Every human being wants to be happy. This is what we are born for on this earth. This is what every person is striving for during his/her lifetime.
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Nowadays, the quest for happiness is something that millions of people are obsessed with. Go to any book store, and you will see hundreds of “guides” written by reputable psychologists and unknown authors on how to be happy. Can they really teach how to be happy and live a joyful life? Should we take them seriously?
I will try to answer these questions in my paper. A guide that I took as an example is called How to Live a Happy Life – 101 Ways to Be Happier. The book was written by Michele Moore. Its first edition was published in 2007. One of the special features of the book is a Happiness Quiz at the end that you can do, define what happiness actually means to you, and develop your personal plan on how to be happy.
So, what is the author’s main idea? What was the major purpose of writing the book? The author claims that all those who want to be happy should turn happiness into a habit. What is a habit? It is something that we do automatically without even noticing it. Habits come naturally, and happiness should be the same natural part of our daily lives as well.
At a glance, turning happiness into a daily habit seems to be extremely complicated, for someone, probably, even impossible. What Michele Moore suggests to start with is defining happiness (Moore, 2007, p. 17). Needless to say, everybody would have own definition. For somebody, happiness means financial stability and overall success. For others, happiness means having a beloved one and be happy with him/her. Finally, there are people who view happiness in such things as alcohol, drugs or shopping, being popular, etc.
In other words, one’s happiness depends greatly on personal traits, values, priorities. Every person is happy in own way. This statement, in fact, is supported by other researchers. For example, Dr. Alan Carr also draws parallels between personal traits and happiness, and states that because of personal traits, some people even will never be able to achieve happiness (Carr, 2004, p. 16).
To define own way to happiness, Michele Moore recommends just to put everything on paper in order to have a clear vision of your goals and your happiness (Moore, 2007, p. 17). What is one of the biggest problems of people who want to be happy but cannot reach it? They simply have a vague understanding of their own happiness. If you go and ask somebody “What makes you happy”, you will not always hear a clear and precise answer.
Therefore, if you want to be happy, first visualize your happiness, imagine yourself as a happy person. Then, set up particular goals or steps that you need to take to achieve your happiness. It should be a conscious process, some concrete goals, and concrete ways of accomplishing them.
Another important claim that Moore (2007) makes is “Truly happy people are never evil” (p. 37). How can one be happy if he/she has something evil in mind, wants to hurt somebody, or simply wants another person to be unhappy? Happiness in other words can be defined as niceness, as an ability to cooperate with others, help people, make friends, etc. A happy person lives in harmony with the outside world and all people.
The same idea is shared by Dr. Carr. He says that happiness correlates with close relations and friendship. In his work, he describes a study of the happiest college students. Results of this study show that active and rich social life, friends play a great role in lives of the happiest college students (Carr, 2004, p. 23).
Another extremely significant, from my point of view, idea that Michele Moore develops in the book refers to emotional independence. Have you ever notices how emotions of other people almost automatically make you feel the same way? If your friend is angry or depressed, very soon you will feel the same mad or distressed.
This is what happy people do not allow other people do. Nobody can control other person’s emotions and feelings. Nobody should down your spirits. Happy people are just independent from negative people and their negative emotions or some outside circumstances that can make them feel bad (Moore, 2007, p. 43).
Yet, it should be mentioned that not all scholars agree with this position. For example, Eric G. Wilson, a professor of English at Wake Forest University, North Carolina, says Americans are too addicted to positive thinking and happiness, while melancholy and depressive moods are an integral part of our lives, our lives that are so filled with troubles and negative events (Wilson, 2008, p. 29). He does not support people in their addiction to happiness, he disagrees with all those self-help books (by the way, like the one I am discussing right now). According to Wilson (2008), “Melancholy is the muse of great literature, painting, music, and innovation” (p. 34).
Well, probably, melancholy is one of the aspects of Mr. Wilson’s happiness. We have already discussed that personal traits can affect how happy or unhappy a person can be. Anyway, I am not going to judge Professor Wilson, but simply will say that such way of thinking is not for me.
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What else do I want to add about Michele Moore’s How to Live a Happy Life – 101 Ways to Be Happier? First, the book is written in a simple and clear language, which already can make the reader happy. Comparing to other studies of happiness, particularly, those I have used, the book is very easy and exciting to read.
At the end of the book, the author provides bibliography, which is not always typical for self-help books. One of the sources mentioned in the list belongs to the spiritual leader of Tibet Dalai Lama. It is his famous work The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living. However, I should point out that Moore does not use some reputable researches in Psychology.
A few words should be added about Michele Moore. She is not only the author of How to Live a Happy Life – 101 Ways to Be Happier, but also of the Happiness Blog, produces Happy Life TV.
What is my overall impression from reading the book? At the first sight, it may look like hundreds of other books of this kind, but I am sure reading this particular guide to happiness can be useful. Why? I have several reasons for that:
- As I have already mentioned, the book is written in a simple language. You do not have to think about the meaning of some words, but just get your benefit from reading;
- The author, actually, talks about some simple laws and eternal truths that have been known thousands of years ago, e.g. do not harm others, make goodness, and others. These laws have been proven to be effective.
- Finally, the book is written in a very positive and enthusiastic way. As for me, it is really inspiring, and I believed Michele Moore from the very first lines.
To sum everything up, I will recommend the book to all those who want to change their lives. Definitely, everything depends on how seriously one will take the book, but I guess it will not help skeptics or materialists. To all those who, at least, a little believe in miracles I will say “Give it a try!”
Carr A. (2004). Positive Psychology: The Science of Happiness and Human Strengths. East Sussex: Brunner-Routledge.
Moore M. (2007). How to Live a Happy Life – 101 Ways to Be Happier. Atlanta, Georgia: Happiness Habit Press.
Wilson E. G. (2008). Against Happiness In Praise of Melancholy. New York: Sarah Crichton Books.