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Monday, November 03, 2008

How We Choose to Be Happy

Foster, Rick, and Greg Hicks. How We Choose to Be Happy.

I really, really liked this book. Not a psychological treatise or a spiritual discourse, but a list of components that truly happy people have in common. Foster and Hicks's research led them to develop a model that has been adapted by major institutions including the Mayo Clinic, NYU Hospital, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, the American Heart Association, and Wake Forest University Medical Center.

Although genetics certainly plays a role in an individual's happiness or unhappiness, certain behaviors and thinking patterns were evident in those individuals who were in the genuinely happy category. Those individuals, regardless of family backgrounds, made certain choices that led to their happiness. The authors and the interviewees never say it is easy, nor do they say that life will be perfect, or that we will escape the difficult aspects of life, but they do say that we make choices and that we can choose to be happy.

Again, common sense comes into play, but the way the material is presented is so straight-forward and interesting that I found myself thinking about even familiar terms like "intention" with a new perspective. There isn't much new about the components themselves, but the logic and simplicity can bring clarity to our own choices.

The nine components are discussed in separate chapters and include the stories of many of the individuals interviewed and some ideas to think about concerning your own personal choices. The authors tell you not to expect change overnight--the pursuit of happiness takes work, self-evaluation, and practice, but choosing to put in the work can make your life happier. Not necessarily more successful, not wealthier, but possibly healthier and happier.

Intention - Accountability - Identification - Centrality - Recasting - Options - Appreciation - Giving - Truthfulness -- the components are synergistic, they feed into each other and work together. Very simple. Very difficult.

I read through the book twice and am leaving this copy with Erin, but I'm going to order more copies: one to keep and at least one to give away.

nonfiction. Sociology/Behavioral Science. 199/2004. 228 pages.


  1. This sounds like a common-sense approach to something that usually is taken for granted - or misunderstood - Thanks for the review!

  2. Thanks for the review. I added it to my wish list on Amazon. Reading it twice speaks volumes about what you thought of it !

  3. I read this awhile back (when?) and really liked it.

  4. Thank you for such a great review! I'm so intrigued by this.

  5. I added this one to my wish list, when you mentioned it last week. Sounds like a book I really need. My father was the happiest person I know, but he died too young for me to fully understand why he was so content. Unfortunately, I've ended up more like my gloomy mother, hence my wahoos. They're as much to help me focus on the positive as they are to encourage others. Thanks, Jenclair!

  6. teabird - It is very common sense and very useful!

    Marie - I've ordered 6 more copies so that I can give them as gifts!

    Bybee - Glad to hear that you liked it as well!

    iliana - I really liked their approach and have committed the components to memory so that I can consider my behavior in light of their ideas.

    bookfool - :) I love your Wahoos - no matter the reason! You probably have some of your father's genetic disposition to happiness, but don't realize it. I am not an unhappy person, but the book helped me see how I can avoid certain frustrations.

  7. This book sounds excellent; something I'd really like to read. I've been interested in psychology all of my life and it's refreshing to see a more clinical examination of happiness. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.

  8. John - It is encouraging to see the studies on happiness and how it can effect all of us, especially those who are ill, as in the cancer studies.

  9. I see myself as a happy person and I've contributed a lot of that to appreciating nature, identifying the uniqueness of different living forms within their groups, saying kind words to myself and others and being grateful, both to those who serve me and to my Heavenly Father.

    That said, this book sounds wonderful. I'm glad you listed the components talked about in the book - I would like to read the chapters that more fully discuss those ideas.

    Thanks for bringing this book to my attention. It's a good thing to improve even in tiny increments. I look forward to reading this.

  10. Just ordered this book and while I was at it ordered $60 in books. That's what the convenience of the internet can do for us!

  11. booklogged - Even though I consider myself happy, the book has made me more appreciative and more conscious of the things that make me happy. Reading is high on my list, and I certainly treat myself well in that area!

    After my order of extra copies of this book, I went back and ordered some embroidery books. Embroidery makes me happy!