How to be Happy: Not a Self-Help Book. Seriously.

How to be Happy: Not a Self-Help Book. Seriously.

by Iain S. Thomas


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Winner of:
2015 New England Book Award, Honorable Mention

Central Avenue Publishing is proud to publish another book by the widely acclaimed poet Iain S. Thomas. As many have noted on various social media platforms, there have been some issues that have led to the delayed release of this book. For this, we apologise and hopefully the content of the book will clarify the circumstances surrounding this delay. We feel we should also point out that this is not technically a self-help book, but it does contain some poignant prose, poetry and stories which may or may not lead you to happiness. Mostly, it is the rather unfortunate chronicle of a man's attempt to write the book he’s promised his publisher, no matter the cost to his sanity.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781771680318
Publisher: Central Avenue Publishing
Publication date: 07/26/2015
Pages: 196
Sales rank: 438,921
Product dimensions: 4.90(w) x 6.90(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Iain S. Thomas is a new media artist and author. As an author, his most famous work is I Wrote This For You, which he writes under the pseudonym ‘pleasefindthis’ - a blog then book that’s been on poetry bestseller lists since its launch in December 2011. He regularly writes for The Huffington Post on poetry, creativity and life. He currently lives in Cape Town, South Africa.

Read an Excerpt

How to be Happy

Not a Self-Help Book. Seriously

By Iain S. Thomas

Central Avenue Marketing Ltd.

Copyright © 2015 Iain S. Thomas
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-77168-032-5


How To Be Happy!

Firstly, understand that you should be happy and if you're unhappy for a long time, that's not natural.

The majority of the human race isn't always unhappy and just pretending to make it by. I mean, sure, everyone's struggling and we are all "fighting a great battle," as someone smarter than me once said, but we're supposed to be happy.

Secondly, drink more water. There's a very good chance, or at least I read in a study somewhere, that if you're depressed it could be because you're dehydrated, so the solution could be as simple as that. If you want to go and get a glass of water right now before you carry on reading, you can do that.

Thirdly, you probably need to exercise. If you don't exercise, you don't have energy and energy is what lets you do stuff which makes you happy. Besides, it's hard to be happy if you feel unhealthy.

If you smoke, it's hard to always have that voice at the back of your head going, "You should quit smoking, you should quit smoking, you should quit smoking … come on," because then you end up spending all your mental energy on that instead of devoting it to doing stuff that makes you happy. There's only so much space in your head, leave some of it open for being happy.

Note: I have brought up either "to do stuff" or "doing stuff" to make you happy because "stuff" itself can't make you happy, only "doing stuff" will make you happy.

Don't sit on the couch while someone vacuums around you, feeling horrible about the fact that you can't move because you're too depressed. Don't feel likee a ghost, like the memory of someone who used to look like you but now doesn't know exactly who they are.

Get up.

Don't feel like a feather, drifting out of control on someone else's breath. Although if you think of yourself as a feather or believe that feeling like a feather could be a good thing, then that's cool, go with that. Maybe go skydiving?

There is no pressure to become who "you" are at a specific point in your life, you are who "you" are, you do not become "you" one day in the future, you are always you, with everything you do.

Do not sacrifice the person you are today for the person you could be tomorrow.

There's only ever now.

You should still save money because otherwise you'll be poor one day and that very rarely makes anyone happy. Unless the person in question, being you in this case, was someone with too much money, who neglected the people around them who loved them, and then only found out what love is after they'd lost everything.

Which is the plot for a whole bunch of movies.

And maybe movies and stories are nearly always clichés but we still relate to them because we like to believe our life is a story. Because all stories, at least most of them, have a happy ending. But we need to be happy, now, before we end.

I worry that most of us feel like we're always in the middle of the story and that it's too easy to think, while you're there, that there's no other way to feel. How can you ever really feel "I've done it!" and think that it's the end. Because after you write "They lived happily ever after," the typewriter has to carry on, the words have to keep going. You have to do the work of living.

"Then they went for ice-cream. Then they had a fight about what to watch on TV. Then they had makeup sex. Then they didn't talk over breakfast. Then they fell in love again. Then they hated each other. Then one of them went for a drive and nearly died in a car crash and they loved each other again. Then one of them slipped in the kitchen, at the Welcome-Home-From-The-Hospital party, on a small puddle of water near the refrigerator, and hit their head on the corner of the counter, and they died. Then the other person was left alone with nothing but empty words of comfort from family and friends and their grief. In truth, they only lived happily ever after for several years, until one of them died."

Time doesn't pause in some eternal moment of bliss, sheared sideways like that candy that has writing all the way through, as much as we'd like it to. As much as we'd wish it to. There's a moment after the end, and then another, and then another, and then another and you have to actually live through those moments. And sometimes, for some of us maybe, sometimes that means you have to be strong. Because the individual moments of nearly anything can be difficult.

I'm getting distracted, sorry. I honestly thought writing this book would make me happy. I thought helping you, whoever you are, would help me. Maybe it isn't. Let me carry on and we'll talk about how it's going later.

Don't buy an expensive car. You will always worry about scratching it, and you will scratch it, because scratching and damaging something you love is just human.

I don't mean to dump all of this on you like a set of rules for life. Life isn't a board game. Life is a series of events that you have the chance to influence. You are present at these events. You are aware of them.

You're still alive when you're asleep, even if you aren't really present and aware, but I've never been able to be around myself while that's happening to really check. You're alive in your dreams. Someone has to be experiencing all that stuff, right? Depending on which dream we're talking about. Everyone has that one where you're not wearing any pants at school and everyone's laughing at you and you don't know why until you look down and BAM! You're naked. And the other one where you're trying to fight back against something but your punches are so slow that it doesn't really feel like you're doing anything, like your punches aren't having any real effect. Or when you try to scream, and nothing comes out.

I guess that's a feeling of hopelessness or helplessness. I actually just meant to write 'helplessness' there but I'm not going to delete the word, 'hopelessness'.

Sorry. I'm trying not to delete things. Maybe deleting the things you don't need makes you happy. But sometimes deleting things is the easy way out.

My intention isn't to bring you down.

If you're reading this then maybe you're already down and now all I'm doing is bringing you even lower because I've started writing a whole bunch of these things but if I look at them, they all seem very obvious. Like you could find some of them in one of those magazines that tells you to be happy with who you are but also, here's how you really should be having sex and here's some diet tips. Because you're fat.

Now I'm kind of sorry I started down this road at all because no doubt by now you're probably thinking that actually, this isn't a very happy book at all. It's kind of terrifying to be me right now because what if you feel cheated and you hate me? I'm really, really sorry if that's happened.

Wait! I've got another one:

Don't do jobs you don't enjoy unless you either need or really, really want the money. If just having money makes you happy and if a job you hate gives you that, that's your decision and we all have to respect it. But we do all worry about and love you. Just so you know. Even if, sometimes, you find it hard to love yourself.

Don't buy into irony or cynicism as a lifestyle. It's not a lifestyle, it's shit pretending to be a lifestyle - how can you be happy if you spend all your time dismissing things? People pigeonhole other people all the time so if people start calling you that "cynical and ironic person" then you need to watch out because it's hard to ever change that. I've moved cities and countries because of who people thought I was. So that I could find somewhere where I could be someone new.

You shouldn't care about what other people think of you because you should control your own happiness. But not caring about other people has its own set of problems that'll mess you up in the long run if you're not careful.

There was a research article I read with the headline, "Love Is A Single Act Committed By Two Brains," because of the way oxytocin levels rose in a mother and a son when they hugged. I wish more poets became scientists because then there would be more headlines that read, "Love Is A Single Act Committed By Two Hearts." Which is a much better headline, in my opinion. Does the part of your body where you experience being happy really matter? Only poets and scientists would disagree.

But scientists are scientists and poets are poets and maybe they're the same thing on different days of the week.

I have no idea how we got here.

I'm sure if you were a kind person you would say, "Don't be sorry," but you've paid for this book and now the person writing it is kind of collapsing and going off on strange tangents and there's not even a hint of actual help yet, real, actual help, and things really just seem to be going from bad to worse because it sounds like the person writing it is actually just listing off a series of mistakes they've made - and - AND they really don't seem like they're in any kind of position to be offering advice on happiness.

I really am trying here, give me a break! Sorry, I don't mean to sound defensive. All this self-awareness is making it impossible to actually get into this.

I can't get anything right.

Don't think that.

The last few sentences are an example of a thought process not to start, ok?


Be like a dog. I've read that somewhere before. Dogs are almost always happy and when they're sad, it's usually because their owner has gone away or they think someone is taking a walk without them but then when they see you again, they're happy. And they forget they were ever sad because they're permanently in the now.

Someone's throwing a ball, right now. There's food in my bowl, now. I'm sleeping in the sun, now. It's always now and it's great. That's dogs.

I don't think it's as easy for people to forget to be sad. I think people sometimes don't even stop being sad when the thing that was making them sad stops being there.

We're all just too good at remembering. Not phone numbers or addresses or anything, those are easy to forget; but how you feel. How you feel is always there, just below the surface. Like a tattoo on your soul.

Maybe it's a name. Maybe it's a picture. Maybe it's a date. Maybe it's line after line after line of the things you think to yourself before you sleep.

Don't ever look at a swimming pool and think, "The leaf is nature's cigarette butt." That's horrible and just because the pool is full of leaves doesn't give you the right to completely dismiss the Divine Phenomenon that is nature. The universe is nature breathing.

Nature is one of those things that can make you happy. It's part of the stuff that you can do that'll make you happy.

Nature's made me happy before, I remember being happy in nature before.

It's not like I spend a lot of time outdoors so maybe I'm not the best person to talk to about this. I don't think I've ever walked into a crowded room full of people and yelled, "Hey! Let's go for a hike!"

I once walked into a crowded room and yelled, "Hey! Let's play some video games!"

You need to watch out for that too because the things you do in video games aren't real. If you kill a dragon in a video game, in real life you've just wasted a few hours of time. You haven't actually learned anything, like how to kill an actual dragon, which perhaps isn't the constant threat I was led to believe as a child.

But then, reading about killing a dragon isn't that much better and what's wrong with reading or just enjoying the relatively limited time you have here? We're all here for such a short amount of time, shouldn't we spend it being happy? Being good to each other, and ourselves?

I don't know. I might be wrong about the video games.

Wear your watch on a different wrist each day and if you forget to do it, then just tell people you do it and when they ask why, tell them, "Because it means that I never get used to checking a specific wrist for the time, and thus, it makes my brain more agile, so I'm better prepared for the unexpected."

And then people will think you're very wise and deep and interesting because of what you're doing, and because you used the word "thus" in a sentence, and you'll feel loved for a little while, even though it isn't really true and you keep your watch on the same wrist every day.

Wear clothes that fit you. Seriously. Everyone always misses this but you know that scene in the movie where the girl or the guy that was the ugly duckling suddenly becomes incredibly beautiful? They just did their hair up nicely and put on clothes that fit them. Ugly ducklings don't have the luxury of high fashion but you do, and you should take advantage of it as much as you can.

You will look at yourself and think, "Yeah, I like this."

You'll pose in front of the mirror and try to look off into the distance while trying to look at yourself, so your eyes will do this weird back-and- forth thing, trying to trick the speed of light. You can't ever look at yourself when you're trying to look away.

Whenever you're looking at your eyes in the mirror, you have to be staring right into them and you need to watch out for that because it's easy to disappear inside yourself, to find blemishes, pimples, wrinkles, imperfections, all the things that make you think, "Who is this person and why are they me?" The more you look in a mirror, the unhappier you'll be.

Never find yourself in a situation where you have to hold and comfort the person that's just been hurt, and you're the one who just hurt them. It'll feel like your arms are covered in spikes and you're hurting and killing the thing you love, just by holding and comforting it.

Holding someone you love and who loves you will make you happy. It's not the only thing that'll make you happy but it is one of the bigger ones.

Holding someone who makes you feel lonely doesn't do that. Don't do that.

There are real assholes out there, assholes who'll take your time and your money and your love but they're not the whole world. They're just a few assholes.

Don't walk out on the world.

The world is filled with beautiful, smart, wonderful people and if you walk out on all of them then you're really only doing yourself a disservice. Stay with the world. It might not always feel like it, but the world has your back.

So does the universe. I like to believe that there was a grand, benevolent conspiracy on the part of everything to make you, you.

While that thought doesn't actually fix broken things, it sometimes makes me feel ok while I'm trying to fix them.

To be a part of the universe is human and to be human is to be happy. Or at least, to be human is to try to be happy.

I don't know.

I think you need to be ok with that, the not knowing everything bit. You don't have to be ok with your purchase though and if you feel like you've been ripped off, I'll understand. I've gotten over myself, honestly, you can tell me: I suck. Leave a bad review on Amazon and warn others, hopefully all the bad reviews will make sure that no one makes the mistake of buying this book again and then the people reading this now will be thinking, "Why is he doing all this apologising? We read the bad reviews, we know exactly what this is all about."

Here are some things you can try at home.

• Imagine you are the happiest you've ever been. Write down how that feels. Put it in your pocket and never lose that piece of paper, ever.

• Imagine someone really sad. Now imagine you're someone else, comforting them. Slowly start to pretend you are the person being comforted.

• Phone every person you've ever had a fight with, even if the fight was only ever in your head. Whisper the words, "I forgive you," when they pick up. Do not turn off caller ID.

• Draw every bad word you've ever called yourself on your body. Stand in the shower and pay attention to the way the words turn back into ink and disappear down the drain.


Excerpted from How to be Happy by Iain S. Thomas. Copyright © 2015 Iain S. Thomas. Excerpted by permission of Central Avenue Marketing Ltd..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


How To Be Happy!,
The Story Of An Insane Museum Curator And His Polar Bear,
How To Be Happy.,
Darling, I'm Drunk,
Amanda, The Moon And Me,
Wedding Poem,
Shoulder, Shoulder, Slow, Slow,
Everything Else Is Disposable,
While You Sleep,
This Machine,
Love, Audi,
Sacred Grammar #I: Î,
Sacred Grammar #2: Ó,
Sacred Grammar #3: *,
Sacred Grammar #4: Σ,
Sacred Grammar #5: [??,
SACRED GRAMMAR #6: [congruent to],
How To Be Happy ...,
The Kid That Caused Unhappiness,
How To Be Happy.,
Gator In A Bar,
Rat In A Mess,
Starfish In A Jar,
How To Be Happy…,
215 Kilograms Of Fresh Cut Flowers That Never Stop Falling,
Stare Straight Ahead,
A Burning Whiteness,
How To Be Happy?,
Dear Professor X,,
A Giant Mirror In The Desert,
We Will Never Leave Earth,
How To Be.,
The Book Of The Internet,

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How to be Happy: Not a Self-Help Book. Seriously 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Boring .
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Unexpected, funny, and utterly beautiful in spots.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was clever, interesting, and had a fun mix of illustrations, short stories, poems, and excerpts from the "self help book." It was touching at times and at other times very funny. I recommend this book!