An amateur scholar’s personal exploration of the science of joy, and what her findings mean for American women.
When Hip Mama founding editor Gore (How to Become a Famous Writer Before You’re Dead, 2007, etc.) heard on NPR that Harvard’s new Positive Psychology class was pushing the enrollment limit, she dug up her happiness diary from college. The journal was inspired by psychotherapist Marion Milner’s book project of recording and analyzing moments of happiness in her life. Similarly, Bluebird chronicles Gore’s ups and downs in her personal quest for happiness, including one pregnancy at 18 and another planned with her partner at 37 (the latter coincides with the writing of the book). The book is also a distillation of the history of happiness studies, with commentary on America’s and women’s unique relationship with the emotion. These more substantive chapters, each commencing with a journal quotation from a member of Gore’s everyday “council of experts,” alternate with chapters comprised of select responses she elicited from 100 women to questions like “How heavily do you weigh happiness when making life decisions?” Nearly all happiness studies cite gratitude and selflessness as keys to contentment. Hedonic adaptation theory holds that humans have a set range for happiness, determined more by genetics than by changes in life circumstances. Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes happiness as “flow” or optimal experience—being completely, unselfconsciously absorbed in a task. Women, however, according to statistics on depression—which are a closed circle and inherently flawed, Gore says—seem to have a harder time achieving happiness. In discussing America’s addiction to antidepressants, the author occasionally slips into oversimplified diatribes that reveal her California hippie upbringing and undermine her otherwise convincing points. She concludes that “[h]appiness, like some central seed, is actually contained within the pursuit.”
Ideal for Eat, Pray, Love fans in search of positive psychological theory.