Review: The Happiness Equation by Neil Pasricha

I adore books that relate with self help, improving well being, and address topics such as anxiety, mental health, and overall happiness. I knew of the author, Neil Pasricha, from his book "The Book of Awesome"; a compendium of every day big and small victories and how they make life "awesome". Every entry ends with "Awesome!" to remind you that every idea contributes to your happiness and that we take things for granted. My favourites are "the cold side of the pillow" and "old, dangerous play ground equipment". 

Having recognized the author, and acknowledging the mental health struggles I was (and to an extent, am) going through, I bought the book along with a few others. Maybe his book was different from the other books on "happiness" and wasn't as opinionated as others. Maybe his advice was objective, rather than forcing his own set of values on others. And I think I found what I was looking for. 

Neil Pasricha adds in many anecdotes from his own life, but the base argument is supported by facts and studies. Yes, many studies contradict themselves, but his arguments, while opinionated, are compelling and support his facts in such a way that you can objectively understand his facts, while being able to apply them subjectively to yourself. 

Enough smart talk. Why is this the book I was looking for? It defines happiness in obtainable ways that help you focus and center your values, thoughts, actions, etc. And, one of my favourite things about this book, while it is organized into chapters, each chapter has short "sub" chapters that support his ideas and don't overwhelm the reader. I enjoyed the short sub chapters because they kept my interest up, and transitioned from each topic so smoothly, that at the end of a two page sub chapter, I understood the ideas, rather than marathon reading a 30 page chapter, waiting for it to end and trying to absorb everything detail written. "I want to quote this sentence to someone... where was it?" You don't have that problem with how he has organised. his ideas. 

Happiness is all on ourselves as individuals. Relying on someone else or something to make us happy will only leave us disappointed and relying on someone or something we can't control. And his book perfectly outlines what steps we can take to make ourselves happier. With quirky anecdotes, to quickly drawn tables and diagrams, he provides a new take on personal growth and presents it in a way anyone can understand. 

I don't want to ruin the book (can you really spoil a self help book?), because I want you to read it for yourself. Even if you consider yourself a happy or contempt person to being with, read it anyways. Relate it to your own life, or read it to help another life. While this book focuses on helping yourself getting happier, when you work on yourself, things around you change for the better, and you attract happiness. Maybe someone around you needs you to be that happiness. Maybe someone who wouldn't take the time to read this for themselves needs to hear these facts so they can start helping themselves. Whatever your reason is, read this book. The ideas he presents will enlighten and engage all readers, and stir up creativity, arguments, contradictions, or at the very least, make you think. 

There is one chapter that stuck with me very dearly though, and I'd like to share my thoughts. One of his sub chapters talks about finding your calling. He states it as "The Saturday Morning Test". What do you do Saturday mornings? Do more of that. Find time for something that helps you do more of that. He uses running and guitar playing as examples and elaborates that if you enjoy running on Saturday mornings, get more invested with your gym, start a fitness group, join a sports team, etc. The guitarist should or could start private lessons, upload youtube videos, teach online guitar, start a band, etc. Great ideas stemming from  your Saturday morning routine. As I reflected upon this idea... I got stumped. My Saturday mornings lately have consisted of Drop Dead Diva on Netflix, finding myself a decent and healthy breakfast and making tea or coffee for myself, letting my husband sleep in, and petting whichever cat decides to sit with me on the couch. From that example should I start writing TV scripts? Design comfy and practical living room furniture for such Saturday mornings? Should I volunteer at an animal shelter? Take a cooking class? Work at Starbucks or Davidstea? Or was the intent of the Saturday morning test to prompt thinking like this? To identify values that help clarify what your "free time" looks like and help carve a career path that integrates or keeps these passions or interests in mind? I'm unsure. But the most unsettling part of my reflection is besides letting my husband sleep in, none of the above is helping others. Yes, self care and taking care of your own happiness, but as a teacher, I always believed my passion to be helping others, inspire creativity, and support youth or the future. Am I just in a slump? Or is this what keeps me going? Maybe self care, mental health and supporting myself and others is my ikigai (look it up, it's a word use quite a bit in his book and also stuck with me). 

Regardless, thank you Neil Pasricha for sharing your insight and knowledge with the world. While the world may not be at peace yet, your book being published makes the world a better place and makes people like me think outside of their box, even when dealing with mental illness. I strongly suggest you, the reader, go to your nearest book store or library and read this book. Borrow it from a friend, give it to a friend when you're done, make your partner, boss, or parents read it. It is definitely worth your time.

Published by Margaret Geary-Merkl


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