“The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living” by Russ Harris is an amazing resource for anyone who hasn’t already mastered separating their thinking mind from their observing mind. So if you have no clue what I just said, this book has the potential to change your life!
The Happiness Trap discusses the idea that the pursuit of happiness can often be self-defeating. People can be trapped by the belief that they must constantly strive for happiness in order to be fulfilled. The book offers strategies for finding fulfillment and meaning in life, and suggests that people can be happy by accepting and embracing their negative emotions.
If you are like me and enjoy devouring books on a weekend, this one will frustrate you. Harris basically commands you to put the book down and come back to it in a few days so that you can integrate his profound insights.
At first, I found myself cursing at this incredibly arrogant suggestion, but once I calmed down, I realized the wisdom in his advice, and I managed to meander through its book over a period of 4 weeks. It wasn’t an easy task for a greedy reader like myself. It was like having a chocolate bar and trying to make it last for 28 days. But I do think I got more out of reading the book because I took that time.
You may want to get a pad of paper to keep with this book to get the maximum value out of your reading experience.
The main purpose of this book is to teach the basic principles of ACT in a way that you can use yourself. ACT is often called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and is used by both therapists and life coaches. The acronym also stands for the process itself which boils down to, Accept your internal experience; Choose a values-based direction; Take action! ACT has proven effective with depression and addiction and is often used to increase overall happiness.
“What do you want your life to be about?”-Russ Harris
This book is so full of practical exercises and activities you will actually notice a change in your life from reading it if you participate in the activities as suggested. While I am really tempted to share some of my favorites here for you, I couldn’t possibly choose just a few or explain them nearly as well as Harris has done, so please check your library, used book store, or wherever you like to get books.
Themes in “The Happiness Trap”
The main theme I suppose is part of the title, it’s the idea that society’s idea of happiness is a “trap”. There are many lessons to learn that help you to see the trap so you can avoid getting caught in it. The first one that comes to mind was basically the principle that there are always going to be unpleasant feelings and sensations, as long as we are alive. If we try to avoid them, we won’t really be living. Many of us already have a bad taste in our mouths when we think about “acceptance,” so Russ harris offers a new word. “EXPANSION Making room for unpleasant feelings and sensations instead of trying to suppress them or push them away.”
For me, this was probably the biggest learning from the text. The tools offered helped me to really put this into practice. And I’m still practicing. unfortunately having read The Happiness Trap didn’t fix my life for me. But Harris did predict I might have that expectation and very carefully pointed out, “You won’t change your life simply by reading this book.” It’s all about the practice.
Another overarching theme I suppose is that “success in life means living by your values.” It takes that prospect of someday being successful it pulls it into the realm of, this is possible here and now. I had heard this concept before, but the delivery and application from this book really helped me to start feeling it instead of just thinking about it.
This summary doesn’t do justice to the wealth of insights about happiness in this book. If you feel even a little bit curious, I highly recommend picking it up. I read a LOT of self-help books and this one still makes the cut for being worth recommending.
“Today’s middle class lives better than did the Royalty of not so long ago, and yet humans today don’t seem very happy.”
“We have many thousands of useless or unhelpful thoughts every day.”
“What do you want your life to be about?”
“He who has the why to live for, can bear almost any how.”
“Never set as your goal something that a dead person can do better than you.”
“If you’re living a goal-focused life, then no matter what you have, it’s never enough…find the values underlying your goals.”
“Success in life means living by your values.”
“If you don’t decide where you’re going, you’ll end up wherever you’re heading.”
Where to Buy Books
If you are like me and you have a healthy appetite for reading, you may be wondering where to get books. I do my best to support small local businesses and be as eco-friendly as I can be, so here are the options I have found.
#1 by far is to check your local library. I get most of my ebooks and audiobooks from the library which is cost-effective and environmentally a great thing to do.
If you prefer to buy books, here are some alternatives to the giant A word:
Better World Books
Feel free to leave your recommendations below and I can add them to this list as I know I am missing out on resources sometimes since my library is so accesssible!