Monday, January 21, 2013

Book Review: The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking by Oliver Burkeman

image of  book the Antidote by Oliver Burkeman

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (November 13, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0865479410
  • ISBN-13: 978-0865479418
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.8 x 0.9 inches 
  • Buy now from Amazon for only $14.09.
"For a civilization so fixated on achieving happiness, we seem remarkably incompetent at the task. Self-help books don’t seem to work. Few of the many advantages of modern life seem capable of lifting our collective mood. Wealth – even if you can get it – doesn’t necessarily lead to happiness. Romance, family life and work often seem to bring as much stress as joy. We can’t even agree on what ‘happiness’ means. So are we engaged in a futile pursuit? Or are we just going about it in exactly the wrong way? What if it’s our constant efforts to feel happy that are making us miserable?
In this fascinating new book, Oliver Burkeman introduces us to an unusual collection of people – experimental psychologists and Buddhists, terrorism experts, spiritual teachers, business consultants, philosophers – who share a single, surprising way of thinking about life. They argue that ‘positive thinking’ and relentless optimism aren’t the solution, but part of the problem. And that there is an alternative, ‘negative path’ to happiness and success that involves embracing failure, pessimism, insecurity and uncertainty – those things we spend our lives trying to avoid. Thought-provoking, counter-intuitive and ultimately uplifting, The Antidote is a celebration of the power of negative thinking."
My Thoughts:

Have you ever been asked what is happiness?  Or, most importantly, what makes you happy?  If so, were you able to answer this question without difficulty?  While many people feel that money, love, family and work make them happy -- these are also the main reasons why so many of us are unhappy.  So, what is happiness and how can one achieve true happiness?  Oliver Burkeman tries to shed light on this by taking a unique approach that deals with negative thinking.  Take this quote that Burkeman shares from Edith Wharton in his book, "There are lots of ways of being miserable, but there's only one of being comfortable, and that is to stop running round after happiness."  This quote remained with me as I read each chapter in The Antidote and saw how negative-thinking people can actually be happy -- go figure!

I had read a handful of reviews of this book prior to receiving a review copy to read, and was surprised at how so many people were raving about this book.  I wondered how negative thinking was more beneficial in achieving happiness, than thinking positively.  We have been programmed to always think positive (or try to at least).  I can't remember a time when someone told me to think negative, dwell on my insecurities and uncertainties, in order to be happy.  If they had, I would have told them they were crazy, and were only looking for me to get into a bad mood or be depressed -- and not get happy.  But, as I read Oliver Burkeman's book, I began to see what he meant about how negative thinking could translate into happiness.  And, as I read each chapter and was introduced to more and more people who shared this same belief, as well as read about Oliver's mediation retreat and attendance at a Dia de Muerta event, I wondered about how I have been trying to achieve true happiness, but always feel like it is unachievable.  Burkeman does an amazing job at turning years of self-help advice on its head, and making you think differently about failure and uncertainty.

After I was done reading this book, I passed it along to my husband who enjoys self-help books.  As he read the title, he looked at me and asked it this book was for real.  I told him to read it and then tell me what he thought when he done.  Within a few days, he came back and said it was one of the best books he has read in a long time, and really made him think about happiness and how negative and positive thinking play a role in achieving true happiness. 

If you like books that really make you think about what you have read in the past and put a new spin on things, then you will enjoy reading The Antidote.  Dismissing all the self-help gurus and motivational speakers who push goal-setting and positive thinking as ways to achieve happiness, Burkeman will try to help you understand yourselves, without delving deep into the whole body and mind way of thinking that we have grown accustomed to reading about when seeking out self help books on finding happiness.

Disclosure: I was sent a copy of this book by the publisher in order to write up an honest review.  The views above are mine and mine alone.

1 comment :

  1. I read this book and it gave me a fresh perspective to pursuit of happiness idea. I strongly recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a fresh start in 2013.
    Be advised you will need to have a very open mind as many of the topic presented by the author are thought provoking. For example, the chapter about goal setting and how this can be counter productive.

    All and all, an excellent addition to addition to your library