The Myths of Happiness: What Should Make You Happy, but Doesn't, What Shouldn't Make You Happy, but Does

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Overview

Happiness expert Sonja Lyubomirsky’s research-based lessons in how to find opportunity in life’s thorniest moments

In The Myths of Happiness, Sonja Lyubomirsky isolates the major turning points of adult life, looking to both successes (marriage, children, wealth) and challenges (divorce, financial ruin, illness) to reveal that our misconceptions about the impact of such events is perhaps the greatest threat to our long-term well-being.

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The Myths of Happiness: What Should Make You Happy, but Doesn't, What Shouldn't Make You Happy, but Does

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Overview

Happiness expert Sonja Lyubomirsky’s research-based lessons in how to find opportunity in life’s thorniest moments

In The Myths of Happiness, Sonja Lyubomirsky isolates the major turning points of adult life, looking to both successes (marriage, children, wealth) and challenges (divorce, financial ruin, illness) to reveal that our misconceptions about the impact of such events is perhaps the greatest threat to our long-term well-being.

Lyubomirsky argues that we have been given false promises—myths that assure us that lifelong happiness will be attained once we hit the culturally confirmed markers of adult success. This restricted view of happiness works to discourage us from recognizing the upside of any negative life turn and blocks us from recognizing our own growth potential. Our outsized expectations transform natural rites of passage into emotional land mines and steer us to make toxic decisions, as The Myths of Happiness reveals.

Because we expect the best (or the worst) from life’s turning points, we shortsightedly place too much weight on our initial emotional responses. The Myths of Happiness empowers readers to look beyond their first response, sharing scientific evidence that often it is our mindset—not our circumstances—that matters. Central to these findings is the notion of hedonic adaptation, the fact that people are far more adaptable than they think. Even after a major life change—good or bad—we tend to return to our initial happiness level, forgetting what once made us elated or why we felt that life was so unbearable. The Myths of Happiness offers the perspective we need to make wiser choices, sharing how to slow the effects of this adaptation after a positive turn and find the way forward in a time of darkness.

In The Myths of Happiness, Sonja Lyubomirsky turns an empirical eye to the biggest, messiest moments, providing readers with the clear-eyed vision they need to build the healthiest, most satisfying life. A corrective course on happiness and a call to regard life’s twists and turns with a more open mind, The Myths of Happiness shares practical lessons with life-changing potential.
 

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this thought-provoking volume, Lyubomirsky (The How of Happiness), psychology professor at the University of California–Riverside, examines happiness and conventional notions about how it’s nurtured in relationships, at work, and in one’s own psyche. Many of these beliefs are damaging myths, she opines: while society leads people to believe that happiness will necessarily accompany the achievement of certain life goals—like marriage or the birth of a child—such misconceptions can lead to depression when the expected euphoria fails to arrive. Additionally, the author argues that phenomena that are traditionally viewed as negative (e.g., divorce, illness, job loss) can in fact promote the development of crucial life skills that can lead, in the long run, to a more sustainable form of happiness—one that can cope with adversity rather than break down before it. “We must stop waiting for happiness, and we must stop being terrified of the potential for unhappiness,” she notes. “othing in life is as joy-producing or as misery-inducing as we think it is.” While remaining sympathetic to her readers’ pain, Lyubomirsky demonstrates that positively reframing life events can mine the best out of even the darkest situations. Provocative and fresh. (Jan. 7)
Kirkus Reviews
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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781594204371
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 1/3/2013
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 436,401
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

SONJA LYUBOMIRSKY is a professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside. Her research—on the possibility of permanently increasing happiness— has been honored with a Science of Generosity grant, a John Templeton Foundation grant, a Templeton Positive Psychology Prize, and a million-dollar grant from the National Institute of Mental Health. Lyubomirsky’s 2008 book, The How of Happiness, has been translated into nineteen languages. She lives in Santa Monica, California, with her family.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: The Myths of Happiness 1

Part I Connections

Chapter 1 I'll Be Happy When ... I'm Married to the Right Person 17

Chapter 2 I Can't Be Happy When ... My Relationship Has Fallen Apart 50

Chapter 3 I'll Be Happy When ... I Have Kids 83

Chapter 4 I Can't Be Happy When ... I Don't Have a Partner 101

Part II Work and Money

Chapter 5 I'll Be Happy When ... I Find the Right Job 115

Chapter 6 I Can't Be Happy When ... I'm Broke 144

Chapter 7 I'll Be Happy When ... I'm Rich 163

Part III Looking Back

Chapter 8 I Can't Be Happy When ... the Test Results Were Positive 185

Chapter 9 I Can't Be Happy When ... I Know I'll Never Play Shortstop for the Yankees 211

Chapter 10 I Can't Be Happy When ... the Best Years of My Life Are Over 233

Conclusion: Where Happiness Is Really Found 248

Acknowledgments 253

Notes 257

Index 291

About the Author 305

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 5 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 10, 2013

    I'm about to have my first book published. The idea of seeing bo

    I'm about to have my first book published. The idea of seeing boxes of books on my front doorstep feels both surreal and monumental. It's a huge accomplishment that I will celebrate with a party, in a red barn, with twinkly lights. There will be music, friends, food, and revelry. But I know that a published book won't bring me happiness.




    A few days ago I was talking to a friend who has authored over 40 books. I told her I knew that having a published book would not make me happy. She seemed surprised and wanted to know how I knew that ahead of time. I told her I thought it was because I had done so much research on the topic of happiness. I understand what poor judges people are at knowing what will bring them happiness and what won't.




    People have a happiness set point. Fifty percent of happiness is genetic, ten percent is based on life circumstances, and forty percent is within our power to effect. For instance, Americans will put themselves in debt for decades thinking a dream home, boat, or car will make them happy. But the new wears off within a few days because of an effect called hedonic adaptation. Most people don't understand that the lotto winer and the paralyzed person will bounce back to their prior happiness level within a few months of their changed life condition.




    The joy is in the journey. I'll never forget what my friend Zeke Pipher said when his book released. In essence, "Whether this book sells or not, it won't define my worth, happiness, or success." He went on to describe his faith and his relationship with his wife and children, saying those were the reasons for his joy. Zeke should know. His mom wrote an international best-seller: she soon found that the harried pace of traveling and speaking made her miserable. There's an interesting research study that found when people were randomly beeped, and told to write down what they were doing and how happy they were, folks were happiest while in the creative state of "flow." Flow is when you are fully absorbed in an activity, so much so that you lose sense of time. Numerous studies have shown that it is the striving, not the achieving, that makes us happy, especially when our goals are realistic, flexible, valued by the culture, authentic, non-materialistic, and not negatively impacting other parts of our lives.




    The more we attain, the more we want, and this negates our increased happiness. Professor Sonja Lyubomirsky in her newly released book, The Myths of Happiness, explains that aspirations are misleading. We attain more, so we want more, and the wanting makes us feel bad. Crazy huh? She concludes that we shouldn't expect less but that we should simply not allow our desires to continue escalating to the point where we end up feeling entitled and convinced that we would only be happy if we got more and more of this or that.




    Relying on external rather than internal validation makes us unhappy. Some people think they will be happy based on other people's opinion of their success. But, when we ask ourselves the question, "How good (successful, smart, affable, prosperous, ethical) am I?" the people who rely on an internal rather than external objective standard are happier. There will always be someone wealthier, more attractive, thinner, more popular, and more talented, therefore, relying on other people's opinions rather than our own is a recipe for misery.




    In short, goals which cause growth, make us feel competent, and connect us to others, are the ones that make us happy. Goals which make us strive to be rich, famous, popular, or powerful, make us unhappy.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 4, 2013

    Moonclan Apprentice Den

    ~ Moonlightstar

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted January 6, 2013

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    Posted February 9, 2013

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    Posted January 18, 2013

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