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About the book

Happiness expert Sonja Lyubomirsky’s research-based lessons in how to find opportunity in life’s thorniest moments

In The Myths of Happiness, Sonja Lyubomirsky isolates the major turning points of adult life, looking to both achievements (marriage, children, professional satisfaction, wealth) and failures (singlehood, divorce, financial ruin, illness) to reveal that our misconceptions about the impact of such events is perhaps the greatest threat to our long-term well-being.

Lyubomirsky argues that we have been given false promises—myths that assure us that lifelong happiness will be attained once we hit the culturally confirmed markers of adult success. This restricted view of happiness works to discourage us from recognizing the upside of any negative life turn and blocks us from recognizing our own growth potential. Our outsized expectations transform natural rites of passage into emotional land mines and steer us to make toxic decisions, as The Myths of Happiness reveals.

Buy book: Amazon

Year published: 2013


Quotes from the book


The Myths of Happiness (Sonja Lyubomirsky)

I’ll be happy when . . . I’m married to the right person

  • Novelty in relationships is like a drug . . . the beginnings of relationships hold a million surprises.
  • The decline of passionate love — like growing up or growing old — is simply part of being human.
  • The importance of touch is undeniable, yet it is remarkably undervalued.
  • Flourishing relationships have been revealed to be those in which the couple responds actively and constructively — that is, with interest and delight — to each other’s windfalls and successes.
  • In sum appreciating, validating, and capitalizing on our partner’s good news is an effective strategy to bolster our relationship and thereby to intensify the pleasure and satisfaction we obtain from it — in short to preclude hedonic adaptation.

I can’t be happy when . . . my relationship has fallen apart

  • True forgiveness has been found to reduce grievances, minimize intrusive negative, angry, or depressive thoughts, bolster optimistic thinking, foster contentment with life, promote commitment and satisfaction in a marriage, improve physical health, and even boost productivity at work.
  • But if all the signs indicate that your partner feels no remorse and will misbehave again, then forgiving will not be the divine thing to do.
  • After divorce, you will cope and grow.
  • Children do better when able (via divorce) to escape their parents’ fighting, screaming, and the pressure to take sides.
  • Before making any pivotal decision, you need to consider how much of your marital unhappiness is due to you, how much of it is due to your spouse, how much of it is due to dynamics within your marriage, and how much of it is due to circumstances beyond your control.

I’ll be happy when… I have kids

  • Having children is costly, exhausting, stressful, and emotionally draining.
  • Marital satisfaction soars after the last child leaves the home.
  • Daily hassles will make you unhappier than major traumas.
  • Putting our emotional upheavals into words helps us make sense of them, accommodate to them and begin to move past them.

Can’t be happy when . . . I don’t have a partner

  • Married women spend less time alone than their unmarried peers and more time having sex, but they also spend less time with friends, less time reading or watching TV, and more time doing chores, preparing food, and tending to children.
  • Newlyweds derive a happiness boost from getting married that lasts an average of about two years.
  • The happiness myth that you can only be happy with a partner is as powerful as it is wrong.

I’ll be happy when . . . I find the right job

  • Two thirds of the benefits of a raise in income are erased after just one year.
  • As we obtain less and less pleasure from our new position, another critical thing occurs — our expectations rise.
  • Make occasional visits to your friends’, acquaintances’, or former colleagues’ places of business and unobtrusively compare them to yours.
  • Keep a gratitude journal — a list in your head, on paper, or in your smartphone — that regularly helps you contemplate the positive aspects of your job.
  • When it comes to our performance and specific accomplishments at work, we should always aim high.
  • When we ask ourselves the question, ‘How good, successful, smart, affable, prosperous, ethical am I?’ those of us who typically rely on our own internal objective standards are happiest.
  • Understand that everyone becomes habituated to the novelty, excitement, and challenges of a new job or venture.

I can’t be happy when . . . I’m broke

  • Income and happiness are indeed significantly correlated, although the relationship isn’t super strong.
  • The link between money and happiness is a great deal stronger for poor people than richer ones. That is, when our basic needs for adequate food, safety, health care, and shelter aren’t met, an increase in income makes a much larger difference for us than when we are relatively comfortable. Another way to put it is that money makes us happier if it keeps us from being poor.
  • Growing evidence reveals that it is experiences–not things–that make us happy.
  • Spend your money on many small pleasures rather than a few big ones.
  • Instead of brooding about our misfortune, we can focus on the ways that we could be happy with less and spend money right.
  • Homeowners are less happy than renters.

I’ll be happy when . . . I’m rich

  • Human beings are programmed to desire, not appreciate, and to strive for more, not be content with what they have.
  • The more money we have, the more we get used to it, and the more we want.
  • Spend money on others, not yourself.
  • Spend money to give you time.
  • The key to buying happiness is not in how successful we are, but what we do with it; It’s not how high our income is, but how we allocate it.

I can’t be happy when . . . the test results were positive

  • The scientific evidence delivers three kernels of wisdom– first, that short bursts of gladness, tranquility, or delight are not trivial at all; second, that it is frequency, not intensity, that counts; and 3rd, most of us seem not to know this.
  • Take at least one step each week in the direction that helps you attain purpose in your life and secures your legacy.

I can’t be happy when . . . I know I’ll never play shortstop for the Yankees

  • Coming to terms with our regrets can also bolster our sense of humor, strengthen our compassion toward those who have suffered, and imbue us with profound gratitude.
  • Stop comparing.
  • We shouldn’t expect perfection – not expect always to be right and not dwell on self-blame when a choice is not ideal.
  • Aim for options that are good enough rather than perfect.

 I can’t be happy when . . . the best years of my life are over

  • Older people are actually happier and more satisfied with their lives than younger people.
  • Knowing that our time on earth is limited, combined with the increased maturity and social skills that come with every decade, motivates us to maximize our well-being and to control our emotions more successfully.