Title: Hardwiring Happiness
Author: Rick Hanson
Source: from publisher for review
Fun Fact: Things you think about often shape your neural pathways.
Review Summary: I only finished this book two days ago and I actually think it’s already making a difference for me because it gives such great actionable advice. Very helpful!
Hardwiring Happiness is all about focusing on the little things. It is not, however, just another one of those books telling you “live in the moment” which are so popular these days. Instead, it focuses on events and feelings that you can pay attention to in order to build up the inner strength you need to face specific challenges. By focusing on positive experiences, you help yourself remember positive feelings more strongly, despite our brain naturally remembering negative experiences better.
At times this book reads like a piece of fluff. It’s rooted a lot in the author’s own experience and clearly had the illustrative stories I think are so important in self-help books. It was less clear that the author was going to offer actionable advice or back his claims up with science. Initially, a lot of the advice sounded kind of new-agey and silly to me. Fortunately, the author includes explicit directions for performing exercises that will help you feel better about specific challenges. Even better, for me, they worked! For instance, I sometimes feel stressed about running late, so the other day when I was early, I took a moment to savor being on top of things. When I woke up the next morning feeling like I should be somewhere already, I was able to remember the feeling of being on top of things and relax. It might sound silly, but I really think I’m already feeling happier as a result of this and several other little practices from the book.
In terms of scientific backing, I think the author used a paraphrase of “research has shown” maybe twice in the whole book. He is well credentialed and does eventually get into some of the interesting theories of evolution of the brain underlying his ideas. He also occasionally mentioned other credible sources that influenced his theories. However, I was only really convinced that his work was backed by research when I reached his bibliography. This could easily have been a five star review for me had the author integrated this research into his text. As is, I’d love to give this to friends to read since I’ve found it so helpful, but I don’t think I can. I’d have too hard of a time getting people to look past the insubstantial sounding bits when the text doesn’t make it clear how much research is backing it up. That said, I’d love to talk one of you into reading it and actually trying the exercises, because I think this is a book worth sharing.