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The How of Happiness

wildly happy

photo by *_filippo_*

Which of these things, do you think would make you happier:

  • A relationship?
  • More flexibility at work?
  • A new job?
  • An extra bedroom?
  • A more attentive spouse?
  • A baby?
  • Looking younger?
  • Pain relief?
  • Losing weight?
  • More money?
  • More time?

You might be surprised to learn that these things have only a small impact on our happiness. In our search, “we overlook the true sources of personal happiness.” So begins “The How of Happiness” by Sonja Lyubomirsky.

“The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want” by Sonja Lyubomirsky is a fantastic new book which gives you three important categories of information relating to happiness. First it gives you the scientific facts about happiness which states that 40% of your happiness is totally within your control. The second part of the book, which is the real meat and, I think, the greatest value, gives a wealth of advice on how to be happy, maximizing that 40% which is in your control. The last part of the book discusses maintaining lifelong happiness and a brief discussion about what to do if you suffer from depression.

Part One: The Science – “How to Attain Real and Lasting Happiness”

The How of Happiness” discusses how and why you are happy including your

  • Genetic Setpoint – responsible for 50% of your happiness
  • Life Circumstances -responsible for 10% of your happiness
  • Intentional Activity – responsible for 40% of your happiness

Ms. Lyubomirsky does a good job with presenting this information. There are interesting case studies to demonstrate the scientific findings. Where I got really excited was in the middle of the book and let me tell you why.

Part Two: The Instruction Manual – “Happiness Activities”

I liked this part of the book the best partly because that’s what I personally like to focus on: taking action. I am personally a big believer in analyzing happiness only enough to figure out what to do next to make life fun. Too much analysis = paralysis = more unhappiness.

The “Happiness Activities” cover these areas:

  • Practicing Gratitude and Positive Thinking
  • Investing in Social Connections
  • Managing Stress, Hardship, and Trauma
  • Living in the Present
  • Committing to Your Goals
  • Taking Care of Your Body and Soul

In all there are 12 “Happiness Activities” presented within those areas. And this is the other reason why I like this book so much. Each activity is fully fleshed out with in-depth instructions, references to happiness studies, anecdotal stories and more. The information contained in this book is at once highly usable, interesting, and valuable.

Part Three: Maintaining Lifelong Happiness – “Secrets to Abiding Happiness”

This section covers the “Five Hows” of maintaining happiness for your whole life. In it, the author discusses the 12 happiness activities from a macro level, examining them as they relate to each other and how you might combine them. There is also guidance on how to stick with the activities as a lifelong commitment. And lastly, a postscript on depression discusses the causes and most effective treatments for this disease.

The Bottom Line – My Recommendation

Could you find all this information on the web for free? Perhaps some, but not all in one convenient place, nicely organized together in such a useful format. I definitely recommend this book. Check it out at your local library or you can purchase it at Amazon by clicking on this link: “The How of Happiness

Additional Resource

Thanks for reading and here’s to your happiness!

Please Share!

If and when you read the book, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it! All comments big and small are very welcomed!

You can Support Life Learning Today by visiting one of my sponsors, making a donation, or making a purchase at Amazon through one of my links. Thank you!


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17 Responses to The How of Happiness

  1. karl Staib - Your Happiness Matters January 27, 2008 at 12:46 pm #

    I’m not sure how she researched and created her percentages because it seems to be too broad of a sweep to fit into people’s lives. In my opinion my happiness would break down like this:
    70% intentional activity
    25% genetic
    5% outside circumstances

    I really like your breakdown of the book, it’s something that I should pick up.

  2. Pat January 27, 2008 at 8:27 pm #

    Excellent review, and a good reminder that the part that we can control is usually based on our level of gratitude. Changing our life circumstances can make us happier, but only to a point. The rest has to come from our shift in perspective. Definitely going to check this book out. Thanks!

  3. full disk encryption January 28, 2008 at 6:41 pm #

    one of the deepest things I ever heard about happiness was that it is not something you do, but something you are. When you remove the assumptions, fears, and blocks about the world you live in, happiness is our natural condition. Looking at children play we can see happiness is a part of who we are!

  4. Las Vegas Homes Guy January 29, 2008 at 4:16 am #

    I have to say, the genetic component should be a little more. I’ve known a few people that had the exact same outlook and attitude as their parents (not a good thing) and it was definitely genetic. I think a big part of it is accepting who you are and taking some responsibility.

  5. alio January 31, 2008 at 5:25 pm #

    This is really interesting. I would be really interested in reading this book. Thanks for the recommendation.

    I also LOVE the picture…such pure joy and fun on her face! 🙂

  6. property sale February 5, 2008 at 6:39 pm #

    I was wondering what you thought of “Authentic Happiness” by Martin EP Seligman and how it corresponds to this book?

  7. golf course design February 8, 2008 at 6:03 pm #

    How can you break down a complex issue, like happiness, in such a way. It’s the classic Nature vs. Nurture. How can you measure the effect of outside influences on a persons happiness. And how can you apply any form of a metric to inherited happiness.

    I’m sure both play a big part in happiness, but it seems impossible to break it down into percentages.

  8. HabitosVitales February 9, 2008 at 3:41 pm #

    Seems like a quite interesting book, will definately pick it up. I also recommend stumbling on happiness by Dan Gilbert. A Harvard professor studying happiness!

  9. Susan February 27, 2008 at 9:46 pm #

    Hmmm…when I was running my eyes down that list, I was thinking ‘none of these would ultimately make me happy’. I mean, achieving or having any of these would leave me less stressed out, but I’m not sure they’d leave me giggling all the way to the grave.

    So I wasn’t surprised by your answer.

    Very interesting that your life circumstances are only responsible for 10% of your happiness as a lot of people use their upbringing to justify why they’re not happy (myself included).

  10. Loskas June 5, 2008 at 6:06 am #

    Loved this review. Maybe I should take a look at this product.

    Love the photo, btw 😀

  11. agentsully June 7, 2008 at 5:17 pm #

    @Loskas – yes, do check it out!

  12. Pat September 14, 2008 at 6:05 pm #

    I loved this book. It provides evidence to back up its claims but does not read at all like a scientific journal article. It’s such easy reading and makes so much sense.

    What a relief to realize that everyone can find the unique fit of activities to work best with their personality. I always cringed whenever someone suggested writing a journal or sending gratitude letters. It was an eyeopener to realize that things such as setting and achieving goals can help boost happiness.

  13. Monica May 29, 2011 at 6:43 am #

    It seems a nice book… and I do agree that too much analysis leads to paralysis which further results in unhappiness…

    Good luck and I do hope your book does well.


    • AgentSully June 1, 2011 at 6:50 pm #

      @Monica -Thank you!

  14. Frank Douglas September 21, 2011 at 10:36 am #

    In my experience language and physiology play a large factor in our day to day happiness. The various states we indulge throughout the day leave clues. Someone who is depressed holds their body in specific ways, and uses language to match.
    A great pick-me-up when one is feeling a little down is to mimic a happy state for a minute or so. Pull back your shoulders, head held high, with a smile from ear to ear. Add an upbeat melody to the mix and hold for at least a minute. In my experience, one’s mood will soften and move towards the intended state.
    I know this isn’t the all encompassing solution to living at one’s best, but it is a great start.


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