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The Power of Happiness: A Book Review

With advice on happiness from Aristotle to Drew Barrymore, Thich Nhat Hanh to Jimmy Hendrix, Gretchen Rubin to Abraham Lincoln, the author of The Power of Happiness has you covered.

Timothy McKinney published The Power of Happiness this past July, and I can only imagine the amount of research he put into this compilation that explores multiple elements of happiness, and our unending pursuit to find it.  Check out the amazon synopsis:

In his new book, The Power of Happiness, Timothy McKinney shows readers how to be happy from the inside out. Happiness is about more than just a positive attitude or a good mood. Happiness comes from a deep sense of well-being that allows a person to be happy regardless of external circumstances. The Power of Happiness gives deep insights into what happiness is and how to reduce worry, stress, and frustration. By learning how to have different responses and reactions to the situations faced every day, readers are able to be happier with the life they have now!

By the end of this book, readers will have discovered:

• What happiness really is
• How you can know if you’re happy (hint: it’s not a feeling)
• What the benefits are to being happy
• What the individual differences of happiness are
• What foods you should eat to be happier
• Whether or not money can make you happy (the answer might surprise you)
• Ten myths about happiness
• How to develop your OWN happiness

After exploring what happiness is, McKinney goes on to discuss how to overcome unhappiness. Readers with a negative attitude will learn what to do to turn their thoughts around. The last part of the book contains ten “hows” of happiness—ten keys to creating a happier life. Readers who want to learn how to be happy no matter what circumstances they face are sure to love The Power of Happiness.

Many of you know that I started blogging and writing again after reading Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project a few years ago.  I have a love/hate relationship with Rubin’s book because while I valued her advice and story, it all seemed so easy, too easy.  Where McKinney’s book differs is that it has the same research and study involved of how we can identify and test happiness, but the second half of the book (my favorite) is actual practices for the “HOW” of happiness.  There are pages and pages of scenarios, list making, and activities to challenge the way you think and react to situations.  It allows an ongoing learning process for its readers.

So all of you are probably scrolling through my post right now searching frantically for the quick tips to happiness that I gleaned from McKinney’s work.  Well, there’s too many to name!  All the expected tips such as diet, exercise, sleep, work engagement, love, service, safety, money all make an appearance.  But much of the research about how these factors affect you may surprise you.

One of the big takeaways I read is that happiness requires relationships.  I don’t mean couple specific, I mean people in general.  Relationships are an integral part of our self esteem, our affirmations of work and talents, and our ability to give.  Service to others and kind word exchanges with others are crucial to how happy we feel.  And this can come in many forms:  surprising your neighbor with fresh baked cookies, volunteering at a food pantry, telling a coworker you appreciate them, being a cheerleader on Twitter for your tweeps, hugging your spouse/parent/child, etc.  All of those can be affirmations to our spirit, our ability to quantify happiness.

Attention Writers:

You know what was the most interesting to me, both as a writer and as someone who is disgustingly self aware (this is both a positive and negative trait because it means I’m my own worst enemy)?  McKinney studies happiness, but he also has a chapter that dives into feelings behind unhappiness.  The exercises in this book could be used as awesome tools for character sketches.  It makes you think about how people act, or could react, to situations.  What skills in their being help them cope, what is their natural disposition, what words identify them and what words do they wish identified them?

Besides helping you create characters, this book could be read over time and used for further journaling activities.  It’s very well laid out, and all the exercises are helpful; you could really delve into the philosophy behind each of the chapter’s steps.  Plus, every chapter starts with a quote on happiness by a plethora of famous individuals and sometimes an inspiring quote is all you need to be inspired.

Overall, I highly recommend McKinney’s book.  The second half full of exercises is well worth the read.  I don’t think the author writes with band-aid fix-its to finding happiness.  He gives you the research behind it and then provides multiple tools to try, with scenarios as examples and exercises to practice.  It’s one of those books a reader can return to a year later and still find something new, something more that they can learn about themselves.  Actually, I think that’d be really interesting since one of the chapters graphs the spikes in happiness over generations and ages.  Wouldn’t it be a fascinating thing to watch and track how your happiness gage changes from decade to decade?

Don’t you want to read this book now?  Well, you can!  Timothy McKinney has graciously offered to giveaway 3 e-book copies!  Share a comment below and let us know what your thoughts are about our ongoing pursuit for happiness.  How has your perception of how happy you are changed over time?  All those who comment will be entered to win one of the copies of The Power of Happiness.

Comments must be made by Sunday, September 16th at 5pm.

And tune in again on Friday when Timothy joins me to answer the age old question:  Can money buy you happiness?

Timothy McKinney lives in Redondo Beach, California with his wife Cindy and their two children, Heather and Robbie. He went to the University of Southern California, where he received degrees in Business and Psychology. Since 1997, Tim has been a corporate trainer who conducts workshops on subjects related to happiness and workplace effectiveness. He is a passionate vegetarian who enjoys SCUBA Diving in the Kelp Forests of Catalina Island.

A Wicked Review

Hello Everyone and welcome to the first post of Jess Witkins’ Wicked Blog!  All month long get your fix for the hauntings and paranormal stories you love.  Here’s the line-up:  Mondays will be All Things Wicked (book reviews, movies, Halloween Parties, costumes, etc.), Wednesdays will be Ghost Stories, read at your own risk, and don’t turn off the lights, and Fridays will continue to alternate between Guilty Pleasures – featuring my favorite things about fall, and Life List Club Guest Posts – helping you achieve the best YOU!

     To start off today I have a WICKED review for you about Gregory Maguire‘s witchy tale, Wicked.  Everyone knows the story of Dorothy and her dog, Toto.  She landed in Oz, killed the Wicked Witch of the East, obtained her magic ruby red slippers and set off on a journey that would forever change her life.  But what of the other witch?  The Wicked Witch of the West.  No one knows her story, not yet.

Wicked chronicles the coming of age of Elphaba Thropp – our Wicked Witch.  Born green as grass with razor-edge teeth to a holier than thou father and a trollop of a mother, Elphie is a creature of her circumstances.  She was shut out for her color, and disliked for her independence, nonetheless she showed grave responsibility for her family, which included a younger sister, Nessarose, who was born with no arms, and a brother, Shell.

Said to hiss like a dragon and piss on the floor gleefully, she was a terror in her toddler years.  When college came around and found her attending Shiz University, a whole new world was opened up to Elphaba.  For starters, how would you like to have Galinda Goodie-Too-Shoes for a roommate?  That’s right Galinda.

Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz

Things get witchier and wickeder when Elphaba uncovers information that the Great and Powerful Oz has plans of genocide for the Animals.  You see, in Oz there are both Animals and animals.  The Animals have learned the ability to speak, study, raise young ones, teach, work, and act rather humanely.

Maguire has cast a spell with his prequel story to The Wizard of Oz.  Readers learn more parts to the original story, such as when did the Cowardly Lion and the Wicked Witch of the West first meet.  And why the Tin Man despises her so.  All your favorite characters return, from Munchkins to Flying Monkeys, and there are even more, tik tok things and painted soldiers of the tall grasses.  Make no mistake, Maguire’s tale is more than a yellow brick walk through your childhood’s favorite story.  The book, Wicked, is a dark tale.  It’s full of intrigue, affairs, murders, espionage, deceit, hallucinations, and of course, magic.

Gregory Maguire

Gregory Maguire has written several books enlightening us on otherwise adult versions of classic fairytales.  You can check out the other titles at his website.  His inspiration for writing this story came about after reading newspaper headlines in London at the start of the Gulf War.  The ideas began to form around a story of the nature of evil, and who’s more wicked than the Wicked Witch of the West?

Many of you have probably seen the broadway musical version of Wicked which starred Idina Menzel as Elphaba and Kristin Chenoweth as Glinda.  I will warn you the book is, as I said, very dark and for mature audiences.  When the book was adapted to the stage, that was the first thing needing to be addressed.  The plot was subdued and made appropriate for larger audiences.  From what I’ve seen in his author interviews, Maguire seems alright with the changes, after all, didn’t he take the same liberties from the story of L. Frank Baum?

Are you curious about the real story of the Wicked Witch of the West?  Who’s the most evil character you can think of?  What made them wicked? 

Tune in again wednesday for a chillingly true ghost story!  Happy October!

Why Water for Elephants is One Bold Book

I like books that surprise me.  Especially when that surprise comes from the author through her ability to do research and turn it into a story you wish would never end.  Sara Gruen has done this.  The author of Water for Elephants spent about 6 months doing research at several circus museums, including Sarasota, Florida’s Ringling Museum and the Circus Museum right here in Baraboo, Wisconsin (I’m planning a visit!).  She went to the Kansas City Zoo and walked up to an animal handler and said, “Hi I’m writing a book about elephants, can I meet yours?”  She worked up the guts to get inside the secret lives of circus performers and took many of their best anecdotes for her novel.

What Gruen has produced is the life story of one polish boy becoming a man while working on a traveling circus.  The author’s note alone makes this book a great read.  Setting the story during the Great Depression, she gives the reader perspective that makes the hardships of the characters real.  Through her research, she brought in lesser known bits of history like the disease “jake leg,” a paralysis caused by drinking a toxic, cheap alcohol.  She also changed the definition of a “hobo” from the Depression era.  Rather than an old, dirty man, most of the people left in train ditches and town outskirts were young boys, orphans with no parents or available work.

So we have this book, rich in history and research, but that’s not even the part that surprised me!  Call me naive, but when I see a book that’s on the New York Times Bestseller list for so long, and all my co-workers have read the book and rave about it, I simply wasn’t expecting just how BOLD Ms. Gruen was going to be in her subject matter!  No more than halfway through the book and we’re introduced to the Lovely Lucinda in the cooch tent, a masturbating dwarf, a chemically preserved hippopotamus, a virgin who can’t hold his load, extreme animal violence, and forbidden love!  I’m so excited I could pee myself, which would probably make me fit in with this ragtag train of circus folk!

I am overjoyed and in love with this book.  Here’s why:  This is an example of where an author made bold writing choices that were supported by her research and they combined forces to make millions of readers love her and her book.  I am thrilled that this author could put some pretty risque subject matter in her book and have society like it.  You can guess I am never one to join in with a book ban; I believe people should be able to read what they want to.  And Gruen’s novel is great writing, great writing with some edgy subject matter that for once DIDN’T put the public off, but instead GOT THEM TO LIKE READING!  Thank you, Sara Gruen!  P.S., check out this photo of Sara with the film version’s elephant on her site, pretty funny!

A week ago, I went to see the film version of Water for Elephants and I really liked it!  Of course, the book is better, which is why you’ll hear me always say watch the movie first!  I mean it.  I stand by this absurd sounding trait of mine.  I watch the film first.  Seriously, if you watch the movie, you’re enjoying it as it unfolds and not spending your time going where’s that character, why did they do that, that’s not how it is in the book!  I know, I used to live like that.  Never again!  The book is always better, we know that.  So, watch the movie first, enjoy it, and then read the book.  When I follow this rule, I’m delighted by new characters that are in the book and not the film, I like the subtle, sometimes drastic plot changes, they are surprising and fun to debate which one worked better.

In this case, I do feel the book was better.  But I was very surprised at how close to the book the film version stayed.  Christoph Waltz is amazing as August, the equestrian ringleader.  He is handsome, charming, and menacing beyond belief.  Great antagonist.  But reading the book gives you a better understanding of how Gruen webbed together two antagonists to play off of each other, August and Uncle Al, the show’s leader.  Neither man synchs up with the other which creates multiple points of conflict all worthwhile!

If you haven’t already read this book, I highly recommend it!  It’s an enjoyable, exciting read.  For those that like to research the topic you’re reading about, you won’t be disappointed.  If you like to dissect characters and are looking for some teeth sinking, juicy ones for your next book club, this title has plenty!   And for those of you, like me, with book lists a mile long to get to, you can watch the movie first, because it will make you want to read the book!  🙂

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