Wellness

Do self-help books actually make you happier?

Author Lyndelle Palmer Clarke believes too many of us rely on self-help books instead of looking within for the solution.

Woman reading a book on the grass
Oh how I love me some self-help books. I’ve had more than one jammed into my bookshelves promising to help me ditch weight, have closer relationships, manage my time better, you name it. And while I do enjoy dipping into books like these, Sex and the City hangs in the back of my head when I finally sit down to open one. You remember the scene: Charlotte wading into the self-help section at a book store only to be met by dazed and tearful fellow self-helpies who reveal that they rely, perhaps a little too heavily, on these tomes.

Lyndelle Palmer Clarke believes too many of us rely on the personal betterment industry. As an author and personal growth expert, Palmer Clarke eyes the self-help industry sceptically and shares with us why she thinks the key to happiness is within ourselves, and not on our bookshelves.

Q: How do you think the self-help industry deludes people with shallow promises?
A: There’s a misconception that reading a great self-help book or attending a seminar is all that’s required to make life upgrades. There’s a kind of “read this book and it’ll change your life” message out there that’s creating nothing more than self-help addicts. It’s a trap I’ve fallen into — always buying the latest self-help book hoping the next one would fix and improve my life. The truth is, we don’t need another self-help book because most of us already know what we need to do to improve our lives. We just need to do it.

Q: What are some of the self-help myths out there, particularly when it comes to happiness?
A: There are a few. Including:

1. Personal growth is about getting more things. Usually we think having more “things” brings happiness. As you make genuine progress with your personal growth and focus on more spiritually aligned goals, you realize you’re actually happier when you have less, not more. As you grow, you gain more genuine self-esteem which negates the need to have more stuff to make you feel better about yourself.

2. You need to be positive all the time to be happy. If we only focus on being positive and think that’s what we need to do to be happy, we’re not being authentic and miss out on the opportunity to explore the potential within us. Being positive is great, but it’s even better to be real.

3. Personal growth is easy. You feel pain as you grow. That’s why most people give up early but the rewards for moving outside your comfort zone and embracing uncertainty outweigh staying stuck and unhappy. Happiness comes from facing, not avoiding, pain.

Q: So what kinds of changes need to happen for people to become happier?
A: Start within. Realize that nothing outside of you has the answers you’re looking for. When you start within, you’re starting at the source and the only real place from which all change can happen.

Also, stop being disappointed. People and situations will disappoint us, therefore, we really only have two choices: we can live our life being continually disappointed or we can give up disappointment forever and choose happiness.

The biggest obstacle to happiness is holding on to the past. Unless you have forgiven and let go, you can’t live in the present moment fully, vibrantly and authentically. Letting go includes dreams we’ve outgrown. Having a dream and going after it with all your heart is courageous but holding on so tight that it suffocates the rest of your life is insanity.

Finally, choose happiness — it’s nothing more than a choice. We can choose any emotional state we wish and happiness doesn’t depend on outside circumstances. It depends on you choosing to be happy — that’s it!