David W. Kidder, Ph.D.
“The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want”
Sonja Lyubormirsky, Ph.D.
The author, Sonja Lyubormirsky, in her book published in 2007 gives the reader a road map for attaining happiness in life. She not only helps you understand how to achieve happiness, but gives you practical steps and activities that have been demonstrated to be effective through research studies by the author and others. Many of the activities are not new to you, but have been espoused by many experts and writers over the years. However, these activities have been chosen by the author because they have research data to support their effectiveness.
Happiness is defined by the author as the “experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile” (p. 32).
The author suggests what determines our happiness or well-being. Fifty percent of our happiness level can be accounted for by heredity. Ten percent of our happiness is determined by our circumstances or situations. Forty percent of our happiness is determined by what we do and how we think in our daily lives. Don’t be discouraged by the 50% that is genetically determined. “Growing research demonstrates persuasively that we can overcome our genetic programming” (p. 41). If you focus your attention, actions, thoughts on the 50% that is within your control, you can increase your happiness above your genetically determined set point.
In the second part of her book the author describes in great detail happiness activities that have been shown to bring people to a higher state of well-being. Twelve activities are grouped into six categories. They are listed below:
Practicing gratitude and positive thinking
Avoiding overthinking and social comparison
Investing in social connections
Practicing acts of kindness
Nurturing social relationships
Managing stress, hardship, and trauma
Developing strategies for coping
Learning to forgive
Living in the present
Increasing flow experiences
Savoring life’s joys
Committing to your goals
Six benefits of committed goal pursuit
What kinds of goals should you pursue?
Recommendations for committed goal pursuit
Taking care of your body and your soul
Practicing religion and spirituality
Taking care of your body (meditation)
Taking care of your body (physical activity)
Taking care of your body (acting like a happy person)
In part two of her book the author provides a test that you can take and score yourself which helps you find the activities which best fit your personality, interests, weaknesses, strengths, goals, needs, and lifestyle. This test gives you some starting points for choosing activities that are most likely to get you moving toward a happier life.
In the third part of the book the author describes methods to help sustain happiness. Happiness is often fleeting. We can all describe times when we’ve been happy, but how long did it last? Was it dependent upon some environmental event or situation that was short-lived? The author understands this and provide tools to make it last longer and become a more integral part of our daily consciousness.
Finally because for many people the opposite of happiness is depression, the author dedicates a section of her book to address the treatment of depression which may require more than the happiness activities described in part 2 of her book.
Lyubormirsky, Sonja. The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want. (2008) New York: The Penguin Press.
If you want to find out more about the How of Happiness, go to the book’s website:
and go to the author’s web site:
and go to Amazon.com to order the book