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Book Review Week!!

I decided to start sharing some of my favorite personal development books on the blog, hopefully once a month! I love reading these types of books and thought this would be a good way to keep me reading them :)

This week I’m going to share some thoughts and exercises from the book Happier by Tal Ben-Shahar.

The back cover reads “Grounded in the revolutionary ‘positive psychology’ movement, Ben-Shahar ingeniously combines scientific studies, scholarly research, self-help advice, and spiritual enlightenment. He weaves them together into a set of principles that you can apply to your daily life. Once you open your heart and mind to Happier’s ideas, you will feel more fulfilled, more connected…and, yes, HAPPIER.”

The book is based on a course Ben-Shahar taught at Harvard, and then wanted to share the concepts with more people.

In chapter three Ben-Sharer says, “The best method of maximizing our levels of happiness is trial and error, paying attention to the quality of our inner experiences. Yet most of us do not take the time to ask ourselves the question of questions - because we are too busy. If we are always on the go, we are reacting to the exigencies of day-to-day life rather than allowing ourselves the space to create a happy life.

It is important to put aside time … to ask ourselves the types of questions that can help us choose wisely: Are the things that I am doing meaningful to me? Are they pleasurable? Is my mind telling me that I should be doing different things with my time? We have to listen, really listen, to our hearts and minds - our emotions and our reason” (p 46).

Here are some of the exercises from the book I found beneficial:

Mapping your life (p 46-47)

Track everything you do for a week or two, recording the amount of time spent at each. You don’t need to account for every minute, just get a general sense of how you spend your days. At the end of the week, create a table that shows how much time you spent, how much meaning or pleasure you took in the activity (on a scale of 1 to 5), and a plus or minus next to the time if you want to spend more or less time on that activity in the future. Here is the example from the book (p 47):

Activity Meaning Pleasure Time/week
Time with Family 5 4 2.2 hours ++
Meetings at Work 4 2 11 hours =
Watching TV 2 3 8.5 hours -

Sentence Completion (p 61,145)

Sentence completion technique was created by psychotherapist Nathaniel Branden. The basic idea is to come up with several endings to an incomplete sentence. This exercise often helps people gain valuable insight to create change in their life. Here is the example in the book (p 61):

If I bring 5 percent more awareness to my life…
I will realize the price of saying yes too often.
I will no longer be able to avoid difficult situations.
I will appreciate my family more.
I will appreciate my life more.
Things could get more difficult.
I will spend more time with my family.
I will be kinder to my employees.

Some other sentence stems from Branden’s work are:

The things that make me happy are…
If I bring 5 percent more happiness to my life…
If I breathe deeply and allow myself to experience what happiness feels like…

Happiness Boosters (p 133)

“If instead of doing nothing when we come home from work we turn to our hobbies or other activities that challenge us, that we enjoy and care about, we are more likely to get a second wind and replenish our emotional bank” (p 133).

This exercise involves making a list of “happiness boosters” that you can do throughout the week. These can include things you already do like spending time with family, reading, etc…as well as what the author calls “exploratory boosters” that help you discover things you may want to add to your life (volunteering for an organization, for example).

After reading about this exercise I put a sticky note on my office wall that reads:

My Happiness Boosters:
-Dates with Spouse
-Activities with friends or family
-Being creative

I hope to do some more exploring to find new happiness boosters!! What is or will be on your list?

In closing, one of my favorite quotes Ben-Shahar shares in this book is by Nathan Branden, “In order to seek values, man must consider himself worthy of enjoying them. In order to fight for his happiness, he must consider himself worthy of happiness.” He says to ask yourself “What, if any, internal and external factors are stopping you from becoming happier?” He compares letting ourselves be happy to a bottle with its cap on, which can’t be filled with water no matter what you try. We need to be open to happiness.

I hope you find these exercises useful! If you want to explore how to create more happiness in your life, book a FREE discovery session . I am offering discounted life coaching four session packages through the end of May so act now .