NB1!!!!
Chanel J
Nov 06, 2013 Chanel J rated it it was ok
While the ideas and techniques discussed in this book are interesting, the way it is written is insultingly patronising and alternates between speaking to you like a child and yelling at you like an impatient parent. This attitude ruined the book for me.
Nugroho Angkasa
Jul 07, 2012 Nugroho Angkasa rated it really liked it
Mengubah Negativitas Jadi Kreativitas

Dimuat di Jawapos, Minggu/25 Desember 2011

Judul : The Happiness Trap

Penulis : Dr. Russ Harris, M.D

Alih Bahasa : C. Krismariana W

Penerbit : Kanisius

Cetakan : I, 2011

Tebal : 320 halaman

ISBN : 978-979-21-2412-5

Harga : Rp 50.000

Buku ini menegaskan bahwa negativitas hendaknya dirangkul, diberi ruang, dan jangan malah disangkal.

Organisasi Kesehatan Dunia (WHO) mengungkap fakta mengejutkan. Satu dari 2 orang dewasa sempat serius berpikir untuk bunuh diri. Para respo
Triecia Gibney
Apr 16, 2013 Triecia Gibney rated it really liked it
If I am using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy to treat a client this is one of the books I will usually recommend (the other is Things Might go Terribly Horribly Wrong by Kelly Wilson). I find this book most useful for treating anxiety when a client is keen for a bag of techniques to help them cope. Paradoxically what is often most helpful about this book is the realisation by clients that giving up the search for a tool that will rid them of their anxiety is what ultimately frees them to get ...more
Rachel Smalter Hall
Pretty much the only things I don't like about this book are the title & cover art :-) This book came along at just the right time for me, really breaking down some of the concepts I've been learning about re: defusing anxious thoughts and making room for difficult emotions.

I identified with the concept that our minds have negative thoughts running through them all day because they're trying to help us be vigilant and survive all the scary wilderness predators. One of the most useful ideas o
Aug 28, 2013 Bill rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: adults
Harris engagingly lays out a no-B.S. approach to processing the thoughts, feelings, and images that are always popping into our heads. This approach wins big for noting right up front the futility of efforts to control these thoughts and feelings.
ACT instead advocates "acceptance" (i.e., acknowledgement) of one's inner experiences, which can help free one to take a step or two back from those that are unhelpful, thus diminishing their potency. One may then with greater mindfulness connect with w
Connor Chapple
Jul 25, 2016 Connor Chapple rated it it was amazing
So far this book has helped me immensely through a depressive state I've been experiencing. It gives you the tools and knowledge to really be able to look at your own thoughts objectively. It's not some kind of ancient tome filled with secrets and answers to make your life perfect. But it helps you learn how to take the first steps in taking charge of your mind and your thoughts.
Jun 13, 2011 Stephanie rated it really liked it
Took a while to get into, (those exercises to do and all) but think I'll actually purchase this one and refer back to it. Common sense, applicable quotes and life skills similar to The New Earth, but way less heavy...smiley face on the cover gives it away. Also the author is from beloved Australia and of all the self help books I've read...makes sense that you focus on your values first and then take small steps every day to work toward those. Appreciated the distinction b/t values and goals, as ...more
Nov 22, 2015 Simone rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This book crossed my desk at the library and I decided to pick it up. It suffers from a bit of self-help-book-itis (so many forced acronyms!) but it was an easy and engaging read. The basic idea is that while you can't prevent thoughts from popping into your head, you can choose how to react to and deal with those thoughts.
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Dr Russ Harris is a medically-qualified doctor, stress consultant, executive coach, trainer, author, and a leading authority in the powerful new paradigm of Psychological Flexibility. (This is a revolutionary new development in human psychology that enhances performance, reduces stress, and improves health and wellbeing.) Dr Russ regularly presents workshops on Psychological Flexibility at both na ...more
More about Russ Harris...

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“Psychological flexibility is the ability to adapt to a situation with awareness, openness, and focus and to take effective action, guided by your values.” 8 likes
“The more we try to avoid the basic reality that all human life involves pain, the more we are likely to struggle with that pain when it arises, thereby creating even more suffering.” 7 likes
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