Lyubomirsky (Psychology/Univ. of California, Riverside; The How of Happiness, 2008) dismantles culturally generated myths of happiness and offers strategies to help people “reach and exceed [their personal] happiness potentials.”
The author examines how the "shoulds" of happiness not only undermine well-being, but also make it hard for individuals to cope with the sometimes difficult realities of adulthood. She divides the book into three sections, addressing the situations or conditions in which adults are most likely to encounter setbacks: relationships, work/finances and middle to old age. When individuals don't achieve what they think will make them happy, crisis—along with the fear and anxiety it generates—follows. Even when they do get what they believe will bring them happiness, people often experience profound discontent, which can also lead to upheaval. Lyubomirsky argues that however painful these turning points are, they can also present “opportunities for renewal, growth, or meaningful change,” which can result in greater happiness in the long term. The author further maintains that what prevents individuals from making the most of these opportunities is how they choose to react. These responses are in turn influenced by received myths of happiness. She suggests that people can help themselves deal more effectively with trauma by cultivating an awareness of happiness myths and then developing a more reasoned approach to these challenges, which are really just rites of passage along the path of personal evolution. Her approach is well-researched and eminently pragmatic, but like the pursuit of happiness itself, it requires commitment and discipline since "there’s no magic formula" for achieving bliss.
Informative and engaging.