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The Myths of Happiness: What Should Make You Happy, But Doesn't, What Shouldn't Make You Happy, But Doesby Sonja Lyubomirsky
Synopses & Reviews
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 achievements (marriage, children, professional satisfaction, wealth) and failures (singlehood, 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.
"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. 'Nothing 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)" Publishers Weekly
"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....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." Kirkus Reviews
About 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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