The How of Happiness Book Summary - The How of Happiness Book explained in key points
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The How of Happiness summary

Sonja Lyubomirsky

A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want

4.5 (225 ratings)
27 mins

Brief summary

The How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky is a self-help book that provides insights and research-based methods to increase happiness and well-being. It offers practical tips on cultivating positive emotions, building relationships, and finding meaning and purpose in life.

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    The How of Happiness
    Summary of 8 key ideas

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    Key idea 1 of 8

    Our personal circumstances affect our happiness much less than we think.

    If you could change one thing about your life, what would it be? A new job, relationship, or place of residence? More time, money, health, or beauty? 

    Most of us dream about something like this – some change in our personal circumstances that we imagine would make our lives much better than they currently are. We go around thinking, “If only such-and-such would happen to me, then I would be happy.” 

    But according to scientific research, these fantasies are mostly just that: fantasies. 

    The key message here is: Our personal circumstances affect our happiness much less than we think. 

    Averaging out the data from a number of different studies shows that personal circumstances appear to account for only 10 percent of the variations in people’s levels of happiness. In other words, if one person is happier than another, only 10 percent of that variation can be explained by differences in the incidental details of their lives, like their income or marital status. 

    That might seem counterintuitive. After all, most of us would enjoy a big boost of happiness if we got married, became rich, or experienced some other major, positive change in our circumstances – right? 

    Yes – but the boost would probably be short-lived. That’s because of a phenomenon called hedonic adaptation. It turns out that we human beings have an incredible knack for getting used to changes in our lives. Think of how you feel when you buy a shiny new gadget. At first, it’s exciting – but then the novelty wears off, the pleasure fades, and you go back to feeling the same way you did before. 

    Research shows that a similar thing happens when people get married or become rich. One study found that couples enjoyed a boost of happiness after they tied the knot, but it only lasted two years. Another study found that lottery winners experienced an even shorter-lived boost of one year. 

    Now, none of this means that circumstances don’t have any effect on our long-term happiness. A third study found that married couples reported being “very happy” at a higher rate than singles. But the difference was surprisingly small: 25 versus 21 percent, respectively – a difference of merely four percentage points. 

    If that’s true of something as big and meaningful as getting married, how much happiness do you think that new job or house will really bring you in the long run? 

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    What is The How of Happiness about?

    The How of Happiness (2007) provides a completely scientific guide to becoming a happier person. Drawing from a wide array of empirical research, it explains how we can increase our levels of happiness by changing our thoughts and behaviors.

    The How of Happiness Review

    The How of Happiness (2007) offers a comprehensive guide to understanding and increasing one's happiness levels. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • With its evidence-based strategies, readers can actively cultivate happiness in their lives, gaining practical tools to improve well-being.
    • The book combines scientific research, personal stories, and exercises, making it accessible and relatable to a wide range of readers.
    • It provides a holistic approach to happiness, addressing various aspects of life such as relationships, gratitude, and mindfulness, ensuring a comprehensive exploration of the topic.

    Who should read The How of Happiness?

    • Self-help fans looking for advice on how to be happy 
    • Self-help skeptics wanting a more scientific approach to the topic
    • All those who wonder what they can do to improve their mood

    About the Author

    Sonja Lyubomirsky is a professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside. She is an associate editor of the Journal of Positive Psychology and the recipient of many academic grants and prizes. These include a $1 million grant from the National Institute of Mental Health, which helped to fund some of the research upon which The How of Happiness is based.

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    The How of Happiness FAQs 

    What is the main message of The How of Happiness?

    Find science-based strategies for increasing happiness and well-being in The How of Happiness.

    How long does it take to read The How of Happiness?

    Reading time may vary, but The How of Happiness can be read in several hours. The Blinkist summary takes just 15 minutes.

    Is The How of Happiness a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The How of Happiness is worth reading because it provides practical advice backed by research for living a happier life.

    Who is the author of The How of Happiness?

    Sonja Lyubomirsky is the author of The How of Happiness.

    What to read after The How of Happiness?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The How of Happiness, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • The Myths of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky
    • The Happiness Track by Emma Seppälä
    • Untangling You by Kerry Howells
    • All Work No Play by Dale Sidebottom
    • The Wellness Syndrome by Carl Cederström and André Spicer
    • The Happy Mind by Kevin Horsley and Louis Fourie
    • Leading with Gratitude by Adrian Gostick
    • Self-Compassion by Kristin Neff
    • Slow Productivity by Cal Newport
    • Practical Optimism by Sue Varma