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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Happiness Makeover by M.J. Ryan~★★★1/2

Author: M.J. Ryan
Title: The Happiness Makeover: How to Teach Yourself to Be Happy and Enjoy Every Day
Release Date: May 10, 2005
Publisher: Broadway Books
Genre: Non-fiction

Book Jacket: "We all want things that we're sure will make us happy---money, success, independence, love. But when we finally get them, we can find to our surprise that we are the same miserable, moody, or just neutral people we always were. Why is that? Is it us? Is our ability to be happy genetically programmed in us like the color of our eyes?
Luckily not. You can teach yourself to be happy and enjoy every day, and M.J. Ryan, bestselling author of The Power of Patience and Attitudes of Gratitude, shows you how. In her international coaching practice, M.J. Ryan has shown hundreds of clients how to find and really feel the joy in their lives. She gives them tools to unearth what stands in their way and revolutionize the way they experience life. Now it's your turn for a Happiness Makeover.
Ryan's own desire to be happier first led her to study what is known about happiness from brain science, psychology, and the wisdom traditions of the world. The Happiness Makeover draws on this wide-ranging knowledge and presents a plan that will help you: -Clear away happiness hindrances like worry, fear, envy, and grudges. -Discover happiness boosters like flow, meaningful work, challenge, and gratitude. -Literally rewire your brain to experience contentment---even joy." 

Taryn's Review: I am not a person who is ashamed to say that I like to read self-help books. I especially enjoy the ones that do impact my thoughts and ideas in a great way. As I browsed the section of the library dedicated to improvement, the color and cover of this book caught my eye. One of my favorite improvement books is Matthew Kelly's The Seven Levels of Intimacy, and I was hoping this book would have the same effect on me as Kelly's book had on me.

The book claimed it can teach you to be happy and enjoy your daily life. The book was broken down into very short reflections from the author on various subjects like "Are You Focused on the Closed Door?" and "Figure Out What Really Matters to You." There are 53 blurbs on differing topics, followed by a final chapter of 22 instant happy boosters and a follow-up. While the topics were interesting, most lacked information regarding tools to overcome the hindrances that do keep one from happiness. For example, one section is titled, "Does Perfectionism Have You in Its Grip?" Ryan offered her thoughts on perfectionism and how it negated happiness, yet she offered no solutions as to how someone who suffers from perfectionism overcomes it. What tools can a person who focuses on being perfect use to accept one's flaws and embrace imperfections? Ryan did not provide resource to such questions.

Ryan's anecdotes are reflective and she incorporated the works and ideas of other authors who had written about happiness into her book; there was a bibliography at the back of the book with more than 30 books on the subject of happiness. After reading Ryan's book, I'm more inclined to turn to those authors for help with "being happy" than I am to pick up another book by Ryan if my goal is seeking ways to change my habits and thoughts.

I think a book like Ryan's is great to keep bedside to read a story each week and reflect on what Ryan presented as happiness barriers. However, Ryan's book claimed it would give a person the tools to be happier and, in my opinion, it does not support such claims. The book has some great quotes (none of which are Ryan's, but are from others like famous philosophers and social scientists) and references data others have collected on the idea of happiness, so it might be a good starting point for someone to figure out what blocks him or her from being happy, but one will need to seek other books for ways to actually improve one's level of happiness.

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