I have always loved Martin Seligman, who is considered the “Father of Positive Psychology”. His books are pretty meaty and intense, though, so I’d thought I’d try this new book on the topic. (Seligman’s website https://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/ has a LOT of questionnaires and interesting info, which is more accessible though!).
I read this book from cover to cover fairly quickly for this review, so first I want to say that this is not really how the book is intended to be used. You won’t get much out of it if you just read the book quickly. This book is set up into four parts, and each part has very short chapters on a specific topic. After each chapter blurb, there is an activity or exercise, and these are probably the most useful thing about the book. For therapists, it reminds me of the books of interventions and treatment planners that I had when I was in school. For example, if a client wanted to work on forgiveness, you could turn to that chapter and have a handy intervention to use in your session ten minutes from now. This is the real value of this book, I think.
The book is broken into four parts as I said – A New Approach to Happiness, Cultivating Positive Feelings, Who You Are and Where you are Going, and Talk, Listen, Love. A New Approach to Happiness explains positive psychology and then has short chapters on mind-sets, defining happiness, self-acceptance, skill mastery, resilience (Seligman has a great book on this topic), optimism vs. pessimism and aging well. As I said, each of these short chapters has an exercise to help you absorb and practice the information.
Cultivating Positive Feelings has chapters on relaxing, the state of flow, mindfulness, savoring life, gratitude, forgiveness and your inner critic. This section has a couple of my favorite of the activities – designing a beautiful day for yourself, and mentally subtracting something great that happened in your life to get clear on what your life would be like if that wonderful thing had never happened.
Who You are and Where You’re Going talks about clarifying your values (and gives a great list), setting goals, making decisions, motivation, success vs. failure and how to make work meaningful. Lastly, Talk, Listen, Love talks about philanthrophy and altruism; empathy and compassion; listening and responding; honesty and trust; friendships, couples relationships and parenting.
If you are looking for an in-depth dive into positive psychology, go elsewhere. I found the book to be unsatisfyingly light on each topic – other books go into much better detail on any of the specific topics. But, if you already know quite a bit about positive psychology and use it in your practice, this book could be handy to have on your shelf for intervention ideas on the fly.
Disclaimer: The link above is an Amazon Affiliate link – I receive a small compensation from purchases made through this link. Also, the summary above is NOT intended to replace purchasing of this book; it is simply to save you time if you currently do not have the time to read the entire book.