The How of Happiness Book

I recently finished reading The How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirskiy, who is a professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside. I would like to share book’s highlights with you. She introduces the concept of happiness as a pie with three slices of different sizes: set point – 50%, life circumstances -10% and intentional activity – 40%. This representation clearly states that it is all in our hands to change our happiness fortune and become happy if we learn how. It is learnable. First, you need to find happiness activities that fit your interests, your values and your needs. The goal is person-activity fit. Three ways that strategies can fit are: fit with the source of your unhappiness, fit with your strengths, fit with your lifestyle. When you choose an activity that is a good fit you will feel motivated to try it, to persist at it, and experience its rewards. The problem is choosing an approach that is inherently fruitless (wealth, approval, beauty) or not well suited to you.

Happiness Activities are:

Practicing Gratitude and Positive Thinking

1. Expressing gratitude

2. Cultivating Optimism

3. Avoiding overthinking and social comparison

Investing in social connections

4. Practicing Acts of kindness

5. Nurturing social relation ships

Managing Stress, Hardship and Trauma

6. Developing Strategies for Coping

7. Learning to forgive

Living in the Present

8. Increasing Flow experiences

9. Savoring Life’s joys

Committing to your Goals

10. Committing to your goals

Taking Care of your body and your soul

11. Practicing Religion and Spirituality

12. Taking Care of your body (meditation, psychical activity, acting like a happy person)

The Five How of sustained happiness:

  1. Positive Emotions
  2. Optimal Timing and Variety
  3. Social Support
  4. Measurement, Effort and Commitment
  5. Habit

The mind is its own place. And “in itself can make a heaven of hell and a hell of heaven”, John Milton wrote in Paradise lost. Happiness is how you think about your world, yourself and other people. Avoid overthinking and social comparison topic is one of my favorite in the book:

She writes that when you have negative thoughts, the first strategy is to distract yourself. Read or watch something that is funny or suspenseful. Listen to a song that is transporting, meet a friend for a tea, do a physical activity that gets your heart rate up. Any activity could work, as long as it absorbs and compels you, and is not harmful to you or others. She adds that it is perfect time to hone resources and skills, like creativity and sociability and problem-solving skills. The second strategy is called Stop or no, when you resume overthinking. Think of something else. Forbid yourself of ruminating. The third strategy is from Dear Abby, who set aside 30 minutes a day for exactly this purpose –ruminating, and nothing else. The fourth strategy is to talk to sympathetic and trusted person about your thoughts and troubles. And the final strategy involves writing. Finding meaning in the trauma through writing seems to reduce how often and how intensely we express intrusive thoughts about it. I would add to this list volunteering.

Another helpful technique is to dodge overthinking triggers, learn to meditate, and take in the big picture. Like its extreme version: will it matter when you are on your deathbed?

Visualize yourself as a microscopic dot on Earth, which is a tiny part of the Milky Way, which makes an infinitesimal speck of the Universe. Few things in life are so significant that they are worth overthinking. I personally like Buddhist approach to temporarily delete meaning and think that all is void and empty of meaning and start afresh. It will give you a new point of view on life. If it will matter in one year, then think of it as a lesson and learn. Another way to stop overthinking is to act to solve problems and develop problem-focused and emotion-focused copying.

Based on this book, Signal Patterns developed a mobile app called Live Happy, and you can use some of the activities described in the book in your everyday life, like savoring, gratitude journal, acts of kindness, increasing flow experiences and social support. There are other good points in the book about the benefits of committed goal pursuit, taking care of your body and soul. On the topic of living in the present, I would recommend the book “Veronica decides to die” by Paolo Coelho and “The Heart of Paris” movie. Happiness is always in your memory bank…

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