Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Book Review: The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor

I came across a very interesting book list on Pinterest several months ago called 40+ Life-Changing Books To Read This Year. Normally I am not a big "self-help" book type person, but these books seemed different. All of them were about general life topics (finances, habits, diet, happiness, etc) and a few of them stuck out to me at the time. I've had a very difficult few months, I think I've been fairly up front about that on this blog. Not to get dramatic, but I would even go as far to say that the last 2 months in particular have been the hardest of my life. I discovered this list around the time that the current issues began, and I decided my life could use a little changing for the better, so why not give some of these books a try? I started searching the audiobooks available at my library, and the first one that sounded interesting to me that was available was The Happiness Advantage - what better place to start than by helping yourself be happier?

The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor is pretty much the perfect combination of science and emotion (for me, at least). Shawn Achor is a Harvard professor who specializes in positive psychology and its benefits. The book advertises itself as a guide to "fuel success and performance at work," but the concepts are incredibly applicable to your daily life, not just work. Shawn Achor talks about his experience as a business consultant at the beginning of our current recession. His job was to come in and tell these employees how being happier will make them more productive ... when in reality they had very little to be happy about (it was the time of mass layoffs and closing businesses). In his lectures, he would teach the idea of focusing on key decisions in the workers' day to increase their happiness and then have them watch for the results. He helped companies like American Express and IBM - definitely the heavy hitters of the game at the time.

The thing I like most about the book (in my opinion) is that it doesn't just say, "Be happy, you'll do better in life." The book backs up every suggestion with a scientific or sociological study. I am a person who needs more than just some warm and fuzzy affirmations to make me want to change, and this book fulfills that need for me. It has been a while since I read it, so I can't site many specific examples, but here are a few things I learned/loved. People who say they are "naturally unlucky" tend to not notice outside opportunities to make their situation better (backed up by a very cool study). Your ability to persevere in trials can be developed like a muscle and will make you happier. The 20 second rule is absolutely a real thing in my life - this is the idea that something that will take 20 seconds longer to accomplish (i.e. is 20 seconds less convenient to access, etc) will make your brain less likely to actually push you to do it. This is something that I noticed about myself even before I read this book, but now I have a Harvard professor's word on the subject, lol.

In spite of my reservations, I enjoyed this book immensely. It really is true that this book will change your life. It didn't cause any huge events to come to pass or anything, but it helped me to re-tune my brain in small ways to help me look at the brighter side and it really has made a huge difference in how I perceive my situation. Things could always be worse than they are, and knowing that can make a big difference in how happy I am. I have developed a greater appreciation of things I have verses things I don't have, and I catch myself in my former negative habits at work and with my husband now so I can make beneficial changes that I did not recognize before reading this book. I cannot recommend reading this enough - in fact, I can only imagine how much better we could all be if everyone read it. I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.

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