Happiness Reads--Build the Life You Want: The Art and Science of Getting Happier

May 10, 2024

It’s been a while since I read a new book about happiness. When I saw the title of this one, I had to pick it up since my word of the year is build: Build the Life You Want: The Art and Science of Getting Happier, by Arthur C. Brooks and Oprah Winfrey (2023, Portfolio/Penguin, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC). I’m always drawn to the idea that we can do something to create a happier life.

An overview of Build the Life You Want

I think this is a good basic book about happiness, and it’s a pleasant, easy read. While there’s nothing especially new and ground-breaking, it contains some great reminders about ways we can influence our own levels of happiness.

Build the Life You Want is broken into three parts:

1. Understanding happiness and unhappiness.

2. Managing your positive and negative emotions.

3. Building a happier life by focusing on four pillars: family, friends, work, faith.

The book concludes by encouraging readers to “become the [happiness] teacher,” since “The best happiness teachers are the ones who have had to work to gain the knowledge they offer, not the lucky ones who fall out of bed every day in a great mood.” (This one sentence sums up my mission and motivation for creating Catching Happiness!)

A few takeaways that resonated with me

You can have high happiness and high unhappiness at the same time. The two can coexist. You don’t have to wait until all unhappy feelings are gone before you start to get happier.

The “macronutrients” of happiness are: enjoyment, satisfaction, and purpose. Enjoyment goes beyond pleasure by combining it with communion and consciousness—sharing a pleasurable activity with someone else and making a memory together. Satisfaction is the thrill of accomplishing a goal or something you have to work for. And purpose, or meaning, helps us face our struggles with hope and inner peace.

Regarding emotions: “Your emotions are signals to our conscious brain that something is going on that requires your attention and action—that’s all they are. Your conscious brain, if you choose to use it, gets to decide how you will respond to them.”

I loved the suggestion to “choose a better emotion.” You don’t have to accept the emotion you feel first. You can substitute a better one that you want. Use gratitude, humor, hope, and compassion to find and feel more positive emotions.

I’d recommend Build the Life You Want if you want a refresher course in becoming happier.

What are your favorite books about happiness?

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  1. Kathy will have to look for this book...it sounds so good. Like the thought that we don't have to keep the same emotion - it is about choosing a better one. Hope you have a good week. (Thinking about you especially at Mother's Day...take care) Hugs!

    1. I think you'd like the book, Debbie. Thank you for your thoughts, too--I had a pleasant Mother's Day, though still very much missed my mom.