Is it that time of year in the publishing world, or do we need to up the Wellbutrin in the water supply?
Judging from recent feedback at Bitten, someone thinks womankind could use a little cheering up. In the past month, we’ve received half a dozen new books devoted to the pursuit of happiness. And, to be fair, according to a recent report on Huffington Post, women have been getting steadily more depressed since the 1940s.
But no more! Each new missive promises the secret that will put a grin on your face and purpose in your life. There’s just one problem: Should you peruse even one contentment-boosting title on Amazon, you’ll be plagued by self-help gurus grinning maniacally from your “We recommend …” section till the end of time.
We couldn’t let you suffer that sad fate, so we read five for you. Read through for our get-happy cheat sheet designed to decode what each book will teach you. No, no, we insist — your smiles are all the thanks we need.
Happy at Last: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Finding Joy by Richard O’Connor, MSW, PhD
The gist: The half-empty approach to happiness. A therapist who struggles with clinical depression (and who is the best-selling author of “Undoing Depression”) teaches you mindfulness exercises that will make you slightly more happy than you were to begin with.
Idea worth pondering: “contemporary insanity.” As in: “Much of the reality of contemporary life is enough all by itself to make us depressed, anxious, sick or dead, let alone unhappy.”
Read the whole thing if: You really like reality shows based on Amish life. You work so much you routinely forget to take your vacation days. You don’t mind the idea of doing happiness homework. Or you never met an impulse buy you didn’t like. “Happy at Last”‘s greatest strength is its insight into how bad habits that are a byproduct of modern living (consumerism, workaholism) contribute to our collective discontent.
Adding More ~ing to Your Life: A Hip Guide to Happiness by Gabrielle Bernstein
The gist: Bernstein, the young happiness guru behind the Gen Y networking site herfuture.com, walks you through a 30-day happiness workout that revolves around three different “ings”: Rethinking, Moving and Receiving. In other words, reframe the stories you tell yourself so they’re positive instead of negative, choose a physical activity to match each area of your life that needs a makeover, and meditate to get your right and left brain IMing each other more often.
Idea worth pondering: “At the age of 25, I completely turned my life around,” Bernstein recently told youngentrepreneur.com. She did it by picking up old hobbies like rollerblading, tennis and (tell us this isn’t integral to manifesting more joy) unicycling. “I felt as though I’d missed out on some of life’s treasures, so I woke up one day and decided to revisit them. It’s never EVER too late to change your ways.”
Read the whole thing if: Barnacle is to whale as you are to your couch. Relentlessly cheerful people inspire you, not annoy you. You like quick fixes: “~ing” promises to do nothing short of reroute your neural circuitry in the course of a month.
7 : The Number for Happiness, Love, and Success by Jacqueline Leo
The gist: The former editor of Child and Reader’s Digest magazines delves into the illustrious history of the number seven and contemplates how organizing your life by that principle can make you more organized and efficient. Aka, why are there seven: wonders in the world, deadly sins, days in a week, famous women’s colleges, and neck bones in mammals? And how can they help me?
Idea worth pondering: “Researchers have shown that multitasking is simply a series of interruptions that keep us distracted and unable to focus.” (Beneath all its seven-i-ness, this book is about information overload and how to deal with it.)
Read the whole thing if: Your lucky number is seven. You want to impress someone who likes the number seven. You tend to like Malcolm Gladwell’s books. You’re looking for an interesting, if somewhat hodge-podge, guide to why the number seven really matters and don’t really need to get happier until next year.
The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun by Gretchen Rubin
The gist: Embrace what you like, and make peace with what you don’t. For example, if it seems everyone you know is into jazz and the thought of spending a night in a jazz club makes you want to pierce your eardrums, that’s OK. Rubin’s project consisted of 12 categories of resolutions that she tackled each month for a year. Among them: Boost Energy, Make Time for Friends, Fight Right and Pursue a Passion.
Idea worth pondering: “Act the way I want to feel.” As in, “Although I might have predicted that organizing the party would make me feel resentful, in fact acting in a loving way amplified my loving feelings toward everyone in the family.”
Read the whole thing if: You want permission to just be yourself. The first of Rubin’s Twelve Commandments is “Be Gretchen.”
And Then I’ll Be Happy: Stop Sabotaging Your Happiness and Put Your Own Life First by Kristen Houghton
The gist: A Girl’s Guide to Beating Big-Picture Procrastination. Aka, a therapist helps you quit putting off pursuing your dreams by learning from profiles of her procrastinating clients.
Idea worth pondering: “Comfortable laziness.” As in: “Heather suffered from ‘comfortable laziness,’ but she would have been shocked to hear anyone say that. Everything that had to get done did get done. But the things she was doing required no initiative.”
Read the whole thing if: You keep meaning to break up with your deadbeat boyfriend of seven years. You’ve always dreamed of being a painter, but have yet to invest in a set of watercolors. You’ve been passed over for a promotion or three. The weird part is, you may recognize aspects of yourself in a number of chapters … which is reason enough not to finish the book. Um, right?