Bibliotherapy: On happiness

Mental Health Blog

At Aurelia Psychology’s book clinic we answer common questions by offering reading suggestions. We suggest books you can learn from and books that can help you heal. Some books will help you grow stronger and develop into the person you want to be. We all want a happy life. How much of our happiness is in our control, though? Can we choose happiness? Or, are we dependent on factors beyond our sphere of control?

Question: I can’t seem to wake up happy anymore. What can I do?

Losing joy in life makes your mornings dreary and your days long. You then will have poor quality sleep. You will then feel tired but sleeping more doesn’t seem to help. As the proverb goes ‘Sleep doesn’t help if it’s the soul that’s tired.’ If you recognize that your soul is tired, you need to take action. It will not heal if you do nothing. Here are some suggestions to get you started.

Serach for meaning

Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl is a classic and beautiful true story of a psychiatrist who spent many years in concentration camps trying to find reasons to live when his dignity and life was threatened on a daily basis. The book helps us understand that we can find meaning in life even when we have little or no control over our external circumstances.

Gretchen Rubin describes in her book The Happiness Project: Or Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun how she dedicates each month of the year exploring what brings her contentment. Happiness will not come to you, you need to do something that increases your chances of being happy. Maybe you will find, as Rubin did, that bad days can be bad days in a good way. 

Happiness as a choice

In Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life’s Most Important Skill Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard shows us that we are not at the mercy of our emotions. We have the opportunity to flourish, but it takes a bit of work. Just as Rubin, Ricard examines different ways in which we can boost our happiness. He gives you exercises to try. You may even need to meditate to elevate your mood.

When circumstances don’t help

In Jem Lester’s Shtum the main character Ben is going through a tough time. Ben has lost his job and he and his autistic son are forced to move in with his father. Life is overwhelming and Ben resorts to alcohol to cope. The end is not as dark as you may expect. Life has a funny way of carrying us when we struggle to carry ourselves. However, we do need to be active participants in our lives, not just passengers.

Muhsin al-Ramli’s The President’s Gardens tells the story of the human ability to endure hardship, oppression, disappointment and pain. This book helps you understand what a life of resignation looks like. Life does not always give us what we want. Sometimes we need to go after what is important. However, at times, we need to accept that our life will not be the life we hoped for. What do we do then? We can give in. Do we become bitter? Exist rather than live? Or, can we live fully even though our lives are not of our choosing?

Choices have consequences

Life After Life is a masterpiece by Kate Atkinson. It tells the life stories of Ursula Todd. In each of her many lives Ursula makes small changes to her life. These small changes have significant consequences on her life path. We do not have the luxury of many lives. However, the book highlights how significant small changes can be. In good and bad.

Matleena Vanhanen is a licensed Counselling Psychologist with over 20 years of experience working in Europe and the Middle East. She has a practice of couples and individual therapy at the MapleTree Center in Dubai.

Dr. Ava Ghasemi (Holdich) is a licensed Psychologist with 11 years experience in the U.S., Canada and the Middle East. She has a practice of individual and couples therapy at the MapleTree Center in Dubai.

Articles on www.aureliapsychology.com may feature the advice of a licensed expert or other non-clinicians and is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment from a trained professional. In an emergency, please seek help from your local medical or law enforcement services.


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