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Book review: The Illustrated Happiness Trap by Russ Harris & Bev Aisbett

The Illustrated Happiness Trap is the simplest route to understanding a modern mindfulness-based therapy called ACT.

The illustrations bring a playfulness to the essence of ACT, which is to teach people to defuse and unhook themselves from their thoughts, give their feelings space, and learn various ways to find more meaning in life.

The book can be quickly undertaken, though it’s probably better to spend at least a week with it so as not to skip the practice that is suggested with each exercise in the book such as practicing defusing thoughts. In this particular exercise, Dr. Harris guides the reader to "pick an upsetting thought, and silently repeat it, putting these words in front of it: 'I'm having the thought that...'"

[Russ Harris & Bev Aisbett, The Illustrated Happiness Trap
[Russ Harris & Bev Aisbett, The Illustrated Happiness Trap

The idea is that using this awareness practice of identifying what is in our head and clarifying that it is a thought and nothing more, we can begin to have some space between our thoughts and ourselves. Dr. Harris continues, "When we defuse from our thoughts we realize they: are nothing more or less than words and pictures, may or may not be true (we don't have to believe them), may or may not be important (we pay attention only if they're helpful), are not orders (we don't have to obey), may or may not be wise (we don't have to follow the advice), are never actual threats, no matter how negative."

The Illustrated Happiness Trap continues to gently walk the reader through illustrated explanations, metaphors, and exercises that can help anyone gain more comfort with their thoughts and feelings. Even if you feel you are doing great, _The Illustrated Happiness Trap_ is worth reading just for the fun, interesting perspectives on our minds, and how we can improve our relationship with it.


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