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Bluebird: Women and the New Psychology of Happiness

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  579 ratings  ·  109 reviews
Happiness has become a serious business. Where twentiethcentury psychology focused on depression and illness, in the new millennium scientists have begun focusing on "positive psychology"--the study of happiness. Ariel Gore first became intrigued by this subject when she discovered that Positive Psychology was the most popular
Hardcover, 196 pages
Published January 28th 2010 by Farrar Straus Giroux (first published 2010)
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Lasara Allen
Aug 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I am reading Ariel Gore's "Bluebird: Women and the New Psychology of Happiness" for the first time. The fact that it's taken me this long to get to it is a bit of an embarrassment, as Ariel is both a friend, a peer, and she mentioned me in the book itself!

Another reason it's ridiculous it's take me this long to get to it is that Ariel is, I believe, one of the great writers of our generation. Utterly and easily readable, she makes a topic that could be stilted and distant deeply and personally
Kate Elliott
Aug 23, 2014 rated it liked it
Don't let the chintzy cover fool you. This is a great companion piece to the works of Gilligan, Gilbert, Gubar, and Brown. Also provides much needed critique of some of the blind spots of positive psychology-- gender, class, cross-cultural differences. Functions both as an academic exercise and Gore's own personal journey in a seamless fashion. ...more
Apr 07, 2010 rated it liked it
i feel so weird & conflicted about this book! i guess i feel weird & conflicted about ariel gore's work in general. in the abstract, i feel like i enjoy her writing, but when i'm actually reading it, it doesn't seem to go anywhere & i'm not really into it. that's exactly how i feel about this book: i enjoyed the process of reading it (which took all of two & a half hours--i couldn't believe what a quick read it was) & i feel like there were even some insights, but it's all just a mishmash of fle ...more
Sep 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I’ve been anxious to review this book since I first cracked it open in September. I found the book on Amazon, after a summer of working with a therapist myself trying to sort out my depression, and had the intention of ordering it but in September I decided to get it through interlibrary loan and the day it arrived through interlibrary loan I sat in my room and plowed through sixty-six pages without once glancing up to look at the clock. Why was a book on psychology so engrossing to me?

The answe
Elevate Difference
Jan 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This short but meaningful book is a smart combination of self-help, memoir, and academic study. Gore does not surmise a remedy for the blues, she does not use her life as an anecdote to overcome defeat or as a guiding light toward beatitude, nor does she use statistics and theory to expose her education. Instead, Bluebird: Women and the New Psychology of Happiness is a collection of wise womanhood, the crannies of optimism that are too often ignored.

With eloquent emotional pacing, Gore forms a c
Jul 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
I love this book. It was inspiring and comforting, taking true-to-life accounts from real women about their sources of happiness.

Favorite quotes:

Page 32
We create our own reality thusly.
Without denial or narcissism, we muster the courage to face the world as it is, and we begin to take an active role in its transformation. We muster the courage to face our own lives just as they are and, even in the midst of suffering, rejoice.

Page 38
As women... we were supposed to concern ourselves with whether
May 23, 2010 added it
I just finished the book Bluebird: Women and the New Psychology of Happiness by Ariel Gore. Overall, I liked it. I think there are bits and pieces that are problematic, and some parts that really resonated with me, so overall, I'd say it was good.

The take-away message that I really liked was that we live in a culture where being unhappy is seen as a problem that needs to be fixed. Yet, the unhappiness is the way for us to see, feel and recognize the happiness. Gore talked about this in the frame
One of the best books I've read in a while. Ariel Gore takes a critical look at the positive psychology movement. However, unlike Barbara Ehrenreich's book on the same topic (which came out around the same time), this book offers a more nuanced and complex analysis of happiness, specifically around the question of what happiness means for women and how this relates to positive psychology approaches. The book is a nicely-done interweaving of memoir/ personal account with intellectual analysis and ...more
Mar 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
*Positive psychology for the rest of us,*

This book made me happy. So happy that I read it twice.

A (wo)manifesto for happiness, _Bluebird_ tailors the newly emerging field of positive psychology to fit the rest of us--i.e., females. As Ariel herself explains: "This is a book about shaping our own realities--about better understanding our emotional lives so we might become more active players in their creation--so I think it's important to consider in what ways we create our realities. Because as
Jun 19, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, feminism
B-Normally I wouldn't have read a book on happiness, but Ariel Gore is one of my fave writers. An interesting look at happiness, what makes happiness, why women aren't experts on happiness, why women seem more often unhappy…when things get tough, I practice tonglen and have started doing it in stressful work and subway situations, and it really helps. But what makes you happy? What makes me happy? Running, my love, my kitty, writing, dancing, pretty places, hiking, nature, the ocean...I need to ...more
Jan 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I need this book on my shelf permanently, just so I can reread passages whenever I forget what makes me happy. Empowered books written by smart, intuitive women are what make me happy. Thank you, Ariel Gore.
Apr 24, 2010 rated it it was ok
A promising start but utimately the book proves both tedious and self indulgent.
Dec 09, 2019 rated it did not like it
I was deceived by the adorable bluebird on the cover. I was talked into taking this book out from the library since it might instruct me on how to be a more content person.

Well, it did not. I thought the book was whiney about taking care of young children and getting up early.

Later in the text it mentions what I've researched during undergrad about work and flow (Csikszentmihalyi) the optimal moments often occurring by chance.

The last question it asks is a good metric for your year: are you hap
Jan 31, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a great read-- I'm perhaps not her ideal audience as I don't have children and mothering was a large focus of the book. Still really excellent. ...more
Jun 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
"The manufacture of happiness actually leads to emotional burnout. There's an ironic correlation between forced cheerfulness and depression. And when Cheerfulness is considered the rule, even ordinary sadness or frustration----feelings that would be considered normal in many other cultures and at many other times in history --- can easily be interpreted as illness." p 53

Talking about depression: "Melancholia" descriptions could be found in Greek medical texts, the Bible and Chinese mythology. "B
Apr 20, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This short but meaningful book is a smart combination of self-help, memoir, and academic study. Gore does not surmise a remedy for the blues, she does not use her life as an anecdote to overcome defeat or as a guiding light toward beatitude, nor does she use statistics and theory to expose her education. Instead, Bluebird: Women and the New Psychology of Happiness is a collection of wise womanhood, the crannies of optimism that are too often ignored.

With eloquent emotional pacing, Gore forms a c
Jan 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
I was reading the reviews of the Gretchen Rubin Happiness books and this book was recommended as being one worth reading on the topic of happiness. I'm glad it was as I think it is so much more insightful and on point regarding the issue of happiness than the Rubin books. Gore does a good job of looking at societal attitudes and messages about womanhood and how hard finding your own personal happiness can be. Reading her rundown of how men have negatively classified women's emotional states thro ...more
Apr 05, 2010 rated it liked it
I thought this book was extremely helpful in coming to terms with where you are in life, and helping you figure out where you want to be. This book along with a lot of LONG conversations with my husband, I finally feel at peace with my life. I feel like I know what I want in 5 years and in 25 years. I finally feel like I know where I'm going I again, something that I haven't felt in a lot of years. Turns out its ok to not be happy all the time. Its ok to make decisions that don't please everyone ...more
Michelle Cristiani
Jul 22, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoirs
Ariel Gore is a respected writer and has a wide following. When she delved into postiive psychology, she found that women were sorely underrepresented in its research. So she set out to find what we mean when we talk about happiness, and what components make up happiness for both women and men.

As a memoir, and self-help book, it's fabulous. The book is full of gems and imspiring quotes, and the last chapter manifesto makes you want to jump up and fight for your joy. Her stories are compelling, a
Emma  Kaufmann
Mar 02, 2010 rated it did not like it
This book was one I thankfully did not buy or I would have asked for my money back. I had to skim read it because it was so thin on information, inspiration, insight or indeed anything else. I knew things were going to get bad when the author talked about Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat Pray Love in terms of that being a good book rather than the self indulgent rant of a very spoilt brat.

Bluebird says nothing for many pages while positing the question what makes women happy, and then comes to the conclu
C. Janelle
Sep 04, 2010 rated it really liked it
I was neutral about this book at best for the first third or so. I'm not sure I agreed with all of Gore's conclusions about why women are diagnosed with depression more often than men and the reasons we're prescribed anti-depressants more often. She seemed to be pushing the "cultural pressure to be happy" thing a little harder than I was totally comfortable with. More than that, it wasn't really new information to me, but then, perhaps I shouldn't fault her for that.

But the last two-thirds reall
Apr 05, 2011 rated it liked it
It was a pleasant, philosophical read. Interesting and good insights on the psycholgy profession's ways of evaluating depression in women versus men -- and the obvious sexism that led many in the profession's early and not-so-early days to patronize women's feelings and insist on male-led traditional ways to approach the subject of happiness. I learned - we can make no assumptions--and to appreciate the pluses, but not take my happiness as a given, when I have it. we all have to look for it--and ...more
Jan 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
Fascinating- part happiness diary, part research and information on the happiness
movement and positive psychology, part history lesson, part self help book.

But the topic- happiness and in particular how the current studies, tools. etc. relate to women in general and the American woman in particular, fascinating. Arial Gore approached the topic first by looking at the background of happiness, expectations of happiness and where these may come from. She explores the treatment of not being happy.
Jan 19, 2013 rated it it was ok
On my decision to only read one book about happiness (since it would only depress me to read more), I picked Bluebird rather than The Happiness Project because the latter encourages singing in the morning. Happiness is the now the new-ish form of measuring a society's wellbeing instead of GDP (think Bhutan), just like EQ is being trotted out as a better indicator of a child's future success than IQ.

Gore spends the entire book trying to define happiness ("it is not the absence of sadness") but g
Feb 09, 2010 marked it as beauty-experiment-reads
Are women and men happy in different ways, for different reasons? In this mix of research and personal experience, Gore says yes, and faults the Positive Psychology movement (Seligman, Csikszentmihalyi and others)for ignoring or underemphasizing these differences. Gore's own study of women's happiness--performed by collecting journal entries and forming "expert" panels of women-- is interesting, but only feels incisive and truly informative in the last quarter of the book. While I enjoyed readin ...more
Jan 08, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ariel Gore doesn't resonate with me all that well as a person: I don't imagine us getting along in real life. Often her conclusions seem predisposed by her feminist ideals (her focus group of "experts" is culled from her own circle, after all. Also, I don't know that the author of "Eat. Pray. Love." warrants the weight of being hailed as a contemporary philosopher quite yet as Gore seems to.)
She varies her approach in searching for sources of happiness, which I appreciate. Very little attention
Laura I.
I mostly really liked this -- it was a thoughtful, personal take on the "positive psychology" trend and how/if women's experience with and expectations for happiness are different from those of the men who make up most of the "experts" and study participants. I loved the idea of a "panel of experts" comprised of regular women, and the excerpts from their journals were all fantastic. It didn't 100% come together in the end -- because, obviously, there is no one answer to "what does happiness mean ...more
Josie Cook M.A.
Apr 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Amazing journey inside these pages! A must-read for writers and mothers.

I will be referring back to this book in the future, too.

Gore never lets her readers down with her wit and her insight combined to bring forth wisdom on various topics. She always has this amazing female voice that makes an individual want to keep reading her words until one is finished. Then, the reader wants more of her talent to embrace and seeks another volume of inspiring wisdom by this author to appease the inner cra
Jan 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Chewy without being too dense, but I've read it too closely to another book on parenting to be able to properly separate what I enjoyed most about this one without relying on the other as comparison. I did enjoy all the glimpses into the lives of these women, the author and her circle of experts - I would liked to have seen more of that, I think, than the other bits on positive psychology, even if those bits were interesting too. ...more
Jun 13, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2010
About the cultural norms surrounding the idea of joy and happiness for women and the acceptable desire for breaking away. I have to admit I wasn't sure about this book when I picked it up at the library. I thought it might turn out to be boring and heavy, given the topic. I found the book to be a well-written, easy, light read. ...more
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ARIEL GORE is the author of We Were Witches (The Feminist Press, 2017), The End of Eve (Hawthorne Books, 2014), and numerous other books on parenting, the novel The Traveling Death and Resurrection Show, the memoir Atlas of the Human Heart, and the writer’s guide How to Become a Famous Writer Before You’re Dead. Farrar, Straus and Giroux will publish Bluebird: Women and the New Psychology of Happi ...more

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“When we strike a balance between the challenge of an activity and our skill at performing it, when the rhythm of the work itself feels in sync with our pulse, when we know that what we're doing matters, we can get totally absorbed in our task. That is happiness.

The life coach Martha Beck asks new potential clients, "Is there anything you do regularly that makes you forget what time it is?"

That forgetting -- that pure absorption -- is what the psychologist Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi calls "flow" or optimal experience. In an interview with Wired magazine, he described flow as "being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you're using your skills to the utmost."

In a typical day that teeters between anxiety and boredom, flow experiences are those flashes of intense living -- bright against the dull. These optimal experiences can happen when we're engaged in work paid and unpaid, in sports, in music, in art.

The researchers Maria Allison and Margaret Duncan have studied the role of flow in women's lives and looked at factors that contributed to what they call "antiflow." Antiflow was associated with repetitive household tasks, repetitive tasks at work, unchallenging tasks, and work we see as meaningless. But there's an element of chaos when it comes to flow. Even if we're doing meaningful and challenging work, that sense of total absoprtion can elude us. We might get completely and beautifully lost in something today, and, try as we might to re-create the same conditions tomorrow, our task might jsut feel like, well, work.

In A Life of One's Own, Marion Milner described her effort to re-create teh conditions of her own recorded moments of happiness, saying, "Often when I felt certain that I had discovered the little mental act which produced the change I walked on air, exulting that I had found the key to my garden of delight and could slip through the door whenever I wished. But most often when I came again the place seemed different, the door overgrown with thorns and my key stuck in the lock. It was as if the first time I had said 'abracadabra' the door had opened, but the next time I must use a different word. (123-124).”
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