As someone who grew up with the nickname Oscar the Grouch (thanks Dad!) it is fair to say that “happy” is not a descriptor that is often used when people describe me. I do get a lot of para-happy comments like “laid back” and “calm” and “easygoing”, but not “happy”. Since being happy seems like a good thing, I have been working for a few years to have a better outlook on life. Cognitive-behavioral therapy has been very helpful in addressing anxiety and depression caused by that anxiety, but I’m hoping to move on towards happy. Someone at some point recommended this book to me, so I picked up a cheap hardcover of What Happy People Know and gave it a go.
The author, Dr. Dan Baker, was the director of the Life Enhancement Program at Canyon Ranch. I believe Canyon Ranch is some sort of wellness resort. While having a PhD is cool, what gave Baker his bona fides with me is that he was able to successfully process the death of his young son. For me, someone has to know pain and loss to be able to give meaningful life advice (that’s why Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning is my favorite book). Baker passed my test so I took his book seriously.
While the author includes several anecdotes from his clients and his own life, the framework of the book is based on six main ideas. Happy people:
- Practice appreciation
- Make choices
- Build personal power
- Lead with strengths
- Use constructive language
- Live multidimensionally
The book is over 250 pages, so each main idea gets meaningful time. While a lot of the ideas were familiar with me due to attending a few months of therapy, I did find the reminders useful and I think the book could be a useful reminder to readers that you have a lot of power in how you view your life. You can’t control many events, but you CAN control how to you view them and how you conduct yourself.