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Book Review

By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat

 

Happier
Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment
Tal Ben-Shahar
McGraw Hill 05/07 Hardcover $21.95
ISBN: 0071492399


Go to any bookstore and you will find a "Self-Help" section filled with tomes on achieving happiness. Philosophers dating back to Aristotle and Plato have been exploring this feeling from every conceivable angle. Yet it still seems to elude us. In the United States, rates of depression are ten times higher today than they were in the 1960s, and the average age of the onset of depression is 14 1/2 compared to 29 1/2 in 1960. We are one of the richest nations on the planet, and yet more and more people are unhappy. No wonder Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has asked: "If we are so rich, why aren’t we happy?"

Tal Ben-Shahar started teaching a class on happiness at Harvard University in 2002. Now it is the most popular and life-changing course on campus; one out of every five Harvard students has taken it. This thought-provoking book contains material used in this examination of happiness.

Ben-Shahar begins with a look at models for happiness including the rat racer, the hedonist, and the nihilist. He then ponders the significance of meaning and pleasure in the equation. He is convinced that happiness, not money or prestige, should be the basis of life's ultimate currency. He also ponders the connection between those who seek only to accumulate wealth and the onset of emotional bankruptcy.

In chapters on happiness in education, happiness in the workplace, and happiness in relationships, Ben-Shahar shows how we can reframe and add richness and depth to our everyday experiences of this pursuit. The book concludes with seven meditations:

• Self-Interest and Benevolence
• Happiness Boosters
• Beyond the Temporary High
• Letting Our Light Shine
• Imagine
• Take Your Time
• The Happiness Revolution

 

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