The How Of Happiness Summary & Review

HappinessPersonal DevelopmentPsychology

Quick summary: The How Of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky does an empirical analysis on people’s behavior and shares the best practices to develop and boost happiness levels of any person.

The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want
  • Lyubomirsky, Sonja (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 384 Pages – 12/30/2008 (Publication Date) – Penguin Books (Publisher)

Last update on 2024-05-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon

The How Of Happiness Summary

Everything you do in life, whether you realize it or not, is to become happy.

In this book summary, we are going to discuss what makes a person happy and why most people are unhappy.

We’ll try to find an answer to the questions like:

How can we become happier?

Are some people destined to be unhappy?

Has our genetic structure something to do with our happiness?

Or is it all because of our circumstances that we never achieve true freedom?

Alrighty, so without further ado, let’s dive right in?

Lesson #1: Happiness is within you. Not outside.

We all keep trying to find happiness in the real world.

But many of us don’t seem to find it.

Wondered why?

That’s because we are looking in the wrong place, says the author. 

And the author is right.

Happiness is a thing of the mind.

Where is the mind?

Is it outside or inside?

It’s inside our head, isn’t it?

Whenever you feel unhappy, it’s not because the problem is outside.

It’s always the perception of the circumstances that makes us feel unhappy.

In other words, the source of our unhappiness is the mind.

But people constantly look for happiness outside, naturally.

That’s because our eyes look outside.

There is no in-built mechanism to look within the mind.

Exploring the depths of mind is not something that naturally comes to us.

No wonder, we all struggle to find the answers and feel less happy than we should be.

How to apply this learning in real life?

Whenever you face a problem or feel unhappy, instead of blaming your circumstances, sit down and ask yourself, “Why do I feel unhappy about this?”

Often, you’ll find that once the perception of the problem changes, your unhappy thoughts disappear as well.

Lesson #2: Circumstances play a small role in your happiness.

The author highlights that there is a wrong notion among people. Everybody believes that if they fix the circumstances, they’ll be happy.

The irony is, sometimes it does, but it’s always temporary.

First, you can’t always change your circumstances.

Second, even if you do, it’s not going to help much in the long term.

The author found that circumstances play only 10 percent role in our happiness.

This means that your happiness depends more on how you deal with your circumstances rather than what circumstances you face.

You must have seen many people who smile even in the face of adversity.

And you must also have seen people who are always sad despite having plenty of achievements.

For example, many college students feel happy even when they get bad grades. There are also many students who aren’t satisfied, regardless of how good their grades are.

What does this suggest?

All these findings suggest that greater happiness is possible without depending on external factors.

External factors keep changing all the time.

So if you base your happiness on external factors, you will struggle to have lasting happiness.

That’s not the answer.

We need something better to base our happiness on.

Lesson #3: Happiness is not a talent you get by birth, you can progress and become happier than you are right now.

As we discussed, some people tend to be happier than others. And it doesn’t depend much on external circumstances.

There might be a constant level of happiness for everybody by birth. And maybe it doesn’t change with age.

Perhaps that’s why even billionaires are often found complaining that they aren’t happy.

The irony is:

They amass all that wealth. But ultimately, they aren’t satisfied.

Does this mean that if someone hasn’t a high level of happiness set from the birth, they won’t ever be happy?

Not really.

Whether there is a set level or not, it’s still a topic of research.

Nonetheless, one thing is certain:

If we find behaviors that encourage happiness, we can increase our level of happiness.

There is hope.

And that hope points to a possibility that we all can improve our happiness level by adopting the right behaviors.

What are the correct behaviors?

For that, one must analyze what do happy people have in common:

  • Do they have a big purpose in life?
  • Do they have good relationships?
  • Is it their intelligence that makes them happy?

What is it that makes people truly happy?

Lesson #4: Happiness is not material, and that’s why wealth alone can’t make you happy.

There are many things that contribute to happiness.

But remember, all those things never fully satisfy any person.

For example, you can get the biggest house you have ever seen, you’ll feel happy for a few days.

After that, your happiness will reach a saturation level.

And you’ll have to find something again to feel happy.

Once you experience a high level of happiness, the effect starts fading slowly and ultimately drops to a saturation point. (Also known as hedonic adaptation)

This suggests that materialistic objects in the world can’t give you lasting happiness.

The reason is: Happiness is not material.

Don’t believe this without reason.

Simply look at the richest people in the world.

Are they all happy?

If possessing countless objects was the answer, the richest people would have been the happiest people in the world.

Apparently, this doesn’t happen.

It’s the possible to be happy without becoming a billionaire.

You don’t need to be the richest in the world to feel happiness.

Happiness has very little to do with wealth.

Does this mean wealth is not required for happiness?

No, wealth is important. 

You can’t be happy living in the streets with no money in your pocket. 

You can’t be happy when your stomach is craving for food, and you can’t feed yourself and your family.

Sure, money is important.

But it’s also not the ultimate answer and doesn’t give you lasting happiness.

Lesson #5: Be grateful for everything you have got, even the adversities.

Many people go around in the life by worrying about what they don’t have in their lives.

They spend so much time thinking about what they don’t have.

The author suggests that we should be grateful about all things that we have.

It’s much better than feeling jealous about your neighbor’s new fancy car.

The question is:

Why practicing gratitude is so important for happiness?

Repeating, happiness is not material. So, the chase of possessing things that we don’t have isn’t going to cut our discontentment with life.

You need something far bigger than yourself.

Gratitude is one such thing.

When you practice gratitude, you think about something more than yourself.

It broadens your perception.

You worry less about petty things that don’t matter.

You start caring more about all the things you have in the present.

For example, you start caring about the relationships you have, about your dog or cat that waits for you at home when you are out for work, about so many things in life that we often miss, but are important.

People who practice gratitude are happier than those who don’t practice it in general.

And are also more likable.

That’s not it.

There is a law of reciprocation.

The more you feel thankful, the more you appreciate what you have got. And the more you feel like giving back to those who helped you.

This keeps going on.

Consequently, you become even happier.

In the book Ikigai, we also discussed that people with great relationships tend to live longer.

Put simply, gratitude is one such activity that gives you lasting happiness.

This happiness is different from what you get through materialistic possessions.

That happiness is temporary (hedonic adaptation) and binds you in a never-ending loop.

While this one helps you increase your happiness level in the long term.

This one is better, right?

Lesson #6: How you deal with problems decides how happy you will be in your life.

Nobody likes problems.


This is because problems are annoying and make us feel less happy.

But whether we want them or not, problems are a part of life.

Your car tire may go flat in an unknown place at an unexpected time.

You may catch a disease before your dream job’s interview.

Your closed one’s might be diagnosed with a serious ailment.

Some virus may come to change the shape of the world.

Some natural calamity may change everything.

We never know what adversities may come, or do we?

It’s the ugly truth of life.

Nothing is certain.

All the lights will never be green.

If you keep thinking that “I’ll drive only when all the lights are green, the weather is clear, and there is no traffic,” you won’t be able to enjoy your journey.

The author found that people who know how to handle stress and hardships in life are generally happier than those who don’t.

And that’s true.

Once you solve a problem, there is a sense of achievement.

There is joy in solving problems and overcoming hardships.

This also makes life a thrilling adventure, doesn’t it?

The question is:

How to handle problems or hardships in life?

Is there any particular technique to solve problems and make ourselves happier?

Unfortunately, no one technique can fix all your problems.

But you can always approach a problem with a problem-solving mindset.

You can take baby steps and build strategies instead of panicking.

Or, if the problem is too big to handle, you can numb your pain by going on a vacation, watch movies, etc.

The second is a temporary solution, though. But yes, it also helps you cope with stress immediately for a short period of time.

The first approach is more beneficial in the long term.

Because it helps you master the art of problem-solving.

No matter what the problem. There are always some common steps to follow.

For instance, you have to break down how you will solve the problem step by step and devise a strategy by keeping the problem at the center.

Here is where most people make the mistake.

They put themselves and their emotions at the center.

And therefore, it becomes very hard for them to figure out a solution.

Lesson #7: Adversities make you mentally stronger in the long-term and thus help you become happy.

Life is a mix of positive and negative experiences.

As long as we get positive experiences, we settle into a pattern and assume that life will be similar in the future.

We get into a comfort zone.

But adversities or traumas shake us up and force us to question our deeply held beliefs.

It has been seen that many people go through a wonderful transformation after they recover from a trauma.

It’s like when you fall down and get back, there is a sense of confidence.

Nobody likes to fall down.

Yet, once you get back up and recall that bad episode, you realize that it only made you stronger.

Most people never change unless they experience a traumatic event.

Their views are questioned when life hits them hard.

It’s like after you fail an exam, you question “why did I fail when my friends aced the exam?”

And once you figure out what made you fail, your chances of failing again decrease. 

So, when you finally ace another exam, you feel happy.

Traumas are like Life giving us our report cards and telling us to work harder and at the same time question our ways.

Why do we question?

We question because our minds are always trying to find answers and create a story that makes sense.

Traumas are unexpected events.

So naturally, we want to make sense of our life stories and ask, “What’s next? Why this? Why now? Why only me? Why not others?”

Overcoming traumas is like turning Super Saiyan (reference, Dragon Ball Z). You don’t stay the same after that.

Does it hurt you mentally? It sure does.

Ultimately, it makes you mentally stronger.

You get a wider perspective compared to other people who have never faced any traumatic event or will do so in the future. (everybody does)

We love to feel uncertain, when nothing is certain in life.

After experiencing any adversity, that assumption of certainty breaks down, which shifts your perspective.

The author recommends that you write your journal to manage your unorganized thoughts.

I recommend using Notion as it’s free and super easy to use.

And if you want to go beyond and visualize your thoughts, try using Mindmeister, it’s an affordable mind mapping tool that I use to understand my thoughts better.

The How Of Happiness Review

The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want
  • Lyubomirsky, Sonja (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 384 Pages – 12/30/2008 (Publication Date) – Penguin Books (Publisher)

Last update on 2024-05-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon

What makes this book different is that it’s based on scientific research.

Most self-help books make claims that aren’t backed by data.

I’m not saying that they are all wrong. 

It’s just that you don’t have to believe anything without reasoning.

If the conclusion is made based on data, it’s much better than believing random advice given by a random guru.

In other words, focus on science, not conjectures.

What I liked in this book:

  • Research-based claims
  • Easy and conversational style of writing
  • Encourages you to act through various activities.
  • Practical approach.

What I disliked in this book:

  • Repetition of ideas.
  • The chapters could be a little shorter.

My rating of this book: 6/10

Get your copy on Amazon:

The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want

Now It’s Your Turn

There you have it.

I hope you enjoyed reading this book summary.

Now I’d like you to answer:

Are you happy and satisfied in your life?

Please let me know in the comments below.

Don’t hesitate to share this book summary with your friends and family member if you liked it.

Shami Manohar

The Brain Behind

I am Shami Manohar, the founder of WizBuskOut. My obsession with non-fiction books has fueled me with the energy to create this website. I read at least one book every week on topics such as business, critical thinking, mindset, psychology, and more.

My mission is to educate and empower individuals with the knowledge that works in real life.

Connect with me on LinkedIn

Consider supporting me in my mission:

I invest a lot of time, energy, and money in things like softwares, books, design, videos, artists, designers, etc., to provide you with this level of quality content at zero cost. If you love consuming my work and appreciate it, support me. This would help me provide even more value and help humanity grow. Every little penny counts.

Donate here

Become a channel member on YouTube