Although M.J. Ryan is a good writer with a loving heart, I have very mixed feelings about this book.  365 Health and Happiness Boosters attempts to provide daily reminders of things we can do to be happier and is written from the perspective that being happy is not just a matter of changing your outlook.  It is also about your eating patterns, sleeping habits, and interactions with other people.  To help you create a daily practice of creating happiness, the book can be used as a daily reminder, starting from which ever date you acquire it, or as a random choice daily.  As specific issues arise, you may look for specific examples in the moderately helpful index at the end.  (I say moderately, because although the back cover refers to “Having a Pity Party,” I could not find that reference in the index.)

Some of the suggestions made me laugh out loud (like January 11’s “Fake It”); others sent me to the store for materials (like the various herbal remedies.) All the suggestions I have tried so far have worked and I am pleased to have more yet to experience.   I especially enjoyed what I call the ‘fantastic’ suggestions, like May 26’s “Take a Mental Sabbatical.”  In this exercise, you pretend that you will take an entire year off from work, and make a list of what you would do instead.  You then choose one thing from that list and do it.

Overall, I liked the suggestions made by M.J. Ryan, but am ambivalent about recommending this book.  The tone is overly New Age in that it ignores the very serious problems of depression, social anxiety, and fear that so many people experience.  To think that “Embracing Enthusiasm” (April 3) will end a long cycle of depression is just silly.  Another issue that irked me is that I kept wondering why all of the non-mental suggestions involved buying something – even if it is small (for example July 15’s “Give Yourself Flowers”).

I think 365 Health and Happiness Boosters is a great book to have if you are already in a good place in your life.  If you have your ‘act’ together, and are generally happy most of the time, then this will make an excellent reminder to improve further.  I would not give this book to my girlfriend who is struggling to make her rent this month.  Nor to my guy friend who is in the midst of switching his depression medication.  They need more help, more concrete help, than this book could provide.

~review by Lisa Mc Sherry

Author:  M. J. Ryan
Conari Press, 2000
pp. 384, $14.95