They started a book club at work, where everyone is to read some self help book. Even though I had to miss the first meeting, I have been dutifully reading Happier Now: How to Stop Chasing Perfection and Embrace Everyday Moments (Even the Difficult Ones), by Nataly Kogan. Kogan is a Russian immigrant who founded the “Happier” app, which I used for a little while then got nothing out of, because no one else I knew was using it and I probably didn’t quite “get it” at the time. Still, I figured this lady would know something about happiness, since it was her job.
I was dubious about this book, to start out with. After all, I’ve read plenty of self help books about learning to love myself as I am, embrace my imperfections, and be kind to myself. I have said more than once that Brené Brown saved my life and that I should re-read The Gifts of Imperfection annually. Her books are how I became the much-less neurotic Suna who writes these blogs.
I told myself that, since I have already turned around my negative self-talk (I scare myself sometimes when I find my inner voice saying stuff like, “I feel great!” or “I’m happy today.”), I really don’t need another book on this topic. Of course, I conveniently forgot that I vowed to read books on this kind of thing yearly, to remind myself of how I want to be in the world.
So, I went ahead and read it. Kogan, like Brown, shares a lot of her personal story and struggles, which I think is a useful technique for the self-help writer. I think people believe writers who have “been there and done that” and are honest about not believing themselves to be Bodhisattvas or something. And actually, poor Kogan comes across as a pretty annoying person before she started drinking her own Kool-Aid and working on a different perspective.
Thank goodness she had Janet the “teacher” to help her. That affirms my conviction that a caring and intuitive therapist can help you figure out what your barriers to a more positive viewpoint much better than you can on your own (I tried, believe me, but am glad to have had Victoria in my life).
Back to the Book
What I liked about Happier Now is that Kogan gives concrete, easy-to-do practices that you can engage in to bring more gratitude and happiness into your life. Some, maybe most even, of them I already do in some way or another. But others were really helpful, especially her insistence that you take the time out every day to practice your “daily anchors,” which are things like identifying a couple of things you are grateful for each morning, or engaging in a self-care practice. None of it takes long, but it helps create a habit of looking for positivity in life.
Now, Kogan doesn’t pretend that working on being happier will make you into some kind of annoying perky person who doesn’t see things that are wrong, hurt us, or are obstacles. She just encourages us to see what lessons our obstacles teach us. That’s a vital skill in leading to a positive attitude.
As I talked about earlier, her section on kindness was very helpful to me, because she made it clear that it is easier to be kind sometimes than other times. I was glad she acknowledged that people can be hurtful, rude, and mean, which can bother us. It’s how we react to it that matters. I have already used her technique of either remembering WHY someone acts certain ways or even imagining a hypothetical reason for the jerk to cut you off in traffic. There are a couple folks in my life right now that I use the technique for repeatedly. It does help (but at some point, people may need to see that their attitudes and actions have consequences…I guess we just try to do that coming from a place of kindness and empathy).
The part of the book that made the most impact on me, though, was when Kogan wrote about how changing your attitude and way of interacting with others has a ripple effect. She says:
When you cultivate your well-being, your happiness, contentment, and joy can spread to other people. It spreads not because you make them change, but because you – your outlook and behavior – have changed.Happier Now, p. 207
And we can do all this by being our authentic, imperfect selves, but by embracing the little joys and kindnesses we see, and sharing them. So, tell someone you appreciate them. Be kind to a stranger. Be good to yourself. It works!
By the way, I did sign up for her emails with happiness tips and stories, because what I’ve found is that the reminders are what helps me build new, healthy habits.