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“If that book is any good, let me know,” my fiancé, Ryan, said to me the day I found this book at my doorstep. “I want to read it.”
This is me letting him know.
Lana Grace Riva’s debut nonfiction self-help book, Happier Thinking, was published earlier this year, and I was honored when Lana approached me to be one of the first to review it. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it!
Ryan and I have been actively trying to improve our mindsets lately in hopes of engaging in mostly positive thoughts over the course of our days, and I’d say we’ve been pretty successful — partially because we’ve been following the strategies outlined in Happier Thinking without even knowing it.
Throughout her brief book, Riva reiterates that conscious thought is the key to a happier lifestyle. She notes that a single negative event can ruin your whole day — but only if you let it.
“The next time you catch yourself labelling a day as bad,” Riva advises, “stop and challenge this thought that the whole day is tainted.”
Instead of allowing yourself to “ruminate” in a cloud of your own misery, Riva suggests that you dwell instead on the positives of the situation — and there always is at least one.
“If you look hard enough, there will be something good lurking around somewhere. Who doesn’t love a treasure hunt[?]”
Riva spends most of Happier Thinking expressing this notion, and providing real-life examples that many can relate to. From describing frustrating mornings to dissecting airport inconveniences, Riva challenges the idea that a day can be ruined by a single event — or even a series of events. In doing this, Riva comes off as down-to-earth and personable — though at times, I wonder if she is trying to be a little too personable, to the point of leaving out key information.
I wouldn’t consider myself to be a psychology expert by any means, but as someone who has suffered from and been around others who have suffered from related mental illnesses, I would say that I have a general understanding of major depressive disorder.
To that effect, after reading Happier Thinking, I have to admit that I wouldn’t say the book is apt to fit the role of a guide for those who suffer from depression. There are simply too many holes and oversimplifications for me to consider it an informative, researched pamphlet: it is more like a blog post that collects Riva’s personal advice on how to be a happier person overall.
There’s nothing particularly wrong with that, per se, but I thought it was important to note that I wouldn’t recommend Happier Thinking as a guide for someone struggling with their mental health.
Moreover, I felt like many of Riva’s suggestions sound easy to someone with an already positive mindset — like myself — and that made me feel pretty good, like I had accomplished something by naturally being happy. But to someone struggling to find day-to-day motivation and happiness, this book would likely fall flat.
To me, this book seems to merely provide the goal: a change in mindset, a positive outlook, a lemons-into-lemonade attitude. But it doesn’t show me how to get there.
Riva does admit that while she wouldn’t consider herself a certified expert on the topic of happiness, she has done a lot of reading of psychology and mental health resources and journals, and I would have loved to see some of this information relayed in the book.
Riva points out that she left it out in hopes of streamlining the work and making it easier to read, but I find that without this backbone, the book is made up of merely un-evidenced suggestions and anecdotal conclusions, neither of which provide a comprehensive list of steps to take to achieve the goal she describes. Without that, I feel like the work expects those with less positive mindsets to merely “flip a switch” to happiness.
Still, Riva does accomplish her goal of creating a quick read — I got through it in less than half an hour!
Overall, I would say that the concept of this book was a nice start — and this is certainly a strong beginning for a debut author who is still trying to find her writing voice. But if Riva ever chose to release a second edition of Happier Thinking, I would love to see it not only revised a bit for clarity and voice, but added to: I want to know more about the reason that conscious positive thinking works.
I also want to know more of her story: How did Riva become a makeshift expert in happy thoughts? What life experiences led her to this? This book is a great reflective nonfiction piece, and a great account of Riva’s personal mindset, but I want it to be more of a two-way conversation that allows me to see deep into the trenches of Riva’s mind. I want it to be real, raw, and vulnerable.
In that — and in evidenced content — Happier Thinking simply falls flat.
This debut book has so much potential, though, and I can’t wait to see what Lana Grace Riva has in store for readers next.
What’s up next in your TBR pile? Share in the comments below!
This article was published April 20, 2018.