Turning To Books In Search Of Happiness: An Experiment

Prasanna Sawant

December 28, 2018

The year 2018 has been one hell of a rollercoaster ride. We could be happy, or what passes for happiness in the virtual world, and still be going through mountains of despair and not tell a soul – my 2018, in a nutshell. The monotony of life and worry over the future are just some of the monsters that have been plaguing my mind and made me forget about my little slice of heaven in an otherwise heinous world- books. It started with “Oh, I’m too tired to read” to “I’ll just go on social media and compare myself and fall deeper into a hole of depression”. It literally took 15 days to form this bad habit during which I forgot all about books and the calm they brought in to my life. Until one day, I reached my breaking point. Then, an idea struck me (a book literally fell on me, which I am sure is some sort of karmic redemption for ignoring them). I love reading so why not read books like I always have, but with the purpose of finding happiness?


As is the case with every book lover on earth, I turn to books for answers. My current goal being happiness, I will be reading books that help me understand my problems and how I can solve them to, ultimately, be happy.  But no amount of reading will help if I don’t actually follow through on the advice, so I will be experimenting with 1-2 approaches in each of those books by incorporating them into my daily life. To summarise, books will guide me on my journey as I discover what happiness means to me and go about achieving it.

Why books, you ask? Because for me, books work exactly the way meditation works for some people. Books transport me to a quiet place in my mind, where I usually end up gaining clarity in my thoughts. Books don’t beat around the bush, and not only help you understand the logic behind every thought process but also back them up with scientific reasoning (which, to a rationalist like me, is incredibly important). So, books are the obvious choice – they don’t overwhelm me and I am actually more likely to listen to them than anyone else (sorry mom!).

So if you’re like me and have ever thought that books are as a relief from the endless cloud of gloom looming over your life, dismissed journaling because the thought of plumbing the depths of your soul and spilling it out on paper makes your skin crawl; or upon being convinced that reading will help in the pursuit of happiness, gotten stuck on just how the heck to get started, bear with me, as I will be embarking on this very mission- turning to books in my search for happiness.

(Image via Chronicle Books)

I need a plan though- a plan that involves books guiding me to achieve at least a semblance of happiness, or more accurately, a state of non-misery.

I’ve thought about it and while that doesn’t make me a pro, I have created a process. After reading several articles on the Internet, written by people who seem to know what they’re talking about, and in order to not go crazy and try and do everything all at once, I’ve realised that small steps are the key.

Accordingly, my process involves:

  1. Identify Problems:

Before anything else, I will need to identify the actual hindrances to my happiness, by taking one problem at a time and seeing what aspect of the problem is actually causing me to go haywire. This will bring more clarity before I move on to the next step.

  1. Research:

Once I have mapped out my issues, I will research to see what books might offer solutions for my problems. Before I zero in the book to read, I will be asking myself questions like –

  • Which books discuss my issues and come highly recommended?
  • Have others used these books successfully to deal with their problems?
  • Which of these books align with my outlook on life or are specifically attuned to my personality?
  1. Read:

I will be reading 1-2 books on each of my obstacles. For example, I first intend to discover what happiness really is. What does it mean for me? The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin fits perfectly with this theme as it follows the author on her journey to discover what happiness means to her and what she can do on a daily basis to be a happier person. I will also rely on the Internet, my friends, experts on the subject, and of course you, my fellow readers, to suggest books which will help me on this path. I will also be reading my daily dose of other books during this time because books make me happy and that is, essentially, the purpose of this experiment.

  1. Test:

I will pick 1-2 ideas or methods from each of the books and experiment to see if they actually make me a little bit happier. For example, I may have an issue with managing my temper. If one of the books suggests that I go to my happy place when I want to lash out, I will use this method as much as possible to try and control my anger. What I will be looking for is to make a habit of any of the methods which work.

  1. Journal:

For the next 3 months, I will record my experiences on a fortnightly basis- from sharing the problems I have, to which book I am reading to help me, the ideas I will choose to experiment with and the results of the experiment. You are, of course, free to comment with any advice or recommendations you may have.

(Image via Fifth Corner Inc.)

As always, the road to happiness is paved with thorns, and do I have a garden. Work, sickness, family issues or my own habits of self-sabotage might keep me away from reading but I assure you that I will try my best to not let anything hinder my process. The journal is a way of tracking my progress and going public might be a good way to keep me accountable. Not only that, you can help me keep my resolution by:

  • commenting on what you are doing to be happy.
  • what I could do differently in my journey.
  • any book suggestions for me that you think will help.
  • asking any questions you have.

Books have always been my source of comfort, my therapist and my friends. I am just surprised at how long it took me to come up with this idea when it was staring me right in the face this entire time. There’s something magical about opening a book and leaving the real world behind. When times are difficult, when you are going through a painful experience, or you just want to escape, the worlds in books are always waiting for you.

So, come cheer me on, give me advice I might not listen to, or simply share your experiences. To read about my (mis)adventures and to see me kick off 2019 with a bang, follow my journey on TCR by subscribing to the newsletter to receive updates straight to your inbox!

Prasanna is a human (probably) who makes stuff up for a living. When she’s not sleeping or eating, you’ll find her in the quietest corner of the library, devouring yet another hardbound book. She vastly prefers the imaginary world to the real one, but grudgingly emerges from her writing cave on occasion. If you do see her, it’s best not to approach her before she’s had her coffee.

She writes at The Curious Reader. You can read her articles here