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

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You can change your personal capacity for happiness. Research psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky's pioneering concept of the 40% solution shows you how

Drawing on her own groundbreaking research with thousands of men and women, research psychologist and University of California professor of psychology Sonja Lyubomirsky has pioneered a detailed yet easy-to-follow plan to increase happiness in our day-to-day lives-in the short term and over the long term. The How of Happiness is a different kind of happiness book, one that offers a comprehensive guide to understanding what happiness is, and isn't, and what can be done to bring us all closer to the happy life we envision for ourselves. Using more than a dozen uniquely formulated happiness-increasing strategies, The How of Happiness offers a new and potentially life- changing way to understand our innate potential for joy and happiness as well as our ability to sustain it in our lives.

Beginning with a short diagnostic quiz that helps readers to first quantify and then to understand what she describes as their "happiness set point," Lyubomirsky reveals that this set point determines just 50 percent of happiness while a mere 10 percent can be attributed to differences in life circumstances or situations. This leaves a startling, and startlingly underdeveloped, 40 percent of our capacity for happiness within our power to change.

Lyubomirsky's "happiness strategies" introduce readers to the concept of intentional activities, mindful actions that they can use to achieve a happier life. These include exercises in practicing optimism when imagining the future, instruction in how best to savor life's pleasures in the here and now, and a thoroughgoing explanation of the importance of staying active to being happy. Helping readers find the right fit between the goals they set and the activities she suggests, Lyubomirsky also helps readers understand the many obstacles to happiness as well as how to harness individual strengths to overcome them. Always emphasizing how much of our happiness is within our control, Lyubomirsky addresses the "scientific how" of her happiness research, demystifying the many myths that unnecessarily complicate its pursuit. Unlike those of many self-help books, all her recommendations are supported by scientific research.

The How of Happiness is both a powerful contribution to the field of positive psychology and a gift to all those who have questioned their own well- being and sought to take their happiness into their own hands.

384 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2007

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About the author

Sonja Lyubomirsky

9 books202 followers
The majority of my research career has been devoted to studying human happiness. Why is the scientific study of happiness important? In short, because most people believe that happiness is meaningful, desirable, and an important, worthy goal, because happiness is one of the most salient and significant dimensions of human experience and emotional life, because happiness yields numerous rewards for the individual, and because it makes for a better, healthier, stronger society. Along these lines, my current research addresses three critical questions: 1) What makes people happy?; 2) Is happiness a good thing?; and 3) How and why can people learn to lead happier and more flourishing lives?

Why Are Some People Happier Than Others?
I have always been struck by the capacity of some individuals to be remarkably happy, even in the face of stress, trauma, or adversity. Thus, my earlier research efforts had been focused on trying to understand why some people are happier than others (for a review and theoretical framework, see Lyubomirsky, 2001). To this end, my approach had been to explore the cognitive and motivational processes that distinguish individuals who show exceptionally high and low levels of happiness. These processes include social comparison (how people compare themselves to peers), dissonance reduction (how people justify both trivial and important choices in their lives), self-evaluation (how people judge themselves), and person perception (how people think about others). All of these processes, it turns out, have hedonic implications – that is, positive or negative consequences for happiness and self-regard – and thus are relevant to elucidating individual differences in enduring well-being. My students and I have found that truly happy individuals construe life events and daily situations in ways that seem to maintain their happiness, while unhappy individuals construe experiences in ways that seem to reinforce unhappiness. In essence, our research shows that happy individuals experience and react to events and circumstances in relatively more positive and more adaptive ways. For a recent example, we found that happy individuals are relatively more likely than their less happy peers to “endow” positive memories (i.e., store them in their emotional “bank ACCOUNTS”) but to “contrast” negative memories (i.e., “life is so much better now”) (Liberman, Boehm, Lyubomirsky, & Ross, 2011).

On-going studies in my laboratory are exploring additional cognitive and motivational processes that support the differing worlds of enduring happiness versus chronic unhappiness. For example, several investigations have revealed that unhappy individuals are more likely than happy ones to dwell on negative or ambiguous events (Lyubomirsky, Boehm, Kasri, & Zehm, 2011). Such “dwelling” or rumination may drain cognitive resources and thus bring to bear a variety of negative consequences, which could further reinforce unhappiness. These findings demonstrate some of the maladaptive by-products of self-reflection, suggesting that not only is the “unexamined life” worth living, but it is potentially full of happiness and joy.

To cast our work on happiness in a broader framework, we have also been exploring the meaning, expression, and pursuit of happiness across cultures, subcultures, and age groups (e.g., Boehm, Lyubomirsky, & Sheldon, 2011). For example, despite media reports, we have found that parents actually experience more happiness and meaning than do non-parents–both when evaluating their lives as a whole, when going about their days, and when caring for their children (versus doing other ACTIVITIES; Nelson, Kushlev, English, Dunn, & Lyubomirsky, 2013). Of course, parents’ happiness is impacted by myriad factors, including their age and SES and their children’s ages and temperaments (Nelson, Kushlev, & Lyubomirsky, in press). Furthermore, we are currently carrying out happiness-increasing interventions among Japanese engineers,

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