The Happiness Trap Book Summary - The Happiness Trap Book explained in key points
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The Happiness Trap summary

Russ Harris

How to Stop Struggling and Start Living

4.6 (440 ratings)
18 mins

Brief summary

The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris is a self-help book that teaches how to overcome negative emotions and embrace life's challenges by accepting them. The book offers practical techniques and exercises to help readers break free from the "happiness trap."

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    The Happiness Trap
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    Principle #1. Using your observing self, not your thinking self

    Suppose you’re on a nature trail. You’re looking at the butterflies flit from flower to flower. You’re listening to the rustling of the leaves of the towering trees. You’re feeling the summer breeze as it whooshes past you. You’re observing, watching, surveying the scenery with a clear and quiet mind.

    Then, a few seconds in, lots of thoughts start popping up in your head. Wow, I haven’t seen such a beautiful butterfly! Oh, that’s a pretty strong wind. The sun’s too hot –I should’ve brought an umbrella. 

    These are the two parts of yourself in action: the observing self and the thinking self

    The observing self is the one doing all the watching. It doesn’t think or generate thoughts and opinions about the nature trail. It simply observes. When you’re tuned in to your observing self, you become aware of and focus on the experience rather than thinking about the experience. 

    The other part of you in action is the thinking self. It judges the couple walking ahead of you on the nature trail. It remembers how many steps you’ve taken so far. It tells you things like how annoying the heat is. Essentially, any thought or image that comes up in your head is the work of your thinking self. 

    In Acceptance and Commitment Therapy – or ACT, for short – the observing self is what matters more. It is with this that you can see the things you do and the things around you with no sort of analysis or opinion whatsoever. 

    The observing self is always readily accessible to us, but because it is hidden by the non-stop thoughts created by the thinking self, we sometimes forget that it’s there. To help you tune in to your observing self, try this exercise. 

    Look around you and pick something to observe. It may be the sound of the crying baby next door or the sight of your foot dangling from the chair. Observe it as if it’s a brand new thing for you. Then, take note of who is doing the observation. Yes, obviously it’s you, but specifically, it’s your observing self. It’s your observing self who’s listening closely to the baby's cries and watching your foot hanging from the chair. 

    But how exactly can the observing self help you escape the happiness trap? That’s what you’ll find out in the next sections.

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    What is The Happiness Trap about?

    The Happiness Trap (2007) is a self-help guide to pursuing a richer and more rewarding life instead of fleeting feelings of happiness. It outlines the six core principles of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy that can help you tackle unpleasant thoughts and feelings and build a fulfilling life.

    The Happiness Trap Review

    The Happiness Trap (2007) by Russ Harris is a book that offers valuable insights on how to escape the happiness trap and find true contentment. Here's why this book is definitely worth reading:

    • With its emphasis on mindfulness and acceptance, it provides practical tools to overcome negative thoughts and emotions, leading to a more fulfilling life.
    • By challenging the traditional view of happiness and offering an alternative perspective, the book is thought-provoking and opens up new possibilities for personal growth.
    • The author's engaging and relatable stories help readers connect with the content and make it an enjoyable and insightful read.

    Who should read The Happiness Trap?

    • Anyone seeking happiness and failing
    • People dealing with mental health problems
    • People who want to start living meaningfully

    About the Author

    Russ Harris is a doctor and therapist who trained with the developers of the Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) model. He now runs online training courses to teach other health professionals about this therapy model.

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    The Happiness Trap FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Happiness Trap?

    The main message of The Happiness Trap is to accept our thoughts and emotions rather than trying to control or eliminate them.

    How long does it take to read The Happiness Trap?

    The reading time for The Happiness Trap varies depending on the reader's speed, but it typically takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is The Happiness Trap a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Happiness Trap is a worthwhile read. It provides valuable insights and practical techniques for living a more fulfilling life.

    Who is the author of The Happiness Trap?

    The author of The Happiness Trap is Russ Harris.

    What to read after The Happiness Trap?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The Happiness Trap, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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    • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
    • The Courage Habit by Kate Swoboda
    • Super Human by Dave Asprey
    • Stop Overthinking by Nick Trenton
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    • Anxious by Joseph Ledoux