What a wonderful book this is! The topic is a universal concern, in varying degrees, for all of us. It is written in an easy-to-read style that is almost conversational. It provides common sense advice. This book is laid out very simply. Each chapter discusses one of the author’s 10 ways that we suffer unhappiness. This is followed by “A Happy Life Worksheet,” conclusion and epilogue. The worksheet is simply two exercises for each of the 10 ways to take action on what we have read. A short book list and the author’s biography close out the book.
It is an easy-to-read book. The author writes freely, much like she is talking directly to a friend. She doesn’t try to impress us with her vocabulary and uses simple, everyday words. A little humor is sprinkled in to keep the reader relaxed.
The 10 ways to live a happy life include wanting life to be something it’s not; wanting what you don’t have; not communicating with yourself and more. Each of the ten ways is supported with examples and explanation. Right from the beginning, Berger tells us to stop thinking that we can control our lives. She states that, “Happiness is our nature.” In resisting aspects of our lives that we do not like we create tension within. And our interpretation of the event is what causes our unhappiness, not the event itself, according to Berger.
“Wanting what we don’t have” is easily understood and we may all be guilty of this to some degree. Letting this go too far is where we can imagine unhappiness or bitterness entering our thoughts. Envy is generally negative. However, there can be times when wanting something can encourage us to set a goal that motivates us, which can be positive, such as wanting a college education for our children. This is probably not a result of envy, and therefore, not so negative.
The author uses examples to show how the same event might evoke different interpretations, depending on the person. Our own standards of success will determine how we feel about events in our lives. But Berger contends that happiness is accepting what is (reality) and not being concerned with what should be.
The author discusses our communication with ourselves. By investigating what we tell ourselves about events in our lives, “our stories” according to the author, we can identify the real truth and stop distorting things in our memory. She also talks about cause and effect and how we are free to take whatever actions we want so long as we are willing to accept the consequences of those actions. Unfortunately, however, there are people who don’t consider the consequences until after the event has taken place, or maybe not at all.
“Not minding our own business” and “not doing what we want because people will disapprove” are two common sources of stress and unhappiness. In the former we want to control others; in the latter we allow others to control us. Neither is healthy, of course. But the author seems to be saying that we should ignore the needs of others in order to do what we want, which seems a bit exaggerated to me. While it may be okay for me to spend my days on a beach in Hawaii, it may not be good for my spouse and my kids if I am not fulfilling my responsibilities to them. It seems to me that doing what I want may actually lead to unhappiness. Further, in the following chapter the author says we should “do the right thing and accept the consequences,” which seems to contradict the previous chapter’s advice. So should we do the right thing (care for our family) or do what we want (sit on the beach)?
The author advises us to live in the present (“realility”) and ignore the past and the future as much as possible. She reminds us that we may think we are in control of our lives, but asks what we really do control completely? Certainly not our bodies or minds, according to the author. This is a thought-provoking chapter.
Well into the book Berger shares with us the basic premise of the book. It is “that nothing external can affect us and that it is our uninvestigated thoughts and stories that are the cause of our discomfort, suffering, fear and stressful emotions.” In the preceding chapters she has led us through a series of thoughts and examples that bring us to this conclusion. Her arguments are reasonable, despite some occasional questionable conclusions, at least in more extreme situations. But it is a stimulating book that is like having a conversation with your sister, where you can agree with much of what she says, disagree with some of it and walk away still friends.
Barbara Berger is an author of 15 self-empowerment books that have been published internationally. Among them is the bestseller The Road to Power – Fast Food for the Soul. Berger’s books have consistently attempted to “find a way out of suffering,” using mental, physical, metaphysical, psychological and spiritual approaches. Her book is based upon her self-exploration and learning, and she expresses her opinions about our mind and how it influences our behavior.
Title: Are You Happy Now? 10 Ways to Live a Happy Life
Author: Barbara Berger
Publisher: O-Books (John Hunt Publishing), 2013
183 Pages, Softcover