HAPPINESS IS: Unexpected Answers to Practical Questions in Curious Times

Shawn Christopher Shea, Author . Health Communications $19.95 (340p) ISBN 978-0-7573-0066-0

Alas, there are no unexpected answers in clinical psychiatrist Shea's attempt to define and help us find happiness. A clinician who teaches at the Dartmouth School of Medicine, Shea begins with an extended ramble featuring an eclectic assortment of sages—from John Merrick, aka the Elephant Man, to champion figure skater Michelle Kwan—culminating in Shea's definition of happiness as an attitude and a feeling. Explaining the title, he writes, "Happiness is. It lies hidden in each and every moment. It is not made, captured or bought. It is simply uncovered." But how? Shea goes on to provide a rather more complex picture of happiness as "a human matrix" composed of five constantly shifting and interacting processes: biology, psychology, interpersonal relationships, environmental factors and spirituality. From there, he focuses on how we can tinker with each element of the matrix to make our "happiness machine" function optimally. For example, someone with seasonal affective disorder experiences a problem in the environmental and biological wings of the matrix that can be set right with light therapy. While Shea presents a different twist on how to perceive happiness, his constructs are awkward and theoretical; his chatty style and weak case studies don't give readers many practical tools. (Oct. 19)

Reviewed on: 06/21/2004
Release date: 10/01/2004
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