Review: The Happiness Trap

The Book:  The Happiness Trap by Dr. Russ Harris


The most typical way we struggle with anxiety, depression, and pain is to try to fight, change, and resist these states. The Happiness Trap explains why our “fighting” strategies actually make us much worse off and it presents a radical alternative: No more fighting. The book is not about making happy thoughts. It gives the reader a set of simple exercises that enable us to become more aware of our harshest thoughts and feelings, more able to defang and defuse these thoughts and feelings, and ultimately to even accept these thoughts and feelings, so we can ultimately break free of them and take valued action in the world.

HT is an easy-to-read presentation of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (which has been carefully studied by scientists). The book is full of practical exercises and can be read in a day.


Dr. Harris is a brilliant and patient teacher. He knows you are skeptical and he knows you have probably struggled for a long time. He knows it is hard and he believes in baby steps.

As you read on, HT will give you new tools to live with depression, anxiety, and pain. One of the best things about the book is that will always be relevant. You can use these tools throughout your life, no matter where you are in your recovery.

Examples of what is covered:

You will learn techniques to create diffusion --> you become a better observer of your mental life, so that you better see when negative thoughts and feelings are trapping you.

You will learn how to “turn off the struggle switch” --> and slowly but surely you find the trap of your thoughts and feelings is no longer closed so tightly. You can move again.

You will learn techniques to identify your core values --> how to identify what's most important to you and how to take small acts that are consistent with your core values.

There is a good reason HT has been translated into 30 languages, with over half a million copies sold: It's probably the best self-help book ever written.


You have every right to be skeptical given the lameness of most self-help books. Depression Army is not a big believer in self-help books. But this one is different.

 So if you’re not convinced quite yet...please go ahead and read some of the 468 reviews (74% are 5 stars) from real life people. If you don't feel like wading through all those, here are a few examples of what people say after reading this book:  

I am not kidding when I say this book had more impact on me, more quickly, than any other self help book I've read.”  Briochegal on July 7, 2011
“I am a little sheepish to admit this, but this is the best book I have ever read. I don't mean that it outdances the prose of Tolstoy (etc.). I mean in terms of pure impact on my life.” Bonk on June 20, 2012
“You really need to try (and inevitably fail) in other therapies (esp. CBT) before you can fully appreciate this book. Rather than encouraging you to control your thoughts, argue with them, or attempt to suppress them, this book shows you how to accept them and move on.

The author's key points are that thoughts, emotions, and images in our head are just that: thoughts, emotions, and images. We don't need to fuse with them if doing so would be unhelpful and counterproductive to us reaching our goals in life. The author describes several "de-fusion" exercises to help us learn not to bond with unhelpful or unpleasant mind processes.

Take your time with this book and really do the exercises - don't rush through it. For the small price of this book, you can save yourself not only hundreds of dollars in dysfunctional cognitive behavioral therapy and psychoanalysis but also the heart-ache of seeing another treatment fail and the time spent wondering what is wrong with you.” Walt on February 8, 2010


Just reading HT is not enough. You have to be willing to practice the exercises for the book to have a transformative effect.


If you’ve been trapped in awful thoughts and feelings, this book can be your lifeline.  


Links to buy the book in the USA, Canada, UK, GermanyFrance, Italy, and Spain.

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