A guide to happiness, no matter how bad things are

Mon Mar 8, 2010 2:45am EST
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By Miral Fahmy

SINGAPORE (Reuters Life!) - Being happy is just like being fit, with a new guidebook saying you need to hone the skills needed to attain this coveted emotion, a little every day, and remain upbeat even during the darkest times.

"Roadtesting Happiness: How to be Happier (No Matter What)," by Australian journalist and author Sophie Scott and published this month, is a self-help book with a difference.

Instead of prescribing a formula, Scott "unpacks what happiness is" and experiences for herself all the tips, tricks and scientific methods supposed to guarantee happiness, drafting a tried-and-tested list and encouraging readers to come up with their own.

"Being happy is something you need to focus on, it doesn't come as a matter of course," Scott, 42, told Reuters by telephone from her home in Sydney.

"You always need to make an effort, even if you reach the point of saying, yes, I am happy, you still need to keep focusing and working on the things that made you happy."

Scott said the book, her second, was born out of her interest in the human psyche -- she's the national medical reporter on the Australian Broadcast Corporation -- as well as how difficult she found it to cope after her mother died of cancer two years ago.

"It was very cathartic," she said. "I was always interested in psychology, but a lot of happiness books don't address the fact that you can be happy if your life isn't going according to plan. The key is managing expectations."

She admits that trying to put a scientific spin on such a personal and intangible emotion was quite hard, but says that her interviews with various people, and her own experience, showed her that there is no, one-size-fits-all happiness "cure."   Continued...