The Secret Habits of Happy Humans
Occupational psychologist Allen Young discusses his new self-help book with Lee Henry. Click Play Audio for a podcast with the author
After years of contemplation upon the theme of happiness, that wily old know-it-all Aristotle concluded the following: ‘Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.’
On the question of achieving that 'aim and end of human existence', Russian author Leo Tolstoy was rather more concise. 'If you want to be happy,' said Tolstoy, 'be.'
Most of us would no doubt agree with Aristotle's observance that the achievement of happiness is mankind's primary objective. Yet Tolstoy's declaration seems to pose more questions that it does provide answers.
Be what exactly? Avaricious? Covetous? Selfishly unconcerned for the well-being of others in our unswerving journey toward contentment? If we're not happy and contented with our lot, what shoud we do, or be, or become, in order to amend our existence for the better?
In The Secret Habits of Happy Humans, Holywood occupational psychologist Allen Young attempts to provide the weary worrier with the answers that he or she has been so sorrily seeking.
The book identifies and describes six key traits that Young has found contented people to share: a sense of self, values, purpose, relationships, resources and achievements.
It then allows the reader to self-assess against each factor and provides a workbook that can be used by individuals, groups, counsellors and coaches in their quest to achieve contentment for themselves or others.
'I decided to try to produce a book that people could use individually or in small groups that was based on research and on good psychology, but was simple, attractive and useable,' says Young.
'The book distils the lessons learned from hundreds of individual life-stories and explains the common factors in non-academic English. It includes an explanation of the approach, followed by exercises to guide self analysis. It then leads readers into a structured planning and review process.'
Young is quick to differentiate his work from the countless other self-help books currently weighing down public and private bookshelves the world over.
Young's philosophy has a lot in common with the pro-active objectivist philosophy formulated by Russian-American novelist Ayn Rand, and is all about achieving happiness through action.
'Contentment is desirable not just because it is a pleasurable state. It is desirable because it is better for our mental and physical health,' Young states in his book. And by this he doesn't mean that contentment lies at the bottom of a glass of beer.
Nipping down to the pub is a positive action in that it brings us into contact with friends and associates, people with whom we have built up relationships. But it's a short-term high. The Secret Habits of Happy Humans is concerned with the achievement of happiness and contentment in the long-term.
'There's a sequence to my book,' says Young. 'You cannot jump in at the end. You've got to start with self-awareness and understanding yourself. You're not going to do that in a morning.'
The Secret Habits of Happy Humans is available from No Alibis bookshop, Botanic Avenue, Belfast; Easons, Donegall Place and Lisburn; and the Bookshop at Queen's University. Also available from Amazon.