Live Happy by Bridget Grenville-Cleave and Ilona Boniwell: Review & Giveaway

Today is apparently what’s known as “Blue Monday,” the saddest day of the year. It can be hard to find reasons to be cheerful in mid-January, especially given the state of Anglo-American politics. All too often I give in to melancholy on these dark mornings. However, I aim to do better. Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project was one of the most memorable books I read in the second half of last year. What I appreciated most about it was that her approach is not about undertaking extreme actions to try to achieve happiness, but about finding contentment with the life you already have by adding or tweaking small habits.

I was keen to see what additional tips I could glean from Live Happy: 100 Simple Ways to Fill Your Life with Joy by positive psychologists Bridget Grenville-Cleave and Ilona Boniwell. They explain that about 50% of the capacity for happiness is genetic, while 10% is related to your current situation. That means that individuals are able to boost their happiness by up to 40% through their attitude and choices.

The key is to focus on what you can influence for the better. The book includes in this category things like luck, health and confidence. I found it difficult to accept the idea that I could choose to have good luck and high energy. It’s just such a foreign concept to me. But according to Grenville-Cleave and Boniwell, perceived control of one’s life course is extremely important.

Live Happy contains good generic advice on diet, use of time, relationships and forming positive habits, though the 100-item format leads to some repetition. In a few cases examples of practical application are necessary; otherwise what we have is just sound bites. For instance, “Try adopting extrovert behaviours such as assertiveness and engaging with others” and “you can also try to face problems head on, rather than simply giving up; you’ll find it easier to bounce back after misfortune.”

On the other hand, I did find specific suggestions that I plan to put into practice. A tip for being more optimistic is to wear a rubber band around your wrist and snap yourself every time you experience an Automatic Negative Thought. I also appreciated these words about making choices: “For unimportant decisions try to be satisfied with an option that is merely good enough, rather than trying to make absolutely the best choice. Lower your expectations – do not expect perfection.”

This is an attractive book, with each page containing pull quotes or whimsical drawings that tie into the blue-yellow-green palette. I would recommend it to readers of The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, A Manual for Heartache by Cathy Rentzenbrink and Option B by Sheryl Sandberg. It could also make an ideal bedside book for people who aren’t big readers but are interested in injecting a little more happiness into their everyday life.

My rating:


Live Happy was published by Modern Books on January 17th. My thanks to Alison Menzies for arranging my free copy for review.

 

GIVEAWAY!

If you would be interested in winning a copy of Live Happy, please comment to that effect below and I will choose one winner at random on Monday the 28th (UK only, sorry!).

26 responses

  1. Oh, I think I ought to enter the give-away please. So only 10% of my current unhappiness is blameable on the current political mess? I’d got it to 95% at least! I need to read these books……

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love the idea of developing equanimity in my outlook no matter what the outward circumstances are. Very hard to put into practice, though.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Indeed. There’s nothing like a good old worry, is there?

        Liked by 1 person

    2. And Margaret, you’re our winner! I’ll drop you an e-mail to get your address to pass to the publicist.

      Like

      1. Ah, Rebecca, thank you so much. I’ll respond to your email. I never usually win anything!

        Like

  2. The old bookseller in me is deeply suspicious of this kind of book although that quote you’ve pulled out about decision making seems eminently sensible.

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    1. It’s something of a lightweight book, but I got a few useful pieces of advice from it.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. As a coach, I often find myself telling people about good enough decisions and worrying about the things you can control. But I’m not great at taking my own advice.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My husband and I both get paralyzed by indecision. Put us together and it’s a nightmare!

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  4. Hmmm, my introverted self is cross to be told I should be more ‘extroverted’… but sounds like the kind of book that is a mix of the good and the bad!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I felt the same. “Be more extroverted” is not very helpful as tips go!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. You’re right. I really will look out for a these books. It’s not as if being unhappy changes anything.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I would love to enter the giveaway. I read Gretchen Rubin’s book last year too and she’s the reason why I decided to do my own happiness journey.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading, Ashley. Where are you based? (This is a UK-only giveaway.)

      Liked by 1 person

  7. This sounds like a useful book – small changes rather than any major shifts. I have The Happiness Project so it’s good to hear that you found it so good.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’d say read the Rubin over this one.

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  8. I have a soft spot in my heart for The Happiness Project, because it’s the book that gave me the idea to start a blog! This book sounds a little too generic to me, but I definitely like the idea.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I get curious about the Studies behind all the stats. How do they know 50 percent of our happiness is genetic? How do they determine which day is the saddest day of the year?
    My husband got up that morning and wished me a Happy Depression Day! Haha!
    After all that, I do like happiness tips. The world needs more happy!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You do have to wonder how they come up with these percentages. I’ve seen similar reports in multiple places by now, though. I guess a Monday in deepest January is always going to be somewhat bleak (unless you’re in Florida or Australia). Ironically, it was also the anniversary of my brother-in-law’s death, so definitely a tough day in my family.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh, I can answer the how do they estimate how much happiness is genetic one! Identical twin studies! Separated twins share DNA but not an environment, so I’m pretty sure the degree to which they end up similar is often used for to estimate how much something is genetic. Writing this, I’m wondering how many separated twins there are though and if maybe studies like this are done with other people and estimates are made based on both how similar they are and how similar they are genetically? I’m sure twin studies are a thing, but my knowledge here could be a lot deeper 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  10. I like the “good enough” advice – sometimes I put that into practice at a restaurant with too many choices. Whatever I pick I’m sure I’ll enjoy, and if I don’t, oh well! It’s just a meal. Also, along with the rubber band thing – sometimes if I am spiraling into worry about something I will actually say out loud “You’re spiraling, Laila!” It seems to pull me back into the present.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My husband has implemented that very advice in restaurants, too! He used to get overwhelmed by choice, but lately he just sees something he likes the look of and orders it when the waitperson comes round to him.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I was quite offended that Blue Monday fell on my BIRTHDAY this year! But then it does tend to every 7 days. I quite enjoy January, myself …

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, I was thinking you had a Christmas birthday. Definitely no reason to be Blue that day, then! Your birthday is the day before my sister’s. It must give you something nice to look forward to. For a lot of us I know January can feel like quite the slog. I’m glad to be into February now, and to have enjoyed some snow.

      Liked by 1 person

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